Thanks to Caltrans for Main Street paving, but future battle may be looming

As everyone in Susanville knows, Main Street has been a mess for months, and thankfully new pavement is finally going down. That’s a blessing. Driving down Main Street has been a long ordeal for many residents. Lassen County Times readers may remember a story we published back in March that mentioned a report from a city street supervisor who quipped, there was “a four-bedroom, three-bath pothole available on Main Street.”

But the further along the project progresses, the more concerns arise from both the community and city hall.

Recently readers have complained about the bulb outs being installed along Main Street. One function of the bulb outs and ramps is to make it easier for handicapped citizens to use the sidewalks to make them complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The problems with the construction of these bulb outs also have drawn much ire. One business owner on Main Street told the newspaper the bulb outs in front of his business have been done and redone five times. The first few times part of the project included knobbed yellow plastic inserts, but those have now evolved into ceramic tiles, and the owner reports the last batch of tiles have warped — requiring the curbing project in front of his business to be done a sixth time. Another business owner complains the bulb outs have eliminated parking in front of the business.

Other readers have complained how far some of the bulb outs stick into the street and how those are sure to disrupt traffic flow at intersections such as Weatherlow and Main streets and increase the risk to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Traditionally, drivers heading north on Weatherlow have enjoyed three “lanes” of traffic at the intersection with Main Street — a left turn lane, a travel straight ahead lane and enough space for vehicles that want to turn right. It appears the bulb out that sticks out into that intersection will eliminate that opportunity for a car to squeeze by to turn right, clogging rush hour traffic and making it more difficult for big rig drivers or those with boats or trailers to safely negotiate a right turn onto Main Street. Similar issues present themselves to southbound motorists.

And, according to a letter to the editor in this week’s edition of the paper, Mike Mogen , Caltrans project manager (unavailable for comment due to the holiday), said one of the alternatives the state agency has proposed is to make Uptown Main Street one lane in each direction. Ironically, the city council discussed this alternative more than a year ago, and former City Councilmember Lino Callegari argued it was a terrible idea because in the winter a big rig may have trouble climbing the hill on its way out of town on a snowy or icy day, completely stopping the flow of traffic.

There are also concerns regarding the striping on Main Street — some city officals allege the lanes may not be wide enough to accommodate both parking and traffic.
One city official acknowledged a problem with the construction of the bulb outs by a hired contractor. He said it was unusual for such work to have to be done and redone again. But having said that, this city official also noted while Main Street may be Main Street Susanville to Lassen County residents, in reality it is State Route 36, and Caltrans and the state of California have a strong voice in what happens there. In fact, the official warned, they may have the ultimate say about anything regarding Main Street, despite any pleadings from local officials or residents.

The Susanville City Council is expected to take up the Main Street issue at its 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17 meeting. You won’t want to miss this meeting if you have issues or concerns to share with the council regarding the proposed changes to Main Street.