Hey, don’t forget, there’s a new bridge

Fewer cars than expected using Folsom Lake Crossing
By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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Despite a price tag of $135 million, Folsom’s new bridge over the American River isn’t carrying the volume of traffic hoped for by city leaders. Prior to the Folsom Dam Road closing in 2003, 18,000 cars traveled over the dam. When the road was closed over terrorism concerns, the cars were re-routed through narrow city streets such as those in the historic district. Folsom Lake Crossing, which opened in April, is carrying 15,000 vehicles per day, according to a recent traffic study. “(I believe) 15,000 is a lot, but not the 21,000 I expected right off the bat,” said Vice Mayor Jeff Starsky. Overall, traffic through the heart of town is down 20 to 30 percent, according to the study. One reason for the reduced traffic, according to the firm Fehr and Peers, is the economic slowdown. “Looking at all the bridges across the river (in Folsom), we are less than 2004 (totals),” said John Gard, with the firm who conducted the study. “Traffic has reduced significantly from 2004 and 2007. What you’re seeing here is the same as south Placer County.” He said 10,000 fewer vehicles are crossing the rivers per day in Folsom than they did four or five years ago. Starsky wonders if drivers are stuck in a pattern. “Is it because people get into habits?” he asked at the last city council meeting. One resident said she drives the route she does because she enjoys it. “I went over the Rainbow Bridge not because it’s faster, but because I love it. … I still go over the Rainbow in the morning because I like it,” Catherine Corbett said. “Do something to promote (the new bridge).” She said bringing awareness of the bridge to residents and commuters is key. For Debbie Centi, a library technician at the Folsom Public Library, the new bridge has cut her commute time. “Yes, I am using the new bridge,” she said. “It has shaved almost 10 minutes off my commute (from Auburn). I enjoy the beauty of the lake and the ease of getting to work.” Eva Mireku, an Empire Ranch area resident, said when she realized she could hop on the bridge on East Riley Street and it would take her directly to Folsom Auburn Road, she started using it all the time. “I use it a lot,” Mireku said. “It’s scenic and I love it. I don’t have to drive all the way through the city anymore.” One question is whether the city should remove the temporary barriers on Mormon, Figueroa and Scott streets. They were put in place in Aug. 2003, shortly after the closure of Folsom Dam Road, to keep vehicles from using cut-through routes in residential areas. Councilwoman Kerri Howell said the barriers should come down immediately. “The traffic counts are down dramatically,” she said. “I don’t think leaving those traffic diverters will affect traffic. ... We need to get those ugly diverters out of there and turn those back into public streets rather than cul de sacs and private parking for the residents there.” Councilman Ernie Sheldon said while he favors removing the barriers, he believes they should do so with caution. “Some of those (living on the barricaded) streets think they are in a gated community. They’re not,” he said. Starsky said a moderated phased-in approach to opening the streets is wise. “The problem I have with opening them all at the same time is we don’t know what will happen,” he said. “If we do it incrementally, we can control it and manage it.” No decision was made on the barricades at the meeting and it will be brought up for discussion at a later meeting. Folsom resident Robert Holderness said traffic in the historic district is an issue. “We need to rethink the whole stream of traffic from Folsom Auburn Road to Rainbow Bridge to Riley at Natoma Street,” he said. “If we want (the historic district) to be a destination, we need to get rid of the merger lanes (near) Rainbow Bridge and convert them into angled parking.”