By Deb Murphy
North Sierra Highway, from Wye Road to, approximately, the Bishop Paiute Palace Casino, is headed for a facelift, of sorts. Inyo County secured a $275,440 CalTrans’ Sustainable Transportation Grant to develop a Corridor Plan. The plan, worked out over the next three years, will look at streetscapes, bicycle lanes and other elements impacting the highway.
But the county’s Planning Department wants to use the plan as step one in a more comprehensive Specific Plan for the North Sierra Highway Planning Area, with a little help from friends.
Planning Department Director Josh Hart laid out the details of the funded Corridor Plan at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting. The finished product would include community outreach and a final plan with stakeholder input. What it doesn’t include are the environmental documents required for a “broad vision for the area, a couple 100-feet beyond the highway” including land use and socio-economic elements, Hart said.
The initial Corridor Plan requires a grant match of 11.47-percent which will be provided by the Local Transportation Commission. The County needs additional partners to cover the costs of the larger Specific Plan. Corridor Plans do not require environmental documents; Specific Plans do.
According to Hart, the additional annual costs would be $30,000 a year over the three-year term of the CalTrans Corridor Plan. The County can foot the bill for half that total and will be talking to other potential partners for the balance, including the City of Bishop, Tri-County Fairgrounds and the Bishop Paiute Tribe.
“The costs ramp up after the first three years,” Hart said, “to $150,000. We could find funding for the Environmental Impact Study but we won’t lose much if we don’t proceed.”
Board Chairman Matt Kingsley was open to the idea of doing a full-on land use plan “somewhere.” Supervisor Dan Totheroh pointed out the North Sierra Highway was the most likely candidate as the gateway to Inyo County. Current land use along the stretch of U.S. Highway 395 was described as “eclectic.”
The Board approved the execution of the grant agreement with CalTrans. Hart will come back to the Supervisors with a more concrete proposal on a Specific Plan and begin discussions with potential partners.