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I am a long-time member of the Dkos community (since 2004) and a recent transplant to beautiful Northern California.  I just returned from a Save the Little Lake Valley rally in the town of Willits on Hwy 101 in northern Mendocino County.  It inspired me to write this diary, since, as far as I can determine, there have been no diaries about this particular environmentally destructive boondoggle posted here.

The transportation agency of the state of California, CALTRANS, has started cutting down beautiful ancient oaks and tearing up pasture land to build a six mile long bypass for Route 101 around Willits.  Why is this a stupid idea?  First, the highway will only be 2 lanes wide (one in each direction).  The state argues that it needs this bypass because the present route of Hwy 101 through downtown Willits, also 2 lanes wide, gets backed up with traffic sometimes, e.g. in the summer on weekends and holidays.  The state has rationalized building huge deeply sunk pilings for the bypass by claiming that the highway will be widened to 4 lanes (2 each way) in 2030.  2030!  And the projected cost of this 4 lane highway is $350 million, which works out to $58 million per mile!  California was just recently broke.  But in 18 years it enough money will be pouring in to widen unnecessary highways?

Follow me below the squiggle for more.

Why is the Willits bypass, whatever its width, unnecessary?  Because much of the truck and tourist traffic will still have to pass through downtown Willits once the bypass is built.  The major traffic artery to Fort Bragg and all those little towns near the coast tourists love, Highway 20, now intersects 101 in downtown Willits and will continue to, even if the bypass is built.  At present there are no plans to connect Highway 20 and this stupid bypass.

Although I am no environmental expert, it seems to me that the worst damage building the bypass will do is to the large seasonal wetland located at the northern end of the proposed route.  These wetlands will be drained by what are called wick drains, to be drilled 85 feet down—55,000 of them.  Approximately 20-30 acres of wetland will be drained and covered by fill dirt, around 140,000 dump truck loads of it.  The areas that will be disturbed for this part of the project are habitats for the spotted owl and semaphore grass, which is on the endangered species list.

Local environmentalists have done a tremendous amount of research detailing all the harm that will be wrought by the bypass.  And they have laid out a number of alternatives to the bypass that would be less damaging and more likely to reduce traffic downtown.  Some have engaged in courageous non-violent actions to try and prevent the loss of these beautiful trees.  A tree-sitter, nom de arbre Warbler, spent over two months in a pine tree on the site.  She was joined later by 4 other tree-sitters, Eagle, Falcon, Celsius and Caspian.  They were all forcibly extracted from their arboreal homes by the California Highway Patrol using some of their mechanical toys.

My two cents?  From what I have learned building this bypass is folly.  Maybe not on the scale of the folly of the US invading Iraq.  But this is some people’s backyard, and we need to save every last foot of undeveloped land that we can in this country.  From what I have seen, I don’t think the economy around here is going to start booming any time soon.  Paradoxically, what will be a boon for the country as a whole, the legalization of marijuana, will reduce the amount of cash in the pockets of a sizeable number of folks here.  And though, vineyards have been creeping northward at a steady pace for decades now, there has to be a limit to the amount of wine the world can drink.   Why does this part of Northern California need superhighways?  There is already a superhighway 50 miles east of Willits:  Highway 5.  There is not a great deal of development even alongside it.

So I say, let Northern California keep its ancient oaks, its spawning salmon (also endangered by this project), its sleepy little towns and its ancient hippies.  Long live Little Lake Valley!
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Comment Preferences

  •  Got any lawyers involved? (18+ / 0-)

    I have to wonder whether those permits are in order.  If the local Sierra club is involved you might be able to get the Sierra club legal program involved.  

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescindibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 09:39:35 PM PDT

  •  CA has been trying to make 101 into a freeway... (19+ / 0-)

    ...for decades. Sacramento has a single minded robotic idea that Highway 101 must be one straight shot with the accompanying on-ramps and off-ramps. Remember, this is a centuries-old horse route. It was built to roughly follow the old El Camino (royal road) of the Spanish Conquistadors. Most of the original Spanish Missions are near Highway 101. Those missions were to be placed roughly one long day's ride apart.

