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Traffic signals along Highway 50 in Placerville to stay green during Labor Day weekend

The city of Placerville, El Dorado County Transportation Commission and Caltrans are working together to deal with congestion as people travel through Placerville.

PLACERVILLE, Calif. — All traffic signals on Highway 50 in Placerville will be green from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. the first weekend of September and October. It's part of a pilot project called 'Trip to Green.'

The city of Placerville, the El Dorado County Transportation Commission and Caltrans are working together to deal with congestion as people travel through Placerville to areas like Tahoe, Apple Hill, or Pollock Pines.

Dennis Thomas is a Placerville city council member and business owner who is excited about the popularity of those areas but says traffic issues often arise in Placerville as a result.

"It locks up the traffic in our town, it’ll back up for miles. People then use the Waze app and Google Maps, which track people into our community and local streets that weren't designed to handle all this traffic," said Thomas.

He says they see the greatest amounts of traffic on weekend days, and it often carries over into weekdays.

Rebecca Neves is an engineer for the City of Placerville.

"This pilot project actually came to fruition from a comment we hear so often, and that is, 'Why can’t you just keep the lights green longer?'" said Neves. 

For Neves and Thomas, the most important part of the project is the safety aspect. The Caldor Fire provided an example to city planners of how this project would look.

Neves says they were on the verge of implementing the Trip to Green project when evacuations started.

"On August 17, we got a phone call from the emergency operations center, they said they'd evacuated Camino and Pollock, and it's backed up to the evacuation points. We need to clear traffic now, we need to flip the lights green now," said Neves.

"With the increased risk of fire, we see it all over California, we don't want to be in a place where we end up like Paradise," said Thomas.

So, lights will be green over the weekend between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Northbound and southbound travel won’t be possible across Highway 50 at Canal, Spring Street and Bedford Avenue, but there are detours available. 

Right-in and out access will still be an option at those spots.

Credit: EDCTC

"Our hope is that our community can get around better, more safely, and that people who want to come downtown and visit our lovely community -- they can find us easier and there won't be that much congestion within our city," said Thomas.

Thomas says they communicate with residents and merchants who live in Placerville about what’s going on. He says about 75% of people are onboard, but 25% of people still have reservations. Some merchants are apprehensive, too.

"I appreciate the public's patience with us as we try this out," said Neves. "We’re working through some of the quirks... you know, there’s no perfect plan, there’s just perfect intention right?"

Neves says Labor Day is historically one of the busiest traffic periods there. The green lights will be in effect Sept. 3-5, through Labor Day weekend. The next 'Trip to Green' weekend will be Oct. 1-2.

So far, there have already been several improvements to the signage and modifications to detours. The city welcomes feedback from the public, merchants, and police.

Head to the Trip to Green website to learn more or share feedback.

Credit: EDCTC

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