In the September and October editions of the Bass Lake Bulletin, Kathy and I have offered a look at the past, present, and future conditions of Bass Lake Road.
When we built our home here in 1995, the developer disclosed to us that Bass Lake Road was going to be “re-aligned” in the next two years. That “re-aligned” road would be the still pending Silver Springs Parkway – whose planning began in the 1980s, and is still not completed in 2019. The 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and the 2010’s have come and gone. It has now been four decades and it is expected to be constructed in 2020, which will be the fifth decade.
Bass Lake Road in 1995 was rather ‘suspect’ in terms of road conditions for what had been approved and the additional projects being considered. I feel that I might even be a bit generous with that description.
But, not putting a lot of faith in the promise of a housing developer’s sales team in a “new Bass Lake Road”, I began to do some homework on what was being planned for the area where we wanted to build our home. I looked for what I could find regarding future schools, parks, roads, shopping and other residential developments.
What was known in 1995
Checking for future projects for the Bass Lake area was difficult to complete in those old dial-up modem days. In fact, most information was really only available from the County Planning Department in Placerville and you had to see those documents in person. Some information was available from the school districts, specifically, the Rescue Union School District, as they were preparing to build Pleasant Grove Middle School.
At that time El Dorado Union High School District was also considering purchasing property next to Pleasant Grove Middle School so some information about the future around Bass Lake Road could be found.
We understood from the 1988 El Dorado Hills Specific Plan (Serrano and Town Center), that Bass Lake Road from Hollow Oak (then Stone Hill Road) was going to eventually get a new alignment to the west. It would feature a connection with Serrano Parkway which in 1995, hadn’t been finished yet and stopped at the Serrano Country Club entrance at Greenview Drive. Also, the final alignment of this section of Bass Lake Road was still being decided by the designs of the Bass Lake Hills Specific Plan.
The 1991 Bass Lake Road Study Area Environmental Impact Report (which was the base environmental review document for what would become the 1996 Bass Lake Hills Specific Plan) and the Final Environmental Impact Report for the 1988 El Dorado Hills Specific Plan indicated that by 2010 Bass Lake Road would need to be a divided four lane arterial road. In fact, I’ve seen one 1986 era document that had considered Bass Lake Road as a six lane roadway!
What about Bass Lake?
Bass Lake itself was identified in the 1988 EDHSP as “Village R” intended to remain zoned open space recreational in perpetuity. The 41 acres on the northeast side of the lake, now owned by El Dorado County, in 1988 was privately owned and preliminary plans were considered for townhomes or condominiums on the property. In 1999, the County began efforts to trade a 16-acre County owned commercial property in Cameron Park for the privately owned 41 acres at Bass Lake.
Developments in the Bass Lake Area 1995
Twenty-five years ago, the County was either in the process of planning or had approved major residential developments around Bass Lake: Serrano El Dorado, Bridlewood Canyon (already under construction in the late 1980s), Bass Lake Villages – The Hills of El Dorado, and Woodridge, Woodleigh Lane developments, Bass Lake Estates, Sierra Crossing, Silver Springs, Travois, and Emerald Meadows.
Serrano Villages in the Bass Lake Area were residential, although Village J5 was intended to provide a shopping center on both sides of the future Sienna Ridge Road. This was later downscaled in scope to the current version of the Sienna Ridge Shopping Center with the balance of the J5 commercial property on the northeast side of Sienna Ridge Road rezoned to residential and added to Village J6 in 2017.
Our current District 1 Planning Commissioner Jon Vegna asked for turn pockets in 2017 on Bass Lake Road when the rezone and revised commercial project at J5 was approved. He didn’t receive enough support from the rest of the Planning Commission or County Planning Staff. This was a common sense consideration by Commissioner Vegna, but turn pockets and left turn lanes were not deemed warranted by the El Dorado County Transportation Department (DOT) or County Planners. Commissioner Vegna was equally puzzled that a left turn lane on northbound Bass Lake Road was approved for the El Dorado Irrigation District maintenance yard on Bass Lake Road as part of the Serrano Village J5 Commercial redesign in 2017- without a merited traffic warrant.
A left turn lane was considered for the Bridlewood Canyon entrance for southbound Bass Lake Road at Bridlewood Drive in the late 1980’s when the Bridlewood Canyon project was in the design phase. However, the left turn lane planning consideration was rejected as not warranted.
