California Highway Patrol seeks to enforce ag station requirement to ease traffic in Meyers neighborhoods
April 21, 2018
MEYERS — Local California Highway Patrol officials are seeking legal permission to proceed with electronic road closures in the hopes of keeping departing tourists who rely on GPS apps from neighborhood streets — an approach advocated for by one candidate for El Dorado County District 5 supervisor.
The most recent developments follow a community meeting on Wednesday, April 18, to discuss traffic issues in Meyers. Hosted by Supervisor Sue Novasel, the meeting aimed to update members of the public on a slew of actions proposed during a similar meeting in late February.
While the list totaled 21 suggestions, a proposal to use the agricultural station in Meyers to trigger electronic closures on side streets seemed particularly promising.
The idea was initially hatched by CHP and has been publicly advocated for by Kenny Curtzwiler, who is one of three challengers to Novasel for her seat on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, for months.
Essentially the proposal would enforce the requirement that vehicles pass through the agricultural station in Meyers. By enforcing that existing state law, CHP could then institute electronic closures of the side streets used to circumnavigate the agricultural station. If the closures were picked up by navigation apps, it would effectively keep drivers who rely on the apps on U.S. 50.
At the meeting though, county personnel expressed some hesitation as to whether or not the navigation apps would abide by the closures.
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Michael Ciccozzi, county counsel, pointed out that digital companies have a track record of fighting attempts by the government to regulate their services. He mentioned an effort by Airbnb to fight an ordinance passed in San Francisco.
Curtzwiler — who later told the Tribune he was frustrated the idea was just now catching on at the county level — refuted that explanation, stating that the agricultural requirement is a state law. If Waze, the navigation app owned by Google, or any other navigation service put up a fight, it would be against the state of California, Curtzwiler contended.
Still, Ciccozzi and others with the county said the best approach forward would be to work with partners, including Caltrans, CHP and others, to draft a letter requesting the various apps recognize the electronic closures when implemented. Ciccozzi said he expected to have that letter ready within a matter of weeks.
However, in an effort to jump start the process, CHP is now in the process of getting clearance from its legal team to move forward with electronic closures, according to Lt. Terry Lowther.
Lowther, who was out of the office and unable to attend Wednesday's meeting, told the Tribune that he believed the closures "should be able to be implemented pretty quickly."
There is some confusion and hesitation on the part of the county, and CHP hopes to be able to at least test the closures and see if the apps recognize them while county officials work through their process, Lowther explained.
"What I would want to do is actually test it," he said. "I would want to put the closure in place and I would want to go out and test it."
If the tests are successful, CHP would then continue working with the county to hopefully craft some sort of ordinance that would make enacting the closures more structured.
"If we can do it we will do it, and then we will work for the long-term solutions," Lowther said.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, El Dorado County Director of Transportation Rafael Martinez provided an update on the county's diversion tactic known as "the nudge." As previously reported by the Tribune, the effort proved effective in redirecting outbound vehicles from North Upper Truckee Road back to U.S. 50.
The county plans to deploy the tactic, which involves using traffic barriers and detour signs to give the appearance that the road is for local traffic, four times over the summer — Memorial Day weekend; Fourth of July; the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament; and Labor Day.
Several audience members noted at the meeting, though, that the nudge just shifts the burden to other streets and neighborhoods.
Echoing earlier comments, Martinez said the effort was a band-aid and not a cure-all. He also noted that every action taken to combat the traffic issues in the area will trigger a reaction.
"We're trying," he said.