Driving in reverse

Placer County’s first transportation plan for the 21st century looks suspiciously like Los Angeles’ plan from the 20th century: highways, and plenty of them. So contend its critics.

Placer County’s Transportation Planning Agency (PCTPA) is coming under fire from environmentalists and residents who say that the county’s draft of its 20-year transportation plan is “San Fernando Valley in the 1950s all over again.”

The plan is heavily skewed toward the automobile, and almost completely ignores mass transit, as well as the transportation needs of the elderly, low-income residents and other people who don’t drive, said Alan Hirsch with the Sacramento Transportation Equity Network.

“Basically they’re building 23 miles of freeway and buying a few buses,” said Hirsch.

The most egregious imbalance is in the portion of the transportation budget to be funded in development fees (fees that will be assessed to new development which are usually passed on to new homeowners).

Out of $148 million in that portion, $95 million is to be spent on Placer Parkway, a project that has been controversial because of its potential to promote sprawl in western Placer County. Another $10 million will go to the Lincoln Bypass highway project. Only $7 million, less than 5 percent, will fund any new mass transit.

The transportation plan will also increase air pollution from automobiles, further threatening the Sacramento region’s hopes of complying with federal clean-air standards. Non-compliance could mean a cut off of federal transportation funds to the region.

Environmental groups could sue to block the plan, on the grounds that it will violate clean-air rules.

“But who’s going to sue?” said Alan Green with the Placer Group of the Sierra Club. “We don’t have the money.”

PCTPA is the only regional agency that charges the public for copies of documents it is seeking public comment on. But if you can shell out the $20, the agency will be taking public comment until October 24.