    I remember 25 years ago when 101 (not "The 101" as they say down south) was Monterey Highway in south San Jose. It was lined with fruit stands, bars and motels that are mostly shuttered these days. Cross streets, stoplights and traffic jams were common as were the head-on accidents. The replacement road is eight lanes wide but much safer.

    i just baptized andrew breitbart into the church of islam, planned parenthood, the girl scouts and three teachers unions. - @blainecapatch

    by bobinson on Sat Apr 06, 2013 at 09:59:26 PM PDT

    •  Live in Southern California (3+ / 0-)

      Been living here since I moved here in 1984 as a 25 year old. Have been mocked by my relatives in my native Connecticut when I go back there by referring to highways there as "the" 95 and "the" 84 and "the" 15.   Living here in movie land (apologies to George Lucas) I figure it goes all the way the Wizard of Oz. It is not follow Yellow Brick Road. It is follow the "The" Yellow Brick Road. Let's give the environment destroying highways the respect they deserve. -snark-

  •  Such a shame, thank you for caring and (15+ / 0-)

    being the voice for those mighty oaks wetlands.  What is truly astonishing is with all of our vast knowledge of how we end up paying much more money fixing the damaged environment we create versus the 'project's benefit, we keep doing it and doing it again and again.  

  •  Signed, and will contribute. (6+ / 0-)

    Thinking of Cormac McCarthy speaking through one of his characters, saying "You have to get off the road." - in his book The Road . . .

    These projects are in fact the true killing of new life.

  •  I've driven through Willits many times. (4+ / 0-)

    I've never been delayed by any traffic. Ridiculous.

  •  Good luck with your efforts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jennifer poole, LinSea

    all nature is worth conserving as much as possible.

    I'd assume CA must have their reasons, and 58m per mile is probably not out of line for this type of undertaking, I'd only wish there was such a push for mass transit instead. I haven't been east in a long time, but I've heard many of the trees are being cut because they are dying back there.

    Dying due to mid west coal burning and east coast car driving, acidification, also rising temperatures.

    I worry less about the spotted owl, that species is being outcompeted by another owl. Species will die at an accelerated rate.

    Save what you can.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 06:47:19 AM PDT

  •  Yay! More highways littered with animal (4+ / 0-)

    carcasses and used pampers! More parking! More streetlights!

    All at a time when conventional oil production is in decline (total production undulates at a temporary plateau only because higher prices have made it profitable to drill in 5000' of ocean water (killing seven men and almost ruining the GOM in the process) and pressure wash sand in Alberta to get the oil off of it.


    *Pukes and gets back on bicycle.

    Reaganomics noun pl: belief that government is bad, that it can increase revenue by decreasing revenue, and unregulated capitalism can provide unlimited goods for unlimited people on a planet with finite resources.

    by FrY10cK on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 07:07:32 AM PDT

  •  Somewhere near Willits (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jennifer poole

    Or maybe Cloverdale there's a stretch of 101 southbound where they add a 3rd lane for slow traffic.  It lasts about a mile before it merges back. On a Sunday afternoon I found this to be the most frustrating, stupid... argh!  Every a-hole on the road uses it as a passing lane and then cuts the traffic line.  Shit like that infuriates me - if the cops were to block it off with cones and cruisers, then the main lane wouldn't get so fucked up and traffic would start to move smoothly.  So what I'm saying is, don't build another road, fix the traffic patterns on the existing one.

    You will not rest, settle for less • Until you guzzle and squander whats left • Do not deny that you live and let die - MUSE

    by bondibox on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 07:20:56 AM PDT

  •  Usually highways increase population (4+ / 0-)

    but in Willits, no more water permits are being provided. If you own land that does not have a water permit in Willits, if you sell it, you have to indicate that water is not available (I know, I've looked).

    Willits is a lovely little town that doesn't deserve the destruction that would befall it if that bypass were built.

    Stretches of 101 north of Ukiah aren't really freeway material. The land is very unstable (steep and rocky) and destroying the fragile environment can only lead to problems.

