Though a public meeting was held last month, local transportation officials still want the community to comment on the need for safety improvements on Elk Valley Cross Road.
The Del Norte Local Transportation Commission is developing a plan laying out the traffic hazards, conditions and needs of the corridor.
The 1.6 mile-long Elk Valley Cross Road corridor starts north of Crescent City where Elk Valley Road meets Parkway Drive, crosses U.S. highways 199 and 101 and ends at Lake Earl Drive. Drivers pass homes, residential streets like Lesina Road, Florence Keller Park and Sunset High School. The road widens, has ample shoulders west of Sunset and lots of reported speeding, DNLTC Executive Director Tamera Leighton said Thursday.
“There’s a lot of traffic — people use that road who are Pelican Bay State Prison employees,” she said. “At shift change that road becomes something very different from what it is during other parts of the day. The speed limit is 45; sometimes people are driving 55 on that road.”
Meanwhile, others are coming and going out of driveways, Leighton noted. A section of Elk Valley Cross Road has no shoulder and a deep ditch. And then there’s the school, she said.
“It’s all just a very mixed up and different short section of road,” she said.
Using a Rural Regional Transportation Planning Agencies grant, the Local Transportation Commission entered into a $79,049 contract with Redding-based Dokken Engineering to develop the Elk Valley Cross Road Plan in December 2018. The contractor is tasked with completing a “planning-level study” that considers collision data, safe crossings of both highways for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
The study will also determine the need for shoulders, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, sight distance, enforcement and school-zone improvements, according to the commission’s contract packet with Dokken Engineering.
Dokken Engineering spent the first half gathering accident records, traffic counts and speeds, environmental constraints and data on the existing right of way. The consultant held its first public workshop on June 26.
Leighton said the plan is expected to be done in December 2019. She noted that the Del Norte Local Transportation’s crowdsourcing tool, which allows residents to report near-misses and other transportation concerns on an online map of the county, continues to be a helpful resource.
Transportation commissioners have been concerned about Elk Valley Cross Road for several years. In 2017, David Morgan, chief of the Office of Traffic Safety for Caltrans District 1, told the commission that the department determined the volume of traffic on the corridor didn’t warrant adding a traffic signal to the area.
According to the commission’s Rural Regional Transportation Planning Agencies grant application for the Elk Valley Cross Road plan, while there were injury and fatality collisions in the area, Caltrans determined that it didn’t qualify for safety funding. The department suggested the Del Norte Local Transportation Commission provide a study formally documenting the public’s concerns.
“There’s a lot of near-misses, but people have a tendency to recover, (but) not all the time, obviously,” Leighton said Thursday.
One family that’s been vocal about the need for safety improvements at Elk Valley Cross Road and U.S. 199 belongs to Patti Haban, who was killed at age 79 when her sedan was struck by a minivan as she tried to cross the highway. The Habans, whose business is Haban Construction, is a “high profile community-minded family,” Leighton said, but advocacy isn’t a bad thing.
“I wish everybody would do that,” Leighton said. “It’s an equal-opportunity fatality intersection and it needs to be solved.”
At the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, District 3 representative Chris Howard said he attended the June 26 meeting on the Elk Valley Cross Road plan and noted that both law enforcement and emergency services regularly respond to the area during collisions.
“If you have time to comment please do and share your input about these dangerous locations within our state highway system as they cross our county roads,” he said.