NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mitigating the "Facts"

Grant Cattaneo said it is Time for look at relief from traffic congestion, and I say it is time to look at the “facts” as presented by Grant., October 1, 2005
Let's look at some facts not covered by the Mayor:

Fact: Although the Grass Valley Corridor Improvement Project and the Dorsey Interchange are referenced by the Mayor, it needs to be clearly understood that there are no final approved plans for either project, no construction funds in place for either project nor any starting dates for construction.

While their are no final plans, the projects have been started, design work being completed by Caltrans and NCTC contractors. Funds are being collected under the Regional Transportation Mitigation Fee program and they are programed in the State Transportation Improvement Program.
Fact: The City is not collecting sufficient traffic mitigation fees from new development projects. The City has failed to take action to resolve this problem, despite the facts that: a) the City's General Plan says these fees are to be regularly reviewed; b) the City's own approved Street System Master Plan says the fees are too low; and c) the City's own consultant, Maximus, says the fees are too low.

Yet the City has not adjusted the traffic mitigation fees since 2001 nor completed a study to determine whether adjustments are necessary. On Sept. 22, The Union compared traffic fees for the development of a house - Grass Valley is $366.02; Nevada City is $3,073.98 and North San Juan (Nevada County jurisdiction) is $667.00. Thus, Grass Valley's rates are 1/9th of that of Nevada City's, 1/2 of Nevada County's.
As we noted in the comment section on the Union Web page:

"On Sept. 22, The Union compared traffic fees for the development of a house - Grass Valley is $366.02; Nevada City is $3,073.98 "

The Nevada City fee is a catch all fee including sewer, water, environment, etc., according to the city manager, with only a portion dedicated to traffic mitigation. So the CCAT comparison is bunkum. Before they get into a debate with the Mayor, they best check their facts.
Fact: Even with the fees the City collects, there are problems, such as: a) the City has insufficient accounting processes to clearly identify revenues and expenses of the collected fees (confirmed by Council Members of the Street System Master Plan Subcommittee and corroborated by the Nevada County Contractors' Association); and b) when traffic monies are spent, they may not be managed well. The final cost of six completed traffic projects cited in the City's Street System Master Plan was 2.78 times greater than their original budgets.
This may have been true in the past, but the City has established the proper accounts under GASB-34, government accounting standards. Not sure about the over runs, they may be true. But better accounting standards, will allow comparisons with other projects, in other cities, to see how Grass Valley is performing.
Fact: The City does not have sufficient funds to cover its needed traffic projects. On June 16, the City identified 11 needed projects at a cost more than $9 million but could only identify about $600,000 available for those projects.
The City never did have the money for existing problems, nor can they get it from new construction. New development only has to pay for new impacts. It is unfortunate that new development is magnifying existing problems. Problems that were ignored, in the hope they would go away someday. We need an transportation sales tax to fix these existing problems. The other problem is that Grass Valley is the center of commerce, with thousands of County residence who shop or obtain services in Grass Valley. These rural residence maybe not be paying their fair share for the traffic mitigation in Grass Valley. The NCTC has requested this situation be investigated as a front burner issue.
Fact: Yet with all the above problems, the City Council instructed its staff to draft lower standards for reviewing traffic caused by new projects; and will be reviewing the draft at its Council Meeting of Oct. 11. If approved, this action will result in possibly fewer mitigation fees, but certainly less traffic improvements.
Mitigation fees are calculated based on trips generated, not intersection service level. The NCTC has approved a new mitigation fee schedule, which the City and County are currently evaluating.

The lower traffic standard, is the amount of time a driver must wait in transiting an intersection, measured in seconds during peak flow. Peak flow only occurs twice a day, for a short period of time. Increasing the delay for intersections, that are being mitigated, will not result in fewer mitigation fees. This is a bunkum scare statement.

Before challenging the Mayor to a public debate, CCAT needs to get their facts straight and gain a better understanding of the established transportation funding process, or they are toast before the debate starts.

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