During the approvals phase of the Woodridge residential project, a right turn lane was originally intended – however, the County traded the right turn lane on northbound Bass Lake Road for a left turn lane on southbound Bass Lake Road. Common sense in regards to traffic safety would have included both turn lanes.
The Serrano J7 Village, at the Bass Lake Overflow next to Bridlewood Canyon, at one point was considered for commercial development. There were signs posted along Bass Lake Road in the late 1990’s advertising the site as being available for commercial development. It was also identified in the 1988 EDHSP as a potential site for an El Dorado Hills Fire Department Station or, alternatively, an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department sub-station/office.
How Bass Lake Road was going to be improved
Bass Lake residents, both existing and new, had been told that based on the County’s approved development plans that a four lane Bass Lake Road was on the way as mitigation for the thousands of planned and approved medium and high density homes. Every subsequent project in the area has been approved based on the concept that a four lane Bass Lake Road alignment was required (but not *conditioned*) by these major projects. This has been the bedrock belief of the community for twenty-five years. Also, keep in mind that Bass Lake Road is one of only a handful of north-south connector roads between Green Valley Road and US50, and a safe, free-flow of traffic on Bass Lake Road is a major component of the County’s Roadway Network.
Change in plans
However, since the overall Serrano project was downscaled from the originally approved 6000 homes to around 4000 homes and the BLHSP project was downscaled by a few hundred homes, as well as the projected development on the north end of Bass Lake Road never materializing, those plans for a four lane Bass Lake Road have been deemed unnecessary.
In fact, the original design for the re-aligned Bass Lake Road – Silver Spring Parkway – was approved as a four lane divided roadway. It was built as a two-lane divided roadway, with a right of way for a future four-lane roadway – but that could potentially involve either removing the sidewalks, or eliminating the center divider. For a project that has taken four decades to plan and build, and still hasn’t been completed, no one expects that Silver Springs Parkway will ever be re-constructed as a four-lane divided road.
In 2016, with the BLHSP 1996 twenty year Development Agreement between El Dorado County and BL Road LLC expiring, the County and the developers worked on a new agreement that would trade parts of the previously approved Bass Lake Road improvements from US50 north to Serrano Parkway for an immediate fix of realigning Country Club Drive north on Bass Lake Road.
Included in this new concept was a signalized Country Club Drive – Bass Lake Road intersection, bike lanes and a park and ride lot. Gone was the previously designed divided four-lane Bass Lake Road. This resulted in the developers “loaning” advances to the TIM Fee program to get improvements constructed sooner and those “loans” to the TIM Fee program would result in repayments to the first developers by subsequent development projects in later phases. This was an innovative approach with an increased risk to the first phase developers and one of the results is the re-alignment of County Club Drive which is under construction now.
But this has also resulted in a 40 year Community Facilities District, otherwise known as Mello-Roos fees, to finance this infrastructure to be paid by property owners in the BLHSP area communities.
A final result of these 2016 changes removed three Bass Lake Road Projects from the twenty year Capital Improvement Program (CIP):
Bass Lake Road Improvements removed from the 2016 CIP
Bass Lake Frontage Improvements-Silver Springs
Project No: 66115
Roadway improvements to the existing Bass Lake Road east of Silver Springs Parkway, including full width improvements, curb, gutter, sidewalk (on northwest side of Bass Lake Road only), slurry sealing the pavement and restriping. Utility work consists of water connections and relocation of several poles.
Bass Lake Road Full Improvements – Phase 1A
Project No: 66109
Bass Lake Road from US 50 to Hollow Oak Road: widen and reconstruct to two-lane divided road with 4-foot shoulders and pedestrian/bike paths. Phase 1A improvements of the Bass Lake Hills Specific Plan PFFP; full improvements to include development of 8-foot median, sidewalk and bike lane from Hollow Oak Road to US 50; median improvements only from Hollow Oak Road to Serrano Parkway. Phase 1B improvements in project GP166. Funding for sidewalks, signals, bike lanes, median landscaping and median irrigation to come from PFFP. The expenditure for FY’s 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 is advancement of the culvert under Bass Lake Road which is needed as part of the Hollow Oak Road Drainage Project (72369).
