This mayor wants to beautify the freeway in her city with cherry blossoms

The cherry blossoms are in bloom on the Tidal Basin this week in Washington, D.C.
The cherry blossoms are in bloom on the Tidal Basin this week in Washington, D.C.

Rancho Cordova Mayor Linda Budge loves cherry blossoms. Each year on her April lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., she notices many others as well flock to view the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin.

It's given her an idea. How about a row of them over Highway 50?

She knows just the place. Rancho Cordova this spring is building a 1.4-mile bike and pedestrian path that will run from Folsom Boulevard north of the freeway to Mather Road and Mather Airport south of Highway 50.

The path will span the freeway on a former rail bridge a few yards west of Mather Field Road. The $4 million project will be completed this summer.

But that may not be the end of it. Budge says she'd like to look into adding a row of cherry trees along the path, including, if possible, on the bridge over the freeway's concrete canyon.

"This trail would be absolutely perfect to create a hanami line, a cherry blossom alley, and really provide something spectacular to look at," Budge said.

The bike and pedestrian project is part of the city's long-standing efforts to tie together the north and south segments of the city, which are separated by the freeway.

The trail will make it easier and safer for workers to use light rail on the north side of the freeway, then continue their commute on bike to jobs on the south side. It also will give south-of-50 residents a safer way to bike up to the American River Parkway recreation area.

The city also has begun looking into expanding its shuttle bus service and possibly at some point having a fleet of autonomous vehicles ferrying workers over the freeway.

"We are so linear, sort of divided," Budge said of her city. "This is one of our few opportunities to provide that north-south connectivity and do it for people who need it badly."

And, do it with a cherry on top.

Apple Hill congestion app?

El Dorado County officials are dealing with the popularity of trees in another way this spring. Every fall, thousands of people flock to Apple Hill to visit ranches, pick apples from the trees, eat apple pie and apple donuts, and buy apple cider.

It's been causing traffic jams on the busiest days for years now. The traffic jams, though, are mostly concentrated along Carson Road, and a few attractions, notably Abel's, High Hill Ranch and Boa Vista.

A lot of visitors, however, don't get around to many of the smaller growers and ranches on the back roads, in part because the back country, though gorgeous, feels a bit remote and the windy roads can be confusing.

Growers and county officials have begun talking about creating a smart phone app or enhanced mobile website that can tell visitors which ranches offer the service or product you are looking for. And, the apps could let visitors know in real time where the traffic is backing up, so they can avoid it.

The project is in the early stages, officials say. For one, they need to work with wireless providers to get better cell services in the back hills.

The Apple Hill concept and the Rancho Cordova shuttle bus planning efforts are part of a new initiative called Civic Lab, sponsored by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, with a goal of applying new tech solutions to transportation problems in cities, suburban and rural areas around the region.