    I reject your reality and substitute my own - Adam Savage

    by woolibaar on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 08:04:00 AM PDT

  •  thanks. this bypass is a boondoggle (5+ / 0-)

    People in Willits have been suggesting lower-cost less-destructive alternatives for years -- alternatives that will actually get a lot more traffic off Main Street / Highway 101 than the Caltrans bypass will, as well as serve through traffic. But Caltrans always refused to study or consider a 2-lane bypass, because it was too dangerous, slow and would be "obsolete" before it was finished - although that's what Willits is getting now. Caltrans says "safety conditions" will be met when they come back at some unspecified and unfunded time in the future to build the remaining 2 lanes.

    Local people who support the bypass because they want in-town traffic relief will be sorely disappointed. Caltrans' own outdated and optimistic traffic study showed 70 to 80 percent of the traffic will remain on the old Highway 101 after the bypass is built.

    Most of the traffic flowing into Willits from the south is local traffic or traffic to the Mendocino coast which will not use this "bypass to nowhere." This web cam a mile north of Willits, which shows an empty or almost empty highway almost all of the time, shows the through traffic (well, some of it will stop in Willits anyway) that we CA taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions to "relieve."

    So much more to the story: including a serious breach of the non-violence code by one of the tree-sitters removed on Thursday....  Not the committed Warbler, who sat in a Ponderosa pine for more than 2 months before being removed, who continues to be on a hunger strike she started a week ago Thursday, after voluntarily lowering her food to the ground. We've been covering the story at Willits Weekly if anyone cares to learn more.

  •  here's a photo of the beautiful Little Lake Valley (4+ / 0-)

    wetlands, taken by master Willits photographer Steve Eberhard.

    Steve has been documenting the Willits protests, on assignment from the local Media News Group paper, and has been threatened with arrest on multiple occasions by the CHP, which brought in a huge (for the small town of Willits) force of officers on March 21.

    Another iconic photo of a light-hearted and kind moment between protester and (local) CHP officer from the last couple of weeks, taken by local photographer Ree Solocum

    and one more: one of the ancient oaks that was cut immediately after the tree-sitter was removed:

    •  Can someone embed these pics, Jennifer? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, LinSea

      By that I mean, would it be okay with you and the people who took them to embed them here?

      And, can anyone figure out how to do so?  I would but I am leaving for a Sierra Club hike right now.

      "A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation." - Mayor of Bogota

      by Time Waits for no Woman on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 09:47:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes, we'd all be happy to have pics used (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee, LinSea

        here at Daily Kos or anywhere else, preferably with credit: wetlands: courtesy of Steve Eberhard,; donut: courtesy of Ree Slocum, ancient oak: courtesy Jennifer Poole, of Willits Weekly

        But you as the diarist are the only one who can edit your diary, and I've never figured out how to embed photos myself. not much of a diary writer here these days.

        If anybody else reading the thread can help Time Waits with this for a future diary, please send her a message, or message me. Thank you.  

      •  Sorry I haven't embedded pics on dkos so I can't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        help. But I recall reading that dkos will now host the pics for you meaning there must be a way to upload them directly to the site without having to use a picture hosting service.

        I could be wrong though.

        Reaganomics noun pl: belief that government is bad, that it can increase revenue by decreasing revenue, and unregulated capitalism can provide unlimited goods for unlimited people on a planet with finite resources.

        by FrY10cK on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:35:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I wonder.. (3+ / 0-)

    Typical bureaucratic buffoon's bumbling  - Or should someone "follow the money?"  

    As often as not, those "Your tax dollars at work" signs are missing the rest of the story - "at enriching my politically connected construction company."

    How do you stop someone who will stop at nothing?

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 08:37:24 AM PDT

  •  Here ia a video of the extraction (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    •  below is a better, more complete video, which (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, LinSea

      shows a more complete picture of the breaches of the nonviolence code by tree-sitter Martin Reign Katz, including throwing shit at the CHP officers, and grabbing one officer's arm, causing the officer to lurch forward, three seconds before the bean-bag pellet shots were fired:

      Nomad Films more complete video here

      Nomad Films who posted the more complete video has been tireless in documenting the protests, and is much more committed (as well as more sensible) than the "fuck the pigs" type, known by several anonymous names on Facebook, including "Emerald Triangle," who took the video that you posted, who also breaks the nonviolence code -- which calls for a friendly open attitude to CHP, Caltrans workers, all agencies and public officials -- with his ugly anti-law enforcement language in the video you posted.

