Friday, November 29, 2013

ACTC stays the course on Pine Grove Project -- for now

My last post related to an effort by Jackson-based Supervisor John Plasse to get the Amador County Transportation Commission to reconsider an October vote to "program" (request) state funds necessary to get the Pine Grove Corridor Improvement Project shovel-ready. At last Wednesday's standing room-only ACTC meeting, there was a great deal of discussion about the Pine Grove Highway 88 project and whether and how moving it along might affect funding for other transportation projects in the county.

In the end, the Commission voted 4-2 to reject Supervisor Plasse's motion to reconsider its October decision. Only Commissioner Dave Richards joined Supervisor Plasse in support. Commissioners Tim Murphy (Sutter Creek), Keith Sweet (Jackson), Michael Vasquez (Amador City), and Ted Novelli (Pioneer) voted to oppose the motion, thereby upholding their October decision.

That moves the project ahead for now. But as the ACTC finalizes the 2014 Regional Transportation Plan, it could move the Pine Grove project down in priority and choose to spend the money elsewhere. So it behooves everyone interested in this issue to pay attention and participate in the public hearings on that plan next year. Let's hope ACTC holds at least one of them in Pine Grove.

I hope to write more about all of this once I have reviewed my notes and especially if I can get my audio recording into a more-audible state. But since I may not get to it, here's a quick summary for now...

Supervisor Plasse questioned whether the Pine Grove project proposal will do what it says it will, whether it is needed, and whether it should move forward to a point where it could end up taking the lion's share of the largest pot of county transportation funds for years (ACTC's Neil Peacock pointed out that there are a number of funding options for the project). Supporting his motion to reconsider were Amador County Business Council Executive Director Jim Conklin, Supervisor Brian Oneto, and Oneto's brothers Rux and Eddie. Conklin also mentioned that the business council is looking at a transportation sales tax.

Speaking in strong opposition to the motion were Supervisor Louis Boitano of Sutter Creek, Amador County Planning Commissioner and Pine Grove project stakeholder Andy Byrne, Pine Grove Civic Improvement Club Chairwoman Jan Houghton, Pine Grove resident Craig Burman, Upcountry Council Chairwoman-elect Sherry Curtis, Kirkwood and Sutter Creek resident Melene Smith, and yours truly. (I was there not only as an upcountry resident but also representing the Foothill Conservancy, which this, my personal blog, does not do).

Ione City Manager Ed Pattison and Jackson resident and Silver Lake property owner Lisa Lucke referred to transportation and safety issues in their towns, while agreeing that Pine Grove obviously needs attention, too. Plymouth City Councilman Greg Baldwin, speaking as an individual, was concerned about potential lack of funding for other projects. Pine Grove stakeholder committee member Mark Bennett discussed the challenges of transportation funding and project planning, suggesting a focus on the issues around the Pine Grove Elementary School and taking a hard look at the funding options. 

In the end, the majority of commissioners chose to stay the course. But that could change, as I mentioned above. So if you care about this issue, be prepared to spend some time on it next year.

Update, November 30: I have corrected Jan Houghton's name and title, above. Apologies to Jan for my earlier error.

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