Bass Lake Road Widening – U.S. 50 to Silver Springs Parkway, Phase 1B
Project No: GP166
Bass Lake Road from US 50 to Silver Springs Parkway: widen from two to four-lane divided roadway; includes curb, gutter, sidewalk, shoulders (4′ shoulder existing) for 2.4 miles (US 50 to Silver Springs Parkway). Phase 1B improvements of the Bass Lake Hills Specific Plan PFFP. See 66109 for Phase 1. This estimate includes improving the portion of Bass Lake Road from Serrano Parkway to approximately Madera Way from the substandard 2 lane existing road up to the 4 lane divided ultimate. The estimate also includes upgrading just north of Sienna Ridge to Silver Spring Pkwy to standard 2 lanes.
2018: Four-Lane Bass Lake Road BACK in the 20-year CIP
In 2018, the DOT added a four lane configuration of Bass Lake Road from US50 north to Serrano Parkway as a new project back into the County’s twenty year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). However, the planning/environmental work, design, right of way acquisition, construction, environmental monitoring and actual funding (identified only as sourced to El Dorado Hills Zone 8 of the TIM Fee program) were scheduled to the years of 2028-2038 – ten to twenty years out.
2019: OFF again -Four-Lane Bass Lake Road removed from 20-year CIP
This year, less than a year after adding the Bass Lake Road four lane project, it was removed from the twenty year CIP in favor of the signalization project of the eastbound US50 Bass Lake Road off ramp, partly due to the vagaries of where the line for rural region vs. community region falls on a map. In this case, Bass Lake Road north of City Lights Drive (the new Country Club Drive intersection) is in a community region, while Bass Lake Road south of City Lights Drive to US50 is in a rural region and has a lower Level of Service (LOS) trigger for improvements – the rural region being LOS E and the Community Region trigger being LOS F.
No one questions the need for improvements to the Bass Lake Road US50 interchange since the afternoon traffic regularly backs up on the eastbound off ramp onto the US50 travel lanes. Nor does anyone question the need for improving the Country Club Drive and Bass Lake Road intersection, historically the worst performing intersection in the County’s roadway system.
Residents welcome these improvements which are long overdue even without the Bass Lake Hills residential projects which are now under construction and are providing the majority of the funding for these improvements.
However, constantly changing status of Bass Lake Road improvements in the County’s twenty-year CIP – four changes in four years – leave residents confused as to what the actual expectation of improvements to Bass Lake Road will be.
The difficulty lies in the fact that the County conditions projects to only meet the lowest acceptable traffic conditions, like getting a D minus grade and bragging that you passed the class. Sure, a passing grade, but nothing to shout about. So the County improves our roadways to “just good enough” and believes those improvements to eliminate roadway capacity and safety issues in terms of long-range planning will suffice.
According to the County’s traffic models it does, but the reality to residents is something else.
Bass Lake Road: Around the lake
The same conditions exist at the northern end of Bass Lake Road. From Serrano Parkway to just past Madera Way, the imminent 2020 construction of the Silver Springs Parkway connection is seen as the ultimate solution for our traffic concerns. And, indeed, eliminating the 25 MPH curve on Bass Lake Road will remove a major source of traffic collisions and fatal accidents which is an improvement that has been proposed for four decades.
So many intersections in close proximity
But neighbors still have concerns about the proximity of the new Silver Springs Parkway and Bass Lake Road three way stop intersection a few hundred feet from the Madera Way intersection which is only a few hundred feet north of the Bridlewood Drive intersection.
Compounding this, Bridlewood Drive is less than 500 feet from the future Serrano Village J7 intersection at the curve along the Bass Lake Overflow, and 1100 feet from the new Whistling Way/Bass Lake Road intersection for Serrano Village J6. That is five intersections within 2800 feet.
The DOT has concluded as part of the review of the Serrano Village J7 project that in conjunction with the lower number of residential homes from what was approved for the EDHSP, the BLHSP, the Silver Springs residential project, and the lack of other projected development in the area, that a four lane alignment of Bass Lake Road is not merited. Without the need for the four lane alignment in the expected life of the County General Plan, the DOT, which has right of ways for the four lane alignment that would bring Bass Lake Road almost to the Bridlewood Canyon Gatehouse, has determined that the road frontage improvements – curbs, gutters, sidewalks, etc. – as provided in the 1988 EDHSP for Villages J7 and J6, would not be required to be constructed at this time.