      Save Little Lake Valley has acknowledged the breach of the nonviolence code, and it is a shame that Katz's actions are representing Save Little Lake Valley in the wider world.

      My Willits Weekly story on the Nomad Films video here.

      Doesn't mean I condone the huge CHP presence in Willits since March 21, or the decision to go ahead with the forcible removal of the tree-sitters on Tuesday -- the same day as a publicly announced meeting between our state Sen. Noreen Evans and Caltrans which she had asked for. Such decision was NOT made by the top official at Caltrans, who told Evans he was "shocked" by the show of force, but by the regional chief: more here:

      •  here's the picture saved to my desktop (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LinSea, elfling, jennifer poole

        then dragged to the 'upload' button in the 'my images' portion that shows up after I open the 'image library' seen from my 'comments' page, among other places.

        Before opening it in this comment, let me say that it says it's 960 x 265, but only 51kb, so I think I have a thumbnail, the 960 is pretty wide, we will see:

        1.Now I open it by clicking it in the library

        2. right click, 'copy image location'

        3. below in this comment box, click 'link'

        4. paste the copied 'copy image location' into the URL box right af6ter the http:// thing

        5. click the 'image' box

        6. click the Add button

        7. boom, the giant address appears where your cursor is in the comment, shove it around to suit...two lines empty above and below works well....

        8. click 'preview'

        Let's see:

        BOOM!, there it is.

        dkos cuts things off on the right side, it has hacked off the last several trees at the right, irony never sleeps does it?
          Other than that, you could mess with it, but it's probably good enough for this diary here today...more work to shrink it and have the detail..another bunch of work..

        Ok, NOW...I am going to leave it there with no attribution and all else cause I am tired, and it is your picture to manage and be sued or not, not me, haha but it looks pretty good. This way you don't have to chase me around if you and the photographer want it deleted later..ok?

        If you want me to coach you to do this, I will of course help, but try it first, and PM me if you like, or respond here...but I will delete this photo tomorrow night, and thanks for working on this issue.
              CalTrans and the CHP are not very nice, they have a Plan for Arcata-Eureka 101 and they are holding the meeting about it in Sonoma (tricky huh: 'well it could have been San Diego like the other time, we're working with ya here dumb hippies') I think later in April or May, I will research it for links for you if you like....when I come thru Willets one of us will buy the other coffee...mmmm.

        My previous comment, one of two on the tree sitter issue: with mispellingz here.

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 09:43:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  oh thank you Ken! I will practice a bit (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          later, following your directions, thank you thank you for taking the time to show me how.

          again, for the record, that beautiful photo of the Willits wetlands is by Steve Eberhard,

          yes, meeting in Sonoma for an Arcata/Eureka plan, wonder why'd they want to do that? huh?

          yes, please, get in touch if you're coming through Willits, a message through is more likely to reach me faster than a message through Daily Kos these days.  

      •  Fuck the police and the police state. n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  okok I did the three and attributed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    so here is The Donut:


    here's the Ancient Oak, RIP:

    Again, dkos cuts off the right....

       Looking at the Willits paper on facebook, you look like you are very busy, looks like a good paper with a good attitude and good coverage besides the ugly stories...A good balance is hard!.

    I'll leave the pictures in the dkos library, just PM me if I have the attributions wrong or anything.

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:24:20 PM PDT

    •  It's a beautiful tree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Time Waits for no Woman

      and any time an oak like that comes down, it is sad. But I think to call it 'ancient' overstates the case a bit, and it's not unique. You can hardly build any road in this county without cutting an oak like that. They dot the landscape everywhere.

      I had a glorious big oak on my property that blew down in a storm two years ago. It was sad to lose it, a couple hundred years of steady growth, but its siblings and children will carry on.

      The bypass project has been a shadow over that land and other possible routes for decades, preventing people from knowing the best use of their property. It is good to have the uncertainty gone.

      If there was something unique about this particular tree that I missed, it's a shame she didn't do her tree sitting vigil 5 or 10 years ago.

