Traffic in Elk Grove - 'The Best It Is Going to Be'

Towards the end of Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis' "Greater Than Three" town hall meeting conducted a few weeks ago, an Elk G...

Towards the end of Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis' "Greater Than Three" town hall meeting conducted a few weeks ago, an Elk Grove resident said something that came to mind while sitting at a standstill in Highway 99's carpool lane this morning just outside of Elk Grove.

"As for traffic, we are looking at the best it is going to be," Lynn Wheat told the town hall participants. "It is only going to get worse." 

As someone who has plied the commute on 99 between Elk Grove and Sacramento for close to 25 years, with slightly more than half in the carpool lane, Wheat's reminder is simple, but oh so true. 

During those 25 years, I have seen 99 widened from two lanes, carpool lanes extended on both sides of the highway from Mack Road to south of Elk Grove Boulevard, and the construction of new interchanges at Grant Line, Sheldon and Calvine roads.  

With the exception of about three years during the depths of the Great Recession, traffic has never flowed well in the regular lanes during commuter rush hours, but the HOV lane always moved fairly well. However, the flow in the carpool lane increasingly resembles the regular lanes. 

Notwithstanding today's rain, the typical carpool time over the last 12 months from the entry on Sheldon Road in Elk Grove to the exit on H Street in Midtown in Sacramento is averaging about 35 minutes. Remember, this is in the carpool lane.

Wheat is on the money  - under current conditions, this is "the best it is going to be."

As for solutions, there are plenty out there. The Elk Grove City Council will argue that the completion of the Southeast Connector will be a relief valve for traffic. 

It may help indeed relieve commuter traffic from Elk Grove to Rancho Cordova, Folsom and points northeast, but it will do little to help the commute to what is and will continue to be the area's main employment center - government jobs in Downtown Sacramento. 

In fact, it could be argued that the Connector, unless there is an almost immediate extension of Sacramento Regional Transit's Light Rail Blue Line, will exasperate the commute on 99 and I-5. We all know that along with the 500 homes already approved in the Southeast Policy Area (SEPA), if the Connector is completed, the cascade of rooftops will follow.

The City Council will also argue that the SEPA will become a major employment center and will continue to use that as justification for more rooftops. To that end, while the recent announcement of NRC's location to the SEPA, which still will not happen for a few more years is a step in the right direction, the city still has about another 22,000 jobs to go to meet its stated goal.

Do you think the current Councilmen will wait for all those jobs before they approve more rooftops in the SEPA or along the eventual Connector route? Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Elk Grove City Council's behavior knows the answer to that question.    

But in case you don't know the history of the Elk Grove City Council, let me lay it out for your consideration. If you believe the Councilmen will wait for those jobs to come before they approve more rooftops, I have some pure-as-the-driven snow spring water rights from Flint, Michigan to sell you. 

So if you commute into Sacramento on 99 or I-5, and even if you are in the carpool lane or an eTran bus, take a look around you and remember the traffic because this is "The best it is going to be!"



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