Mike Mogen, Caltrans project manager for Lassen County (at the podium) is surrounded by a packed house of more than 60 people sharing their thoughts about the Main Street project. Photo by Jake Hibbitts

Community responds to Main Street issue, Caltrans adopts recommendation

In a contentious, impassioned and high-spirited, mid-week, afternoon debate of three hours, more than 60 members of the community came to give their opinions and perspectives on Caltrans striping plan for Uptown Susanville’s Main Street.

The majority of the council’s eventual recommendation to Caltrans was Uptown’s striping plan remain the same: two lanes in either direction. However, whatever Caltrans decides will ultimately be up to the department itself, but the state agency will strongly consider the council’s recommendation and the public’s interest.

Although councilmember Brian Wilson was not present at the meeting, city administrator Mike Wilson shared a letter from the councilmember, where he shared his preference to keep the Uptown lanes as they currently stand.

Councilmembers Mendy Schuster, Brian Moore and mayor Kevin Stafford also shared their preference for the same. Only mayor pro tem Joseph Franco dissented from the rest.

Before any of the public comment, Mike Mogen, Caltrans Project Manager for Lassen County, spoke before the council about the plan for Uptown. Mogen explained to the council that the Main Street plans everyone had seen or heard of was indeed a draft proposal, and not final plan.

Mogen shared the schedule for finishing Main Street those in attendance. Mogen said that the mainline paving was due to begin Aug. 12. The team working on the street will come back after Hot August Nights to finish the work and curb redesigns, finishing around beginning of September. At that time the striping work will also be completed.

Two-dozen residents took to the podium and made their case to the members of the city council, sharing their often directly opposing positions on the matter. One point was abundantly clear within the whole of the community: pedestrian safety is paramount.

Many took time off work to share their thoughts and experiences, and due to time constraints, some left before they could speak.

Those that spoke out against Caltrans’s traffic calming to Main Street had variable reasons for their position.

Those opposed expressed their thoughts on everything from loss of parking spaces Uptown, to concerns over public safety vehicles weaving through traffic and even lines drawn parallel to the disaster in Paradise and a lack of emergency accessibility out of town.

Some even pointed to an inevitable congestion from the lane transitions from two to four lanes in front of Lassen High School.

However, those same residents opposed to the reduction of lanes, called for pedestrian safety and slower speeds on Main Street. Many believed the reduction of lanes would not be sufficient in reducing drivers’ speeds in uptown.

Ideas such as crosswalks with flashing lights, increased speed enforcement and a reduced speed of 25 miles per hour, were shared in place of the traffic calming design from Caltrans.

Many of the same residents believed the bike lanes were unnecessary due to the street’s steep grade and the fact that it was on a highway.

Those who spoke in favor of the change to the street believed it would not only slow traffic for safety reasons, but would also increase the foot traffic in Uptown, bringing more people into businesses.

Others, such as the three physical therapists at Banner Lassen Medical Center, shared that their advocating for more movement for their patients aligned with the goals of the change to the street.

Proponents of the lane reduction believed that it would also be safer for pedestrians crossing the street at various points in Uptown. Several recalled a very recent accident where a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle that may not have seen the person walking across.

Residents like Linda Robinette, shared the horrors of several close calls with pedestrians attempting to cross Main Street. Robinette shared that because of how many drivers use the inner lane for turning, those in the far lane may not be aware a person is using the crosswalk, and often are put in danger due to the circumstances.

Robinette also shared that the same goes for those drivers who “lane hop” and don’t see oncoming pedestrians.


Caltrans adopts council’s recommendation

The California Department of Transportation District 2 announces it is adopting a recommendation from the Susanville City Council to keep the highway-striping the same as before on Main Street or Highway 36 in Susanville, Lassen County.

This was decided during a special meeting on July 31 called by the council and attended by a large number of residents. Local residents voiced their opinions regarding a striping alternative which would have included bike lanes and other traffic options, versus a striping configuration with no bike lanes and no changes to the number of lanes on Highway 36.
Caltrans will move forward with:

Bike lanes
No bike lanes will be added as part of the Susanville CapM Project.

Bulb-outs/ADA ramps/ pedestrian buttons
The curb extensions (bulb-outs) will stay as they currently are, with one exception: the four corners at the intersection of Highway 36 and Weatherlow Street will have smaller bulb-outs. Bulb-outs provide additional pedestrian space thus decreasing pedestrian exposure to vehicles by shortening the crossing distance. The bulb-outs in Susanville are equipped with ramps in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

New pedestrian buttons are staying as they were built as part of this project. They provide increased safety by activating the crosswalk signals.

Parallel parking on Highway 36 will remain the same.

As planned, a new 42 inch handrail will be installed in the area next to the movie theater.

Speed limit
The 30-miles-per-hour speed limit will not be changed.

Caltrans personnel worked diligently with the city of Susanville to reach these decisions.

But Caltrans added future projects in or near Susanville may include bike lanes and other changes. Caltrans is looking forward to partnering with local agencies to find the best solutions to respond to the public’s needs. Caltrans encourages local residents to get involved in their communities, follow the processes necessary for highway projects in their area and work with local elected officials to get the best results for local taxpayers.