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See Vee traffic light could be followed by road extension

July 11, 2014

Lynn Flanigan, project manager with Inyo County Public Works, gave a brief run-down and introduction of consultants from Eastern Sierra Engineering at Wednesday’s informational meeting regarding a traffic signal at See Vee Lane and North Sierra Highway and possible extension of See Vee Lane. Photo by Deb Murphy

Caltrans will be putting a traffic light at North Sierra Highway and See Vee Lane within the next two years. Residents of Highlands Mobile Home Park took the first step in determining what else comes with that light at an Inyo County Public Works meeting held Wednesday evening at the Tri-County Fairgrounds.
Alternatives range from just a traffic light at See Vee Lane to extending See Vee Lane with additional access into HMHP.
Residents came to the meeting concerned about increased traffic flow within and just to the east of the community as well as the possibility of “property acquisition,” residents losing their homes to make way for connections to an extended See Vee Lane along Argyle Lane. The opening statement made by county project engineer Lynn Flanigan assuaged some of those concerns.
“This is the conceptual phase,” she told the approximately 50 residents. “There are no plans for construction. We just want your input.” The next stage involves compiling the written comments provided by those in attendance and a presentation to the Board of Supervisors for direction going forward.
Representatives from Public Works, consultants Eastern Sierra Engineering and Caltrans were available to answer questions regarding the four alternatives under consideration.
The traffic light at See Vee Lane and North Sierra Highway has been in the works for a while, allowing easier left turns out of HMHP. Lower speed limits along the stretch of highway from See Vee to Barlow lanes and widening of the left turn lane have helped reduce accidents in the area. Circulation studies done by the City of Bishop in 2007 and the Regional Transportation Plan done in 2009 both identified the area for improved connectivity.
HMHP has only one entrance, MacGregor Avenue at North Sierra Highway. Residents of Meadowcreek, north of HMHP, have limited access to the highway as well.
In terms of traffic flow, there would be nominal improvement with any of the four alternatives, according to Loren Chilson, with consultant Traffic Works. “There’s usually one obvious preferred alternative,” he said. “With this project, any one would be an improvement.”
Alternative 0 would be just a light at the intersection, along with stretches of sidewalks, curbs and gutters on either side of the highway and See Vee Lane with a $600,000 price tag. The work would be done by Caltrans as part of its U.S. Highway 395 Corridor Improvements.
In terms of Public Works, this would be the “do nothing” alternative.
Alternative 1 would extend See Vee Lane north to Choctaw Drive with access into the RV Park, the southeast corner of the HMHP, from See Vee Lane. The gate, currently locked to all but emergency response vehicles, that separates Meadowcreek and HMHP would be opened, allowing flow between the two residential areas. Meadowcreek residents would have an alternative access point to the highway. Alternative 1 carries a $2.5 million price tag.
Alternative 2 would extend See Vee Lane north to Edinburg Avenue, the first east/west street in Highlands. Two homes on Argyle Lane would be removed to provide access, the gate at Choctaw would be opened and access would be opened into the RV Park. The schematics noted that this alternative would provide “a slight” improvement in connectivity at a cost of $1.2 million.
Alternative 3 extends See Vee Lane to Choctaw Drive but keeps the gate between the two residential areas closed to all but emergency vehicles. Access in and out of HMHP would be opened at both Edinburgh and Darby avenues as well as into the RV Park. MacGregor Avenue would be a right turn only onto North Sierra Highway. Alternative 3 would provide the most significant improvement in connectivity and cost $2.7 million. It would also remove four homes along Argyle Lane.
The issue of connectivity is one of both convenience and safety. From an emergency response perspective, the additional access to Meadowcreek at Choctaw Drive and an extended See Vee Lane would be an improvement in addition to providing safer routes to Bishop schools.
HMHP resident Bonnie Mathis indicated prior to the meeting that opening up access in and out of the community was vital.
The Public Works comment form asked four questions in addition to providing space for additional comments: what is the preferred alternative, and what are residents’ feelings on a no left turn from MacGregor Avenue, the gate at Choctaw Drive and access into the RV Park.
Concerned residents of the impacted communities can obtain the public comment form at the Inyo County Public Works Department by calling (760) 878-0201.

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