Sunday morning on Clay Street before the mass exodus of cars that will occur later in the afternoon. – Photo by J. Chapman

Placerville, Calif. November 17, 2019 – Cool, colorful fall days draw thousands of people to Apple Hill in El Dorado County along Highway 50, an interstate highway which runs from West Sacramento, California to Ocean City, Maryland. Within the City limits of Placerville, there are 3 traffic lights on Highway 50 which slow down traffic, causing severe traffic congestion during peak travel times associated with regional recreation and tourism. To avoid the traffic congestion associated with downtown Placerville, many travelers use local streets to bypass Highway 50.

Residents living on Clay Street, just north of Highway 50, have been lobbying the Placerville City Council to address the traffic impacts from Highway 50 on their neighborhood street.

In 2018, the neighborhood group, Friends of Clay Street presented a petition signed by 47 residents to the City of Placerville, requesting speed humps (also known as speed tables) to be installed on Clay Street between Mosquito Road and Main Street as a traffic calming measure. The City manager told residents they could apply for a permit to install speed humps at their own expense, but this was likely to be denied based on portions of Clay Street exceeding a gradient of 8 %.

The City Council has acknowledged the traffic associated with Apple Hill, and has experimented with traffic shuttles and “local traffic only” signs during the busy fall season.

But the situation has not improved. Recently, Clay Street homeowner Tammy Danz, has organized a safety campaign, getting neighbors to purchase yellow “SLOW DOWN” signs. She has also been working with the Placerville Police Department to monitor the traffic.

Tammy’s husband, Ed Ingram retired from Caltrans after working in the road maintenance department for many years. “We are trying to be proactive and work cooperatively with the City,” says Ed. “The City recognizes that there is a traffic impact, and is currently working on different solutions.”

Recent traffic data from October 10-18, 2019 shows an average of 579 vehicles per day on Clay Street, Monday-Friday compared to 1,127 vehicles on Saturday-Sunday. Data from August 11-September 6, 2018 showed an average volume of 735 vehicles per day, and maximum daily speeds ranging up to 53 mph, despite the 25 mph speed limit.

“I wish the budget allowed us to take more aggressive steps to address this external impact on your neighborhood,” Mayor Mark Acuna told Clay Street residents. “I continue to support changes to the circulation, one way on Coleman Street, various turning restrictions, and perhaps seasonal traffic restrictions or other measures.”

Meanwhile, the Clay Street Bridge Project which has been in the City’s planning process since 2006 has the potential to encourage other kinds of traffic on Clay Street in the future. Studies on traffic and other potential impacts are still being completed as part of the Final Environmental Impact Report for the project.

The Clay Street Bridge Project proposes to widen the Clay Street Bridge and align Clay Street with Cedar Ravine Road, creating a 4 way intersection at Main Street. Friends of Clay Street and other concerned groups are asking the City to consider a broader range of project alternatives.

In the mean time, Friends of Clay Street is working to establish traffic calming measures to protect the quality of life on Clay Street and vicinity.