Transportation

Rancho Cordova considers Highway 50 interchange, faces Gold River opposition

Sacramento

Twenty-seven years after developers dedicated land for an interchange along a stretch of Highway 50 that hugs the southern edge of Gold River, residents in the affluent community remain firmly opposed to the project because of noise and pollution concerns.

Gold River residents are expected to show up en masse Monday night when the Rancho Cordova City Council holds a hearing on the proposed interchange. The council will consider approving the project location between Sunrise Boulevard and Hazel Avenue and signing off on the city’s environmental impact report.

Rancho Cordova officials say the interchange is necessary to address highway congestion and future residential growth south of Highway 50.

The interchange would allow exiting motorists to travel south of the highway and does not provide access to Gold River, a Sacramento County decision that predates Rancho Cordova’s 2003 incorporation as a city. Rancho Cordova also scuttled a proposed bicycle path on the overpass that would have gone through Gold River and connected to the American River Parkway after residents complained that cyclists and pedestrians from elsewhere should not have access to Gold River trails that residents there pay to maintain.

Despite concessions that keep foot and vehicle traffic out of Gold River, residents remain concerned about the vehicle emissions, noise and declining property values they believe will result from the project.

Gold River is a planned community of about 8,000 people, laid out in 25 subdivisions called “villages.” Early in Rancho Cordova’s incorporation efforts, Gold River residents sought to be excluded from city boundaries, and the community remains an unincorporated part of Sacramento County. The average household income of $142,000 in Gold River is twice the countywide average.

Gold River residents are most concerned about what the interchange will do to air quality, said Lonn Maier, a resident of the community.

“You’re going to have 100,000 cars using that interchange on a daily basis,” he said. “You will have more air pollution from cars accelerating onto the highway.”

Rancho Cordova Public Works Director Cyrus Abhar said homes at the edge of Gold River are already within 500 feet of the highway and would not be subject to any more pollution from the interchange than they are now from the highway.

The city’s environmental impact report says, “No federal air quality standards will be exceeded by the project and the result of the interagency consultation on particulate matter was that the project is not a project of air quality concern.”

Abhar said the interchange is not an attempt to encourage development, but would accommodate growth already in the city’s plans.

The city plans to use developer fees as the primary funding source for the $100 million project. The project includes a bridge over Highway 50 and a new four-lane street, Rancho Cordova Parkway, from the bridge to White Rock Road.

Abhar said an interchange is needed to ease congestion on Highway 50, especially at Sunrise Boulevard, “one of the most horrible exits” in the region.

The Rancho Cordova Parkway Interchange also would serve most of the city’s expected future growth area to the east, approximately 30,000 homes in the next 50 years, he said. Last year, the city approved the 5,000-home Suncreek development east of Sunrise Boulevard and south of Highway 50.

The city held hearings on the interchange in 2005 before the recession slowed plans for housing, he said.

Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan, who lives in Gold River, said much has changed since supervisors originally approved the interchange location. Among other things, development approved by the county last year south of Highway 50 has created a need for more improvements on Hazel Avenue, which may be a better location for an interchange than the Gold River location, she said.

A Hazel Avenue interchange would allow motorists to exit the highway to the north and the south, unlike the Parkway Interchange, she said. The county would have to build a Hazel Avenue interchange because it is in an unincorporated area.

MacGlashan lives in Gold River but says she would not experience any of the interchange’s effects. She said she is opposed to the interchange because of concerns raised by her Gold River constituents.

Abhar says Aerojet Rocketdyne’s location near Hazel Avenue would complicate any expansion of that road, and a joint study by local governments and developers has found that Hazel Avenue improvements are needed along with the Parkway Interchange to address Highway 50 congestion.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.

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