Call-box issue on county’s shoulders
In this the age of the cellular phone, it is hard to picture an issue such as roadside call boxes raising any kind of an interest with the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.
But it has, and apparently with good reason. Fifth District Supervisor Dave Solaro is spearheading a campaign to install call boxes on U.S. Highway 50 between Echo Summit and Pollock Pines, and the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to green-light the project.
“I think that it’s an important issue, and many motorists would agree with me,” said Solaro, the former South Lake Tahoe Police Chief who travels the Highway 50 corridor on a regular basis. “Vehicles break down in the canyon all the time. People can be stranded.
“Some might say that, in the age of the cell phone, a roadside call box system is not needed. But I know from experience that there are many dead zones in the canyon – in other words, places where cellular phones don’t work. Besides, not everyone has them.”
As of 1995, the last year that statistics were available, there were a little more than 15,000 call boxes in 26 of California’s 58 counties. Most of the Los Angeles area has call box programs, as does the San Francisco Bay Area. Sacramento County also has the system, but El Dorado County does not. Alpine, Placer and Amador counties also do not have call boxes.
Overall, only 8,954 miles of California’s total 15,256 miles of state highway have call box systems.
California’s call box program is administered at the local level – county or regional agencies which oversee the program. Funding for the program is provided by a $1 per vehicle annual registration surcharge imposed in each county. The surcharge is collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles as part of the normal vehicle registration process.
“Seeing that there has recently been a 25-percent reduction in registration fees, I think that this $1 fee is a pretty good trade,” Solaro said. “What price do we put on the safety of family and friends? It’s well worth it.”
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