      I won't miss this tree as much as I'll miss some of the redwoods that were recently cut along 101 in the Santa Rosa area. Those trees really make the drive special.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 08:48:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I know this area very well: some project is needed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Time Waits for no Woman

    Currently there is no way to get from south to north in Willits without using 101 for part of it. The situation is, IMHO, dangerous at times, with the traffic backup occasionally lasting 45 minutes to travel the 5 miles or so from south to north. The hospital is in the middle of town and is dependent on access via 101. When the traffic is heavy, there is no passage for anyone, not even emergency vehicles.

    Idling diesel trucks make it unpleasant to walk in Willits when the traffic is stuck; when it is not, quick moving and relentless traffic make it impossible to cross the street. During my last visit, I thought to walk across the street and check out one of the new shops. I waited patiently for over 5 minutes (I wasn't near any lights) before realizing that even though it was just across the street, it was a longer hike than I had time for that day.

    I am missing the logic of a lack of interchange at 20; that's obviously a key point. There also needs to be easy access to Sherwood Road on the north end of town, which is the northernmost stoplight. But I think what is really happening here is that they are doing the project in stages, starting with the thru traffic bypass and adding the 20 interchange (which goes to the coast at Fort Bragg) in the next stage. 2030 sounds like a long time to wait, but this project has been in process since 1960.

    I liked the western option through the hills a bit better; I think the valley route was chosen for cost reasons. It's true that the way the mountains are around here, made of chocolate pudding, that any hill route is probably doomed to infinite ongoing maintenance.

    The diary makes it sound like this project is being imposed on Willits by some pointyhead bureaucrat in Sacramento (or maybe Eureka) and like it's a surprise to the town and being imposed upon it. This is not the case at all. There is substantial support in Willits for a bypass project and the town has been very involved in public meetings for literally decades in the quest to choose a route and fund it.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 08:41:54 AM PDT

    •  a lot wrong in what you write elfling (0+ / 0-)

      but one of the main faults of your analysis is this: most of the traffic pouring into Willits from the south -- including at least 2/3 of the diesel trucks -- is local traffic and Mendocino Coast-bound traffic that won't use the bypass. that cant use the bypass because there are no exits in town.

      Caltrans outdated and optimistic traffic study shows that 70 to 80 percent of traffic will remain on the old Highway 101 after the bypass is built, and these numbers were confirmed to me many years ago by Phil Dow of the Mendocino Council of Governments, a big bypass booster. They're not disputed by anyone who knows. A third of the truck traffic is from locally owned trucking companies, the traffic study found, and that doesn't begin to count the huge volume of non-locally owned truck traffic with business in Willits, trucks dropping off and picking up from Safeway, Sparetime Supply, all the gas stations, etc. etc., etc.  that will still be using the old Highway 101

      The problems you describe won't be fixed by the bypass. if you doubt most traffic is local, check the webcam 1 mile north of willits that shows an empty or almost empty highway almost all of the time (I say "almost" just to be safe. I've been watching that traffic cam since 2010, and I've never seen any traffic to speak of, although I have not looked at it on 4th of July when Willits closes the highway for the 4th of July parade)  click each of those four images to see photos from the past 8 hours. empty highways.

      The common sense 2-lane, 35 mph truck route that locals have pushed for years, and that is still the No. 1 unanimous priority project for Willits City Council, just reaffirmed again last week, that would take local traffic and trucks as well as through traffic and trucks, off Main Street was never studied by Caltrans, because all they ever studied were 4 lane bypasses, because they said a 2 lane bypass was too dangerous, slow, and would be "obsolete" before construction was finished. And now, that's what we're getting. Yes, Caltrans says they're coming back at some unspecified and unfunded time in the future to build out another 2 lanes. The Highway 20 interchange? No way, Caltrans has said it is too expensive now and "in the forseeable future" due to permit requirement issues. This bypass is already 4 times as expensive as 6 miles of highway normally costs in CA.

      The only time "the public" was allowed to comment on this current bypass project was when the draft EIR came out in 2002, with only four 4-lane bypasses as options.  And then in 2007, after Schwarzenegger and other officials rebelled against spending an insanely expensive $357 million for a 4-lane bypass, did Caltrans scramble to come up with the "half a bypass" idea we're inflicted with now. the worst of both worlds.

