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Re-imagine North Watt? Huh?

KCRA did a piece today with a County spokesperson about a new project that the County is taking on: Re-imagine North Watt. Lo and behold, the County also has a website up for the project. The point of the project is to: "...improve the safety and mobility needs of the local residents, schools, students, commuters, visitors, and other users of the North Watt Avenue part of the new vision to address safety of travelers on the bikeway and sidewalks, safety enhancements at intersections, transit stop amenities, and other improvements."

An adult and a child walking by a wooden fence, with cracked street pavement in the foreground.
A rare segment of North Watt that HAS a sidewalk. Sure, it's an unsafe rolled curb design that's way too narrow, but, hey, at least it's a sidewalk. And check out that cool public art, AKA slurry seal! {Photo credit: "Re-imagine North Watt" project website}

Whoa! That's a lot. And where did this project come from? seems like there was a chance to grab some active transportation grant money and the County went for it. As the project's website explains, "...transportation investments, such as bus rapid transit, alternative street reconfiguration, and enhanced bicycle infrastructure, will be key to support the development of attainable, infill housing." Further, the project's goal is to, " North Watt Avenue as multimodal, sustainable, and safe corridor where residents can confidently and conveniently access jobs, retail, schools, open spaces, and dwellings while biking, walking, or riding transit." Still, as one commenter put it on the project's interactive map:

The two biggest issues facing Watt Avenue in its entirety are the ridiculously-damaged roads, and the crime. Without fixing these two, there is no point in doing anything else, as it will have no effect, and will be a waste of money. Fix these first before anything else!
Comment made on Re-imagine North Watt project website on 02/15/2024

There's also some confusion as to the project area. Does it run up Watt from the American River to Placer County? Or from Auburn Blvd. to Elverta Road? Or is it something else. The project's interactive map already has a lot of comments, most of which are focused on North Highlands. But we have to give some credit to the County spokesperson who told the KCRA reporter today that the project would be driven by public input.

Watt Avenue is famous for heavy traffic, speeding cars and big trucks, bad pavement, potholes, dumb land use (Saving Center, for example), lack of sidewalks, and homelessness. Is the solution to apply a utopian dream of new urbanite pedestrians in a transit-oriented environment? Whether this project turns out to be as shallow as the Arden Way improvements (Arden Way has "good bones") fake-environmental-justice project or actually does revitalize Watt Avenue remains to be seen. Meanwhile, why not go to the project website and express your thoughts?

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