Instead they have opted to collect just road frontage improvement fees to be held and used at an unidentified future time when a four lane alignment of Bass Lake Road would be warranted.
But if there is no warrant for a four lane Bass Lake Road in the life of the County General Plan – if a four lane alignment will never be built – why not build those frontage improvements now? No other Serrano Village lacks those amenities, and it would improve traffic and pedestrian safety in our area.
BLAC has spoken with Parker Development/Serrano Associates many times in the past several years regarding these projects and many more times in the past few months. They have been very generous with their time and have been genuinely interested in our traffic concerns. They have always indicated to BLAC that they would provide any frontage improvements that are agreed to in both the EDHSP and their Development Agreement with El Dorado County. However, since the County won’t ask for the frontage improvements or determine the ultimate alignment of Bass Lake Road, they will instead contribute the road frontage improvement funds as required by the County.
In reviewing the Village J7 project at recent Planning Commission hearings, several planning commissioners questioned the existing conditions on Bass Lake Road. The DOT, hearing those concerns, asked Serrano Associates to pay for a new traffic study whose results were provided to the County at the end of September.
2019 September Traffic Study Results: LOS C and accident rate half of the County average
The Traffic Study stated that generally the conditions on Bass Lake Road between Serrano Parkway and Madera Way are at a LOS C and D and the reported accident rate is half that of the County average. Capacity improvements in a Community Region – and this is in the El Dorado Hills Community Region – are triggered by LOS F.
The BLAC Traffic Safety Committee (TSC) had pulled data from the CHP about collisions on Bass Lake Road between Serrano Parkway and Green Valley Road for the period of 2009 through May 2019. The data showed 113 reported collisions. Of those 113 collisions, 73 occurred between Bridlewood Drive and Woodleigh lane, about 64% of all the collisions occurring over a section of roadway less than 5000 feet long. If that accident rate is half the County average, then the County, in terms of road safety, really does have larger problems than Bass Lake Road.
I received a hard copy of the traffic study results on September 30th and on that day I was visiting a neighbor in Bridlewood Canyon. After my visit, I waited for about two minutes for thirty-eight cars to pass (I counted) until I could safely make a left turn from Bridlewood Drive to southbound Bass Lake Road at 3:45PM.
The traffic study provided that the worst case stopped delay per vehicle on a minor street (Bridlewood Drive) is 22 seconds. The traffic studies are automated with equipment providing the raw data for study. My real world experience, like many residents, was decidedly different. Current conditions of LOS C and LOS D on Bass Lake Road between Serrano Parkway and Madera Way, in conjunction with the 2020 construction of the Silver Springs and Bass Lake Road intersection, indicate that no improvements will be warranted in the next 20 years.
In short, Bass Lake Road between Serrano Parkway and Madera Way, even through to Green Valley Road, is an adequate, safe roadway, per County standards.
The opening of the Sienna Ridge Shopping Center is considered in those calculations so the DOT believes it should have no impact on warranting additional improvements on Bass Lake Road.
Bass Lake Road north of Magnolia Hills Drive: No improvements planned
Lost in all of this data is that there are no improvements planned for Bass Lake Road from Magnolia Hills Drive to Green Valley Road with the exception being three new intersections:
Intersection 1. A street intersection on the north side of Bass Lake Road for the Silver Springs residential project, Arapahoe Drive, at roughly the current Hill Road location.
Intersections 2 & 3. Additionally, there will be two more intersections on the south side of Bass Lake Road for the thirty-six home Bass Lake Estates residential project. Trout Lake Court (which is really a circle) will be constructed just north of Tea Rose Court and south of Woodleigh Lane.
Three new intersections, all located within a few hundred feet on opposite sides of Bass Lake Road between Magnolia Hills Drive and Woodleigh Lane, will result in five intersections on about 4300 feet of Bass Lake Road on a hill and on a slight curve.