      I've lived here since 2002 and there's never been an issue with somebody not being able to get to the hospital. But what will be dangerous is the 6 miles of 2-lane elevated highway at freeway speeds with no exits, no emergency access/egress. Especially problematic for emergencies: the 1 mile viaduct: the local Fire Dept is planning to use a ladder truck for emergency access for that.

      Support for the bypass? Sure. although many locals think it's a terrible idea, even if they're not out sitting in trees over it. Hard to say which attitude is the majority. The last supervisorial election, if 146 voters for the winning pro-bypass candidate had voted for the anti-bypass candidate she would've won. If the vote was only in the greater Willits area? I wouldn't bet support for this bypass as designed would be a majority. People have been fighting Caltrans over this boondoogle for 25 years, there's a lawsuit (environmental groups joined by the CA Farm Bureau, concerned about precedent set with inadequate review of environmental and economic impact of loss of farmland). No it wasn't a surprise. Although in 2010, when the Army Corps refused to grant a permit due to the insane level of wetlands take and other environmental costs, such beforementioned Phil Dow said "the bypass is dead."

      I could write six times as much as I unfortunately have just written to somebody I don't even know will read this. Hopefully you will read and consider.

      •  I live in the area (0+ / 0-)

        and have had family living there since the '90s, so I too am a local stakeholder. I don't find the status quo acceptable, not for the health of the town, and not for the health of the environment.

        Yes, after you're north of Sherwood Road, there is much less traffic. That's because there are no further obstacles: no signals, no merging, no one trying to turn. You go from congestion to 55 mph. (The two lane sections between Hopland and Cloverdale and Hopland and Ukiah aren't congested either, even though those sections handle more traffic than Willits.)

        All the official Caltrans documents are here:
        Of course many of the entries have the sheen of the PR knife. But, anyone interested can find maps of the alternatives, etc. and see what else was discussed.

        It is my understanding that an interchange to Hwy 20 (the route to Fort Bragg and the Mendocino Coast) is phase 2. It's not precluded. The plan also will allow for the concurrent development of a second access road into Brooktrails, which is needed for fire safety and may also relieve some congestion.

        I've sat many a day and seen quite a lot of trucks go by, trucks that have already gone past Safeway and Sparetime and JD Redhouse without stopping. 101 is the main route for goods into Eureka/Arcata from the rest of the world. Naturally, they need a lot more truck deliveries than Willits does.

        Here is what I don't hear from you: a viable, realistic alternative. What I hear is that it's too expensive and also that it's not expensive enough. What I hear from bypass opponents is that the status quo is just fine. I can't agree.

        A project needs doing. Tell me the project that should be approved and done instead.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 11:51:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No bypass opponents say the status quo is just (0+ / 0-)

          fine - at least none that I've ever heard. Bypass opponents are in favor of traffic relief in Willits, and one of the reasons to oppose the Caltrans bypass is that it wont' provide much traffic relief in Willits. despite Willits spending some $36 million in its share of road monies from the state, distributed through MCOG, that have been squirrelled away for a "local match" for a Willits bypass for years. In 2010, after Phil Dow declared "the bypass is dead," city councilmember Holly Madrigal asked the City Council to release those monies to spend on a Railroad Avenue/ Baechel Road corridor (the common-sense alternative I mentioned above) and other local projects, but the council, by 3-2 vote, decided to stick with Caltrans.

          As far what should be done, I've already mentioned the one with the most support, the Railroad Avenue/Baechel Road corridor is (to repeat what I wrote before) "the common sense 2-lane, 35 mph truck route that locals have pushed for years, and that is still the No. 1 unanimous priority project for Willits City Council, just reaffirmed again last week, that would take local traffic and trucks as well as through traffic and trucks, off Main Street was never studied by Caltrans, because all they ever studied were 4 lane bypasses, because they said a 2 lane bypass was too dangerous, slow, and would be "obsolete" before construction was finished."

          Is that alternative engineered? No, it takes money and Caltrans refused the most recent planning grant the city applied for. Again, Caltrans has always refused to study any alternative other than a huge 4-lane Taj Majal of a bypass that is way overbuilt for the level of traffic and creates massive environmental impacts that require hugely expensive mitigation due to wetlands impacts: this project cost is 4 times the average equivalently sized highway project costs in CA).

