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Vision Sonora Committee Backs Sidewalk Safety Proposal

Sonora, CA — A design plan to improve downtown sidewalks with possible help from Caltrans supportive funding has the approval of Vision Sonora Committee to go on to City Council.

The recommendation, which came in the form of a formal approval at this week’s committee meeting, will be revisited by the Sonora City Council to consider in the coming weeks. At that time the public will have time to weigh in again on plans developed by consultants Wood Rogers for a Washington Street Improvement Project now in the works. If approved by the city, plans will again go before transit officials to finally approve ahead of submitting a grant proposal for funding support.

The plan’s scope focuses on a stretch between Stockton Road and a little north of the crosswalk at Sonora City Hall, which reviewed and addressed all of the crosswalks therein from a safety perspective. According to Sonora City Mayor and Vision Sonora Chair Connie Williams, plans currently under review were developed in the wake of ongoing reports of numerous  several people – including the mayor, herself, who have almost gotten hit while trying to access the crosswalks.

“So we are looking at [the project] 100 percent from safety perspective and there may be some other elements that may come into play such as shortening the sidewalks and extending the curbs so pedestrians can more easily be seen by oncoming vehicles,” Williams explains. If and when approved through local and Caltrans channels, she further emphasizes, “Caltrans will be installing some cameras to conduct pedestrian traffic counts to determine whether or not it warrants having lighted crosswalks, and if so, where they would need to be located.”

Williams confides that the descriptor “curb extensions” is now in use versus the term, “bulb-out,” which was somehow tending to have a negative effect during public meeting presentations. She adds that Caltrans is, from what has been explained to the agency thus far, proving to be very interested in working with the city and Tuolumne County transit officials on coming up with a solution through the current process.

She notes that the recent meetings have included some education of Caltrans officials by local transit head Darin Grossi, who impressed upon them the very real physical limitations of a little Gold Rush town such as downtown Sonora; where in order to get wide enough of a more modern-day turning radius, optimal considerations would actually require physically taking down a historical building or more.

Besides current proposed plans to extend sidewalks, should the City Council and TCTC further move in the coming weeks to support current project plans, Caltrans may be placing pedestrian traffic cameras to determine if and where lighted sidewalks may be in order. At this point, overall project costs have not yet been estimated, Williams emphasizes, as city and county officials continue working to get Caltrans’ buy in on the improvements as a major safety concern.

“It is a lengthy process,” Williams admits. Recalling that Vision Sonora’s master plans were approved back in December of 2013, she notes with some candor, “Here we are, four years…working towards a goal…of getting more of those projects underway. This one popped up [due to safety concerns]…we really had not gone after a grant.”

Driving the focus for plans moving forward, Williams adds, “You never know when money is going to become available for a project that is within a Vision Sonora plan — and when it does become available and you have the wherewithal to be able to make it happen — then you need to move forward, because you usually don’t get a second chance.”