By Deb Murphy
A four-lane version of U.S. Hwy. 395 may by-pass Olancha and Cartago some time in the future, but CalTrans won’t leave the little communities in the lurch.
The future of both was outlined at Tuesday’s Inyo Board of Supervisors’ meeting by James Powell of Alta Planning and Design. Olancha/Cartago will be re-branded as “The Gateway to the Sierra Nevadas” with tourists intentionally cruising through the community instead of driving blindly past it.
The planning process, funded through a CalTrans California Sustainable Planning Grant, included community outreach sessions.
The by-pass will identify the eight miles of the original 395, from Cartago to Summit Creek, as a destination as well as the turn-off point to Death Valley. Residents and visitors will actually be able to walk or bike through the communities without fear of turning into road kill.
When the by-pass was first proposed, there was a fear Olancha/Cartago would wither on the vine. But, the goal of the corridor study is to increase tourism and promote economic growth, identifying the area as both the way to Death Valley and a place to be in its own right.
Plans include walking, biking and horse-back riding trails along the corridor as well as way-finding signs to local attractions and recreational opportunities.
Powell told the Supervisors he’d be back in the fall for a final workshop.