Debbie Croft: Merced County transportation vision affects foothills

March 21, 2013 

— Last week only a handful of people attended the monthly town meeting here.

"Mining and river pollution are the big draw around here," Gordon Gray said. "But there wasn't much of an audience Wednesday night."

Gray is chairman of the Snelling area Municipal Advisory Council.

At the March 13 meeting, Matt Fell, transportation manager with the Merced County Association of Governments, presented a project called Valley Visions of Merced.

"We talked about transportation mostly, and future funding for road projects," Gray said.

Road repairs are a major concern for Gray's neighbors in the small community. Many wonder if funding will be available.

"We can't rip up old roads or build new ones, but we do need to maintain the roads we have," said Gray.

The feasibility of public transportation is another. Snelling and Merced are less than 20 miles apart, with wide open spaces of ranch land in between. One topic raised was the possibility of bringing bus service to Snelling residents a couple of times a day.

These are just the types of issues the MCAG and Valley Visions were designed to address.

The MCAG was formed as a regional organization, completely separate from the individual county governments involved. County supervisors, elected officials from major cities within the counties and state transportation agencies do take part.

Valley Visions will build upon the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, which was adopted in 2009.

Looking ahead to the next 50 years, the SJV Blueprint was initiated as a way for Central Valley counties and communities to combine efforts in generating ideas and methods of implementation for better land use, improved transportation infrastructure, protection of agriculture and environmental resources, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Through the Blueprint process, the eight valley regions adopted a growth scenario for the future. Valley Visions is a regional planning effort exploring how coordinated land use and transportation options can benefit our communities," said Lori Flanders, public information officer for the MCAG.

Land use greatly influences people's decisions regarding where they live and work, and how they travel, so the MCAG hopes to devise better transportation systems to meet those needs. Plans ranging from major highways to bicycle paths could be considered.

Compared with 2005 statistics, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent within a 30-year period is another goal of the MCAG.

Merced County's major communities include Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston, Los Banos, and Merced.

Public feedback on these issues is encouraged. For more information or to request a workshop, visit the following websites: www.mcagov.org and www.valleyblueprint.org. You may also contact Matt Fell at (209) 723-3153, ext. 320, or by email, matt.fell@mcagov.org.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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