Russ Thomas is a Calaveras County Supervisor

Motorists’ workday morning and late afternoon frustrations navigating the State Route 12/26 intersection through Valley Springs could be alleviated at no cost to the taxpayers, in a relatively short time and without spending $2.5 million to $4 million on a project with the potential to ruin the downtown.

District 5 Supervisor Russ Thomas would like to see the county pursue a local connector road linking Hogan Dam Road with Lime Creek Road.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday was scheduled to discuss the SR12/26 Intersection Improvement Project and Thomas expected some of the talk to focus on the local bypass he favors.

It’s clear from the engineering firm working on the intersection improvement project that neither a signal nor a roundabout will solve the morning and late afternoon traffic woes at the intersection, Thomas said.

“The signal (or roundabout) in and off itself will not be enough of a solution to alleviate the traffic congestion problem,” Thomas said. “Add to that the fact it will change the flavor of that area of Valley Springs forever. It will severely compromise people’s ability to conduct business at that intersection.”

Draft plans for the four-way signal solution call for the acquisition of 5,891.7 square feet and elimination of 11 of 31 on-street parking spaces, while the roundabout would require 7,939.9 square feet and eliminate 17 of 31 on-street parking spots.

It will take a series of improvements to accommodate existing and future traffic demands in the Valley Springs area, he said, and construction of the local connector road will go a long way to alleviating the existing rush-hour congestion.

In addition, the connector road would remove the pressure to make the irreversible decision to tear up much of the downtown to accommodate a signal or roundabout, he said.

He has been in discussions with the Ponte family and the Calaveras County Water District to place the proposed connector on a strip of land that previously – many decades ago – served as a road. Much of the old roadbed is still visible.

The proposed new roadway in between Hogan Dam and Lime Creek roads is approximately 4,800 feet long and Thomas estimates it would cost approximately $1 million to $1.5 million to pave it 20 feet wide.

It follows a small ridge and is above the sensitive wetland area along Springs Valley Creek.

The county has $7.5 million in its Road Impact Mitigation fee account, and while those funds would be tapped for the initial work, Thomas envisions the county entering into a development agreement with the Pontes and the up-front, public funding eventually being reimbursed as building occurs in the area.

Such an agreement would call for the dedication of a 100-foot right-of-way so it does not foreclose future transportation options in the area, he said.

The timeline for completion of the connector project could be within 18 months, he added.

The intersection improvement project projects a 24- to 30-month timeline.

Thomas and District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli are holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 189 Pine St., Valley Springs.

Topics include Cosgrove Creek flood mitigation and creek maintenance, the Valley Springs Community Plan update and comments will also be accepted on the intersection improvement project.