Back-Seat Driver

Fixing a dangerous road for drivers ... and critters

Rendering shows what a planned “parklet” under construction on L Street in midtown Sacramento will look like.
Rendering shows what a planned “parklet” under construction on L Street in midtown Sacramento will look like.

Some rural roads are silent assassins, places where calamity occurs without notice.

That’s the case for Highway 193 in the Placer County hills between Lincoln and Newcastle. It’s a bucolic stretch, but unforgiving of error. Over a four-year period, state Department of Transportation officials counted 34 crashes and three deaths on a mile of the curviest section.

Notably, all but one were single-vehicle crashes involving drivers who veered off the road. Some hit trees or poles or rolled down embankments. In seven cases, the crashes involved motorcyclists. All three fatalities were motorcyclists. Caltrans officials say alcohol generally was not the issue. The issue is an anachronistic road.

The state just launched a $17.4 million effort to widen part of Highway 193, give it paved shoulders, ease some of the tightest curves, and knock down some blind hills so drivers can see what’s ahead. The section in question runs from Clark Tunnel Road to Mandarin Hill Road.

Work will take a while. Finish date is likely in early 2018.

The road is pretty busy, carrying almost 5,000 cars a day. It’s also a busy one for another group of travelers: animals. A number of them have come to an untimely end there, and likely caused a few car crashes.

The project will include an expanded culvert under the road to allow critters to cross without having to go up on the road. The tunnel will be 10 feet tall and 14 feet wide.

The project will not included fencing, which is often used to guide animals at many of the freeway animal passageways popping up around the state, Caltrans official Suzy Melim said. Biologists found that the animals in the area appear to be following the creek.

“With the stream going through, that is a very natural corridor for them to follow,” she said.


State wildlife officials are telling drivers to watch out. The drought is causing deer and other animals to travel farther in search of food this year, and that means more road crossings and more chances of a crash. The Defenders of Wildlife group estimates 1.5 million animals are hit each year nationally. It’s not just a problem for animals. The group says 200 people are killed annually in collisions with wildlife.

Some tips: Wildlife are more active in the morning and evening. If you see one animal on the road, figure a few more may emerge from the brush.

Parklet sighting

Developer Sotiris Kolokotronis announced big plans for several blocks of new buildings that’ll transform the midtown neighborhood around 19th and 20th and Q streets. But for now, he has a tiny project in the works that is likely to be a trendsetter itself. Construction has started on what could be the first permanent streetside “parklet” in Sacramento, a simple sitting area in the parking lane.

Kolokotronis is having it built on L Street between 18th and 19th streets. He expects it to be open by late next month. “Just a clean, nice space for people to come together,” he says.

Yes, it involves appropriating a few parking spots, with city permission.