Drone view shows south of Hwy. 50 development in Folsom, future spot for 11,000 homes
For now, it’s a burgeoning patchwork of tan and stone-colored suburban homes along Scott Road off a newly paved Mangini Parkway, some finished, others with a wood frame still exposed and shingle roofs yet to be laid.
But by the end of its 25-year construction timeline, the Folsom Plan Area below Highway 50 straddled by Prairie City Road, White Rock Road and the El Dorado County line — better known by residents simply as Folsom south of 50 — will contain more than 11,000 new homes.
Covering nearly 3,600 acres of ranch land, the development will be home to about 25,000 residents, increasing the city’s current population by a third.
Decades in the making, Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell said this new development is a natural progression for a city that had less than 30,000 residents 30 years ago and has since more than doubled.
“Given that development will happen over a 20-, 25-year time period, that’s not a big influx of people,” Howell said. Developers expect more than 400 homes to be built each year.
The first home was bought in November and several tenants have since moved into Folsom Ranch, one of several neighborhood developments planned in the area. More than 150 homes have been sold and escrow closed on 42 others, according to Folsom Ranch spokesman Ian Cornell.
So the question is, submitted by F. J. Kearney: “How the city of Folsom goes about its growth south of fifty?”
Two new on-off ramps on Highway 50, expanded four-lane roads and new streets are in development plans to alleviate traffic congestion along Folsom’s main thoroughfares.
Environmental clearances and preliminary design work for the first new interchange on Highway 50 off Empire Ranch Road (which will ultimately extend south of the highway toward the new homes) will finish in about two years, said city engineering manager Mark Rakovan.
The Empire Ranch Road interchange will cost about $50 million, he said, with 40 percent of construction paid for by assessments on new homes, and the rest coming from local, state and federal funds.
“Pages and pages of tables” show that the highest traffic volumes appear near on-off ramps, Howell said. While the city doesn’t have the authority to widen freeway lanes (that’s Caltrans’ responsibility), it can try to spread out traffic across six off-ramps rather than the existing four in Folsom, she said.
A timeline is less defined for the second interchange, off a planned southward extension of Oak Avenue Parkway, since construction for the western portion of the development is farther down the road.
City officials and developers also foresee the widening of White Rock Road south of the development as another means of alleviating traffic.
As part of the the Capital SouthEast Connector — a $335 million 34-mile highway that will connect the suburbs of Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Folsom and El Dorado Hills, and bypass Highways 99 and 50 — the narrow, two-lane White Rock Road between Prairie City Road and Scott Road (which will be renamed East Bidwell Street) will become a four-lane express freeway.
That new segment will cost about $25 million, Rakovan said, with much of the funding coming from Senate Bill 1 state gas tax. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.
As the development progresses, new streets will be built and traffic management features will be installed, said city engineer Steve Krahn.
For example, when a new commercial area and gas station is built this year along East Bidwell Street, developers will be required to widen the road in front of the shopping center to four lanes. There are no timelines for these traffic improvements within the developing area.
Schools, shopping and safety
When complete, the development south of 50 is expected to be home to up to 8,000 local jobs from retail and commercial office spaces. Cornell said developers are hoping the area attracts employers from tech and medical research industries. The development will include grocery stores, coffee shops and other stores, he said.
Construction on a new Folsom Cordova Unified School District elementary school in the development — called Mangini Ranch Elementary — will be built starting this year, Cornell said, with an optimistic opening date for the 2020-2021 school year.
In total, five elementary schools, a middle school and a high school are expected to be built for new residents, planning manager Scott Johnson said.
Plans also include two fire stations and a police station for the new area.
According to the development’s public facilities timeline, the permit for building the first fire station will be issued when the area’s population reaches about 4,900 people. The police station will be built when there are about 9,700 residents, and a second fire station will be built when there are about 17,000 new residents. Existing public safety personnel will handle emergency responses until the new stations are built.
Some have raised other safety concerns that may arise with the influx of new residents, such as over-crowding at the local hospital. Mercy Hospital in Folsom never built a planned additional inpatient building announced in 2015.
William Hodges, a spokesman from Dignity Health which operates the hospital, said in an email “we fully intend to expand our footprint in Folsom ... but given the significant change in health care over the last five years, it is imperative that we continue to do our due diligence.” He did not give additional plan details.
Though California is now officially drought-free, concerns about the state and region’s water supply persist.
The new development will tap into water the city of Folsom gained from past conservation efforts. Howell said that in the long-term, the supply should be sufficient, though the State Water Resources Control Board sent a letter to the city in 2017 stating it was “premature to conclude that there is enough long-term savings to support the Folsom South Area.”
Folsom officials have told the state that the city has access to 6,450 acre-feet of typically unused water each year to hydrate the new development, and that the new homes will need less than 5,600 acre-feet when fully built. An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons, enough to supply four to five people annually.
Howell also emphasized that many of the new homes built will have water-saving technology installed and water-efficient landscaping.