Citizens upset over Olancha bypass plan

olanchaIn response to Caltrans’ plans for four lanes through Olancha, the Inyo Supervisors favored widening Highway 395 through the towns, a number of residents did too.  However, Caltrans officials picked a bypass around the small community.  Disgruntled citizens showed up during public comment at the Inyo Supervisors meeting this week.

Olancha residents told the Board that they believed the bypass alternative “was not on the table or open to public comment.”  They also complained that Caltrans did not have answers on access to homes under the new plan.  Susan Patton of Olancha said, “We feel that once again a government agency is doing what they want to do whether the people like it or not.”  Patton told the Board that Caltrans said they could not yet answer questions about the bypass alternative.  “They spent $5 million studying these alternatives,” said Patton.  “They should have more answers.”

Jeffrey Bowle said the bypass would cost $30 or $40 million more.  Scott Palomar, an Olancha-Cartago property owner, pointed to the Inyo General Plan policy that bypasses should be avoided. All of the citizens wanted support from the supervisors.  Board Chair Susan Cash said, “This Board makes no decisions on this.”

Following the meeting, we talked to Caltrans project manager on the Olancha four-lane, Cedric Zemitis. He said that “There was definitely public input” on the bypass alternative which also includes transforming part of 395 into 190 and part of it into a local road.  Zemitis said that Option 3.5, as it’s called, was circulated publicly for comment and went to the Local Transportation Commission and Board of Supervisors.  Zemitis said Caltrans District 9 Director Tom Hallenbeck “looked through the whole record and chose the preferred alternative.” That alternative is a four-lane bypass to the west of Olancha and into Cartago.

Zemitis said safety is the main concern along with cost, public concerns, regional and inter-regional issues and natural and physical environment.  On a point system, alternative 3 was the highest scoring.  Hallenbeck combined 3 and 4.  “We realize not everyone is happy,” said Zemitis, “but it’s the best combination.”

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11 Responses to Citizens upset over Olancha bypass plan

  1. Justin Case November 10, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    I have never encountered traffic going throught that area, nor have I encountered pedestrians. I do how ever stop at that brand new gas station all the time across from the jerky store and realy like it. Feel bad for them if the road gets relocated. Not sure the $5 million used to study options, or the $30-40 million to do the actual relocating is necessarily what I would call a good use of my tax dollars. I agree with JJ in the sence that I think that money could be so much more wisely spent on education, getting our volunteer fire departments brought up to date, or heaven forbid, used to repay any deficits the county has and replenish cut jobs and benifits. Can anyone say “furlow” ??

  2. Big Rick O'Brien November 10, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    A by-pass would be awesome…every time i drive thru Olancha, I’m worried about a kid or a dog running out in front of me. There are only 2 businesses anyway. the restaurant & the jerky store. I don’t think too many tourists stop at the Crystal Geyser plant.

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 10, 2011 at 9:26 am #

      There’s that freaky old motel on the south side of town too, looks a little like the Bates Motel.

      • Big Rick O'Brien November 10, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

        Funny thing is, I never see any cars in the lot of that place. Every time I drive by I think of that movie,” Motel Hell”. You couldn’t PAY me to spend the night in that place!

  3. upthecreek November 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    ” ‘Susan Patton of Olancha said, “We feel that once again a government agency is doing what they want to do whether the people like it or not.”

    This surprises you Susan???.

    Since when does our (so called) Government do ANYTHING of the peoples will?

  4. Roy November 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    I drive 395 to the Sierras about 20 times a year, and have been driving to the area for 40 years.. I have never encountered a traffic jam driving thru Olancha. Are people in such a darn hurry that they can’t slow down to 50-55 mph for 1 or 2 minutes…I think this is a waste of taxpayers money..

    If drivers would obey the speed limits and not drive like idiots 395 would not have the traffic accidents that occur..

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 10, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      “obey the speed limits”

      Are we talking about the same US 395?

  5. JJ November 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I have never seen anything close to traffic any in the Owens Valley. Having to go the speed limit because a truck is following the law is not traffic. Give me a break, this is just wasted money that should be spent on our schools . Stop feeding the the big contractors pockets. Bypasses will bring nothing to our towns.

  6. Scott Ehrlich November 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    As a state resident who pays property, income and gasoline taxes, I think the bypass is a terrific idea. I’m sure that everyone else in California who drives 395 regularly agrees. It’s safer for pedestrians in Olancha and much safer for drivers, compared to driving through town. It’s amazing that a few people from Olancha think they can dictate what’s “best” for the drivers and pedestrians of the state of California to generate some income for their small town. Could you imagine what the Interstate System would be like if small towns prevailed in their quest to prevent drivers from using speedy and safe roads?

  7. Bobbie Lee Swagger November 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Is this curtains for the beef jerky store?

    Actually, this is the best news I’ve heard since Don Rumsfeld resigned. That back up south of the Owens Lake gets really old.

    Too bad is doesn’t start until 2016.

  8. Eamon McNamera November 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    The title of the article is misleading, the “citizens” of California spoke loudly during the survey & comment periods emphatically in support of a bypass…..the title should state “residents.”


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