False Start: Transportation Maintenance Yard at Bass Lake
Earlier this year, the County Department of Transportation had asked the Board of Supervisors for direction on building a maintenance yard on the south side of Bass Lake directly across from Bridlewood Drive and the planned Serrano Village J7 at the Bass Lake Overflow. That would have added a third intersection within 470 feet on a curve. Residents, concerned 1) about the inconsistent land use of a maintenance yard across the road from residential developments, and 2) with its impacts on the natural environment of Bass Lake, were alarmed, to put it politely. Due in part to those resident concerns, the planned maintenance yard is being considered for a location behind El Dorado Hills Fire Station 86 on Bass Lake Road instead.
Bass Lake Road Improvements to be provided by future development projects: Where?
Asked when residents might see improvements to Bass Lake Road, County Planners indicated that future improvements would be warranted by, and paid for by, undefined future developments. To most residents’ thinking, there is not enough remaining land that could be developed in a scale large enough to provide these improvements.
El Dorado County through its land use authority has approved and conditioned the development of thousands of medium and high-density homes in the Bass Lake Area. Through its Transportation and Planning Departments, the County maintains that Bass Lake Road as configured, and with planned improvements at the US50 interchange, the new Country Club Drive intersection, and the future Silver Springs Parkway intersection, is an adequate roadway for existing and future conditions in terms of capacity and safety. Residents, for the most part disagree. Residents are concerned that when the Sienna Ridge Shopping Center opens, that the increase in traffic volume from this project, along with the increase in traffic volume from the new Serrano J6 and J7 villages, and the Silver Springs residential project, will negatively impact the quality of life in our area.
Walk or ride a bicycle? Not safely
Pedestrian and bicycle facilities are planned to be completed from Serrano Parkway south to US50. There are no pedestrian or bicycle facilities on Bass Lake Road between Serrano Parkway and Green Valley Road. They will be included in the Silver Springs Parkway project but a gap remains from Silver Springs to the Sienna Ridge Shopping Center. Also, there are no pedestrian or bicycle facilities from the planned Silver Springs intersection to Green Valley Road. The exceptions: Sidewalks from Green Valley Road to Parkdale Lane on the east side of Bass Lake Road, sidewalks from Green Valley Road to Foxmore Lane on the west side of Bass Lake Road, and a sidewalk between Green Valley Elementary and Lambeth Drive – but no bicycle facilities.
What about the Bass Lake Community Park?
Another consideration is the impact of the proposed Bass Lake Regional Park. The El Dorado Hills Community Services District (EDH CSD) is conducting outreach, and seeking funding for a two-hundred – plus acre park that will have entrances on Serrano Parkway, Bass Lake Road at roughly the EID Maintenance Yard driveway, and at the new Silver Springs Parkway – Bass Lake Road intersection. Conceptual plans call for 500-plus parking spaces on the west side near Serrano Parkway, and 140 parking spaces on the east side near Madera Way. Vehicle traffic for major events – with over six-hundred parking spaces, is comparable to having another subdivision added, with vehicle trips for major events occurring in a compressed time frame.
The EDH CSD is in the business of building and operating park and recreation facilities – they don’t build roads. The EDH CSD is envisioning a possible $15 million park project, for which they will have to find funding. Signalizing one intersection can cost upwards of $1 million – that’s over six percent of the entire park budget.
The Future: The Magic Eight Ball Says “Outlook not so good”
When a link to our petition for traffic and safety improvements for Bass Lake Road was shared in a public El Dorado County Facebook Group, a County Transportation Department employee shared details of the as yet unreleased September traffic study as resulting in LOS C. The employee mockingly derided concerned residents as ‘chicken littles’ and offered the advice that residents in the area shouldn’t complain about the road when we “…drive your $60k Mercedes off Bass Lake Road”. This sort of treatment of residents’ concerns, although only from one individual employee, demonstrates why residents are alarmed when our concerns and questions are perceived to be rejected out of hand.
So it seems that there will be no improvements to the northern section of Bass Lake Road with the exception of the Silver Springs Parkway connection. The only changes will be increased impacts through already approved developments that have no significant conditions to mitigate their impacts to Bass Lake Road itself. Bass Lake Road will need to reach LOS F before improvements can be realized.
If residents feel that these traffic and pedestrian safety concerns are valid, they should respectfully contact the County Board of Supervisors, the County Planning and Building Services Department, and the County Transportation Department. Additionally, consider reviewing and supporting residents’ Bass Lake Road Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Petition.
This is our community; the opportunity is now – make your concerns heard.