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Tuolumne County North-South Connector Project Gains New Momentum

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Sonora, CA — Leaders in Tuolumne County have for decades discussed whether to construct a north-south connector road, likely running from Greenley Road to Highway 49 on the northern outskirts of Sonora.

It could notably remove some of the traffic congestion in downtown Sonora. At today’s board meeting the supervisors voted 4-1 to fund an initial project study to help understand potential costs and impacts. The document could also later be used to apply for state construction funding. The $375,000 cost of the initial study will be split three ways, $125,000 each from the Tuolumne County Transportation Council (TCTC), Tuolumne County and the City of Sonora.

TCTC Executive Director Darin Grossi indicated that the project would make north-south travel easier for local residents, allow downtown Sonora to be more desirable for tourists (and outside dining), create a new fire break, and an additional emergency escape route.

He added that the project was ready to move into “property acquisition stage” way back in 1989, but was “politically stalled.” It was explored again in the nineties and 2000s, but failed to take off. There have been concerns raised about costs (likely to be somewhere around $20-million), whether a roundabout would be required, impacts on property owners (and related potential lawsuits), and the need for eminent domain.

Supervisor Jaron Brandon was the lone vote against moving forward with the study, citing concerns about staff time, the ability to eventually pay for the project, and wanting to learn about other options.

Supervisor Anaiah Kirk said he had some similar concerns, but was willing to take this first step to fund the initial study.

Other supervisors noted it was a good time to have a fresh set of eyes looking at the project.

The $375,000 Project Initiation Document will take about two years to complete. City and county leaders will then decide if there is a desire to move to the next step, which is the design and environmental stage, which would cost around $2-million. If everything proceeds forward, the project could be completed in about a decade.