Opinion: Capital SouthEast Connector Expressway may be the key to regional safety

by Placerville Newswire / Oct 02, 2019 / comments

<George Booth>  

Recalling back to December 1996, there was a heavy snow over the hills and up to the top of the Cosumnes River watershed.

Just before New Year’s Day it began to rain — it was called a “Pineapple Express” storm. The snow was pounded by warm rain and the Cosumnes River levees were overwhelmed by a record flow. So many transportation routes were flooded. As levees broke, people were stranded. One family member might have been at work, another at school and another at home. There was limited access to many areas of southern Sacramento County.

While the New Year’s 1997 flood was impressive, it is not the worst case. There are so many flood control levees, one might imagine what could happen. Sacramento County studied possible levee breach scenarios. See www.StormReady.org where we describe flood depth and evacuation maps for various levee breach scenarios that chart the reality of just how severe the flooding could be. To be prepared, it is important that our region’s transportation infrastructure is equipped to meet critical evacuation needs when disaster strikes.

The Connector Expressway will transform 34 miles of two-lane rural roads into a four-lane expressway connecting Elk Grove, unincorporated Sacramento County, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, and El Dorado County.  The route will serve as an essential evacuation route during flood events.

Consider the near disaster at Oroville Dam in 2017. People received a tweet at 5:42 p.m. on Feb.12: EMERGENCY EVACUATION: Auxiliary spillway at Oroville Dam predicted to fail within the next hour. Oroville residents evacuate northward.  

Fortunately, the dam did not fail catastrophically, because people were stuck in traffic for many hours.

Having an alternative route in and out of the south county area becomes more important as the population of this area grows. The existing highways simply will not handle a sudden increase in evacuating traffic. The Connector Expressway seems to be a good solution.

Many urban areas around the country have loop expressways of various sorts helping with day-to-day traffic, emergency vehicle routing; and as stated above, they provide emergency managers with alternate evacuation routes.

Emergency response planning should be a yearlong endeavor because a disaster can strike without warning and natural hazard mitigation planning is something that Sacramento County takes very seriously. The Local Hazard Mitigation Plan is available at www.StormReady.org.

Every resident, business owner, school, hospital, etc. should know the risk that natural hazards might pose to their location and plan emergency actions. Being prepared does not mean being scared. The Capital SouthEast Connector Expressway will make life more convenient for those in the south County area. In the event of any calamity, it will allow first responders to move quickly and efficiently.

That is why I support the transportation project.

George Booth is a senior civil engineer for the Sacramento County Floodplain Management Section.