For more information visit http://calacog.org/valley-springs-town-center-connectivity-plan/ online or contact Erin Kelly with CCOG at (209) 754-2094 or ekelly@calacog.org.

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Bottleneck traffic jams occur most weekday mornings in Valley Springs, especially during the school year, as Calaveras County workers and high school students head to San Andreas, and parents jockey for position on streets without sidewalks leading to Valley Springs Elementary.

Matthew Thomas is co-owner of Gold Line Barber Shop on Highway 12 just southwest of the junction with Highway 26 in Valley Springs, the town’s main intersection causing so many traffic issues.

“There’s an alarming lack of infrastructure that’s had catastrophic effects on local transportation,” Thomas said as he trimmed a customer Tuesday afternoon in his shop. “What we’ve had here is an explosion in population and businesses that isn’t supported by roads out here.”

Growing pains

Valley Springs is an unincorporated community between New Hogan, Pardee and Comanche reservoirs, west of San Andreas. The 2010 census estimated there were more than 3,500 residents. Thomas estimates the greater Valley Springs area is now home to as many as 15,000 to 20,000 people.

Daniel Twigden, waiting for his turn in a barber chair, said he’s lived in Valley Springs about six years and, in that time, there’s been significant residential development.

“That would mean more taxes, but I don’t see the infrastructure to match it,” Twigden said. “You see evidence of demand, because there are franchises like Dollar General and AutoZone moving in here. They wouldn’t come if they didn’t see the growth and future growth coming. But I haven’t seen road works here other than the four-way stop signs, about a year and a half ago.”

Thomas compared the four-way stop signs at Highways 12 and 26 to “the Dutch boy with his thumb in the dike.”

Twigden said it was “like robbing Peter to pay Paul, just creating another bottleneck in the same place.”

Traffic backs up

Ben Stopper, a candidate for Calaveras County District 5 supervisor who’s lived in nearby Rancho Calaveras since 2011, said the only public transportation serving Valley Springs he’s aware of are Calaveras Transit buses.

About 7 a.m. on weekdays at the 12-26 junction in central Valley Springs, when everyone’s going to work or trying to get their kids to school, or both, traffic backs up south on Highway 26, sometimes a half-mile or more all the way to a subdivision of recently built homes called Gold Creek Estates, Stopper said Tuesday, standing outside Good Friends Chinese Restaurant just north of the 12-26 junction.

“We’ve been pushing for a safe schools plan for a long time,” Stopper said. “The traffic backs up, and there are no sidewalks for the kids walking to school.”

Lack of planning

Mike Ford was also waiting to get in a barber chair Tuesday at Gold Line. He said he’s lived in the Valley Springs area since 1984 and believes “Infrastructure here sucks.”

Elected supervisors have failed Calaveras County for a long time, and there’s been a no-growth, keep-industry-out, good-old-boys network for decades, Ford said. Rural property owners, including cattle ranchers, sold their land to developers, but no one has led the way with infrastructure like roads to support all the new homes and businesses.

“We have major highways running through our rural, residential areas,” Thomas said. “The number of vehicle-on-vehicle accidents illustrates the problem. It almost feels like every week I hear about another fatal accident out here. In our residential neighborhoods, a lot of children walk along the highways to get to school. These intersections are deadly.”

Every morning, Thomas said, it’s “like a drag race” with so many people driving fast up the hill to get to Mokelumne Hill and San Andreas.

The Valley Springs area needs more regulated traffic to break up the speed zones, Thomas said, and make the roads safer.

Employees at Valley Springs Elementary referred questions Tuesday to Tessie Reeder, the transportation supervisor with Calaveras Unified School District. She was not available to comment.

Focus on town center

People with the Calaveras Council of Governments know there are issues in Valley Springs. They are recruiting individuals to apply for appointment to an advisory committee for the agency’s Valley Springs Town Center Connectivity Plan.

According to staff with the Calaveras Council of Governments, also known as CCOG, the council and Calaveras County have received a $219,112 state transportation planning grant to undertake a “complete streets capital infrastructure plan” for Valley Springs.

Staff with CCOG say the Valley Springs Town Center Connectivity Plan is intended to provide for community-level planning to develop conceptual street-level transportation improvements that build on what’s already been spent on Highway 26 and the 12-26 junction in Valley Springs. They want to include “community aesthetic” in the plan, and provide “safe travel options for residents and students to schools and community centers.”

Partners in the project include Calaveras Unified School District, Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, Calaveras County, CCOG and the Valley Springs community.

The advisory committee for the Valley Springs Town Center Connectivity Plan will be asked to produce a project website, other public outreach materials, summaries of outreach and input, as well as progress reports and expenditure reports.

Applications to be considered for appointment to the are Valley Springs Town Center Connectivity Plan advisory committee are due by Aug. 17.

Calaveras Council of Governments was formed in January 1998 under a joint powers agreement. It is the regional transportation planning agency for Calaveras County and Angels Camp, the only incorporated town in the county.

The council has seven members — two county supervisors, two Angels Camp councilmembers, and three members selected from the public at large. They generally meet the first Wednesday of each month at the Calaveras County Government Center on Mountain Ranch Road in San Andreas.

Current CCOG members are citizens John Gomes, Justin Catalano and Tim Muetterties, Gary Tofanelli, District 1 supervisor, Dennis Mills, District 4 supervisor, and Angels Camp councilmembers Amanda Folendorf and Linda Hermann.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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