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Caltrans Asks, What’s the Best Mix for Hwy 36?

State Route 36 spans 249 miles from the redwood trees of Humboldt County to Lassen County’s high desert. The extraordinarily scenic, mostly two-lane highway covers some of the most remote territory in all of California. It also serves figuratively and literally as Main Street in Red Bluff, Chester and Susanville.

Now, Caltrans planners are putting together a 20-year concept plan for State Route 36, and they want to know what you think. Do you know of safety hazards that should be addressed? Where would you like to see passing lanes or turn pockets? How could the highway be better in towns?

Caltrans has scheduled a public workshop on Highway 36 at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 21, in the Red Bluff Community/Senior Center, 1500 South Jackson Street, Red Bluff. Agency planners will provide a brief presentation of a transportation concept report for the highway, and will then open up the forum to public input.

“Things that typically come up,” said Caltrans Project Manager Laura Rose, “are, ‘Are the shoulders satisfactory? Are we meeting the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists in the community? What about right turn lanes that have developed?’”

Caltrans engaged numerous public agencies that monitor and use the highway a great deal, including the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Forest Service and CalFire. Still, said Rose, “It’s an open table right now. We want to identify problem areas.”

The highway runs through Red Bluff on North Main Street and Antelope Boulevard. Cities can clash with Caltrans when state-controlled highways serve as urban streets. Caltrans often is focused on accommodating through traffic, while the city wants to create a multi-functional street that meets the needs of merchants, shoppers and residents. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in Red Bluff, where city planners are more concerned about providing adequate traffic circulation in new growth areas near Wilcox Oaks Golf Course in the north end of town, and near Red Bluff Municipal Airport at the south end.

Downtown Red Bluff

Red Bluff Planning Director Scot Timboe said the city’s primary concerns with Highway 36 are capacity and ensuring Main and Antelope do not get overly congested.

“Caltrans probably has the same vision for Antelope and Main Street as the city does, as least for a 20-year horizon,” Timboe said.

Do you have the same vision? Or would like to see Main and especially Antelope become a lot friendlier toward pedestrians and bicyclists? Maybe slow the cars a few miles per hour? How about more landscaping? Or do you just want to drive through town as fast as possible? Wednesday evening is your opportunity to speak up.

Although the Highway 36 concept plan is a long-term planning document that is not necessarily intended to be project-specific, the plan will serve a basis for determining which projects to pursue in the future, Rose explained.

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Whiskeytown National Recreation Area welcomes a new “artist is residence” today. Patricia Cummins, of Miami, Florida, will be painting in plein air at Whiskeytown through August 6.

• Best wishes to John Stokes, who retired last week after six years as Anderson’s director of development services and 30 years of public service. Prior to joining the City of Anderson staff, Stokes worked for Shasta County for 14 years, and, before that, as a planner in Tulare and El Dorado counties. I bet you’ll see John and his wife, Debbie, a newly retired teacher, at even more community events in the near future.

• Is Tehama County the new center of alternative lifestyle festivals? In late May, the World Hemp Expo Extravaganja attracted hundred of people over three days to a field south of Red Bluff. Now comes the Mystic Garden Party, scheduled July 21 through 25 near Flournoy, roughly 10 miles west of Corning. While the hemp expo was a fairly low key affair, the Mystic Garden Party has $150 tickets and big name music acts that include Michael Franti & Spearhead, Brett Dennan and Steve Kimock. Break out the tie die and incense.

Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and loves to drive Highway 36 from Red Bluff to Lake Almanor. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at pauls.anewscafe@gmail.com.