          But one easy fix to change the "status quo" would be a project Caltrans has finally (recently) promised to do "next year": restripe the bottleneck south of the Highway 101/Highway 20 intersection to eliminate the unnecessary merge of Westside Willits-bound and north-bound traffic into one lane that Caltrans created some 20+ years ago. Coast-bound and Westside-bound traffic will get a lane of their own all the way to the light, where they can turn left. Estimated cost: $100,000. Should've been done years ago, and why wasn't it done? Think about that. That simple easy step will free up traffic a lot -- well, except, the reason (probably) Caltrans has agreed to do it "next year" is that given the truly extraordinary number of cement trucks, etc. that the construction will require, if they didn't restripe, Willits would be in gridlock.

          Once you're north of Sherwood Road there's much less traffic BECAUSE THERE"S MUCH LESS TRAFFIC, as the web cam - as well as Caltrans' own traffic/destination study  - clearly shows. I've been looking at that web cam since City Councilwoman Holly Madrigal's campaign for supervisor in 2010, I was her campaign manager,  and I think I can literally say I've "never" seen any amount of traffic to speak of.

          Look at the web cam: unless you believe the traffic always sneaks through when the web cam isn't snapping a photo, you've got to accept the reality of the empty highways north of town.  

      •  What is your cite for this? (0+ / 0-)
        most of the traffic pouring into Willits from the south -- including at least 2/3 of the diesel trucks -- is local traffic and Mendocino Coast-bound traffic that won't use the bypass.
        As I mentioned, it's my understanding that the Hwy 20 interchange is a phase 2 project - delayed but not forgotten. But reading this claim... I am skeptical. There are 100,000+ people in Humboldt County that are served by through traffic bringing goods to them, mostly via 101 and Willits. Yes, tourists go to the coast, and some trucks, but I'm skeptical that it's the majority of the traffic. And if it were so, once you were past Safeway you'd be home free... which is not, in fact, my experience.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 12:07:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  the cite, as I wrote above, is the 2000 (0+ / 0-)

          Caltrans traffic study, which was done for the EIR. I have a paper copy of it. (p.s. I forgot to mention in above post, that word press site you link does NOT have official documents, it's just PR done by the local PR dude. The official documents are here:  mostly in the Reports and Presentations section, I 've been reading these documents for many years.)

          And speaking of the PR site, boy did PR guy get into trouble today from Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Hamburg for posting a letter Hamburg signed (as chair, he signs all the letters from the board of supervisors) after a 3-2 vote of the board of supervisors reaffirming support for the bypass -- headlining and describing it as if it was Hamburg's own personal support of the bypass. "Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Hamburg says ‘move forward’ on Willits Bypass." etc. etc. Hamburg, a member of the Green Party, was to no one's surprise one of the no votes. Hamburg's email today said he was outraged by the PR Dude's "distortion" of his position, which Hamburg suggested was deliberate. PR Dude's excuse? "It is my error; I did not note that the signature block used meant the letter was not from you personally, and that you were representing the board as a whole." This after big media coverage of the whole thing, because Willits turned out in great numbers to speak against the current design of the willits bypass for hours and hours, and there was some hope the vote could've been the other way around, one supe is now regretting his yes vote, and another made it very clear it was a difficult vote for her, due to her lengthy association with the CA Farm Bureau, which has joined the lawsuit against this bypass due to precedent it sets for inadequate review of environmental and economic impact of loss of farmland. Anyway, point being: if PR dude isn't trying to deliberately misinform, he sure as heck is not very well informed, which is no surprise to any reporter on the North Coast, PR dude returns calls and is a helpful guy but he is not the most reliable source when it comes to things like facts.

          Those 70 to 80 percent of the traffic will remain on the old Highway 101 numbers were confirmed to me, also, as I said, by Phil Dow of MCOG, one of the biggest bypass boosters in the county. Even our county supervisor John Pinches, who practices exaggeration as part of his folksy manner, only says 40 percent of the traffic will be diverted. He's wrong to think it will be that much, but even if he was right, that would still mean the majority of the traffic will remain on the old Highway 101 after the bypass is built.

          No, it's not that the majority of the traffic goes to the coast, you've misunderstood, that's just a chunk. There's big local traffic all the way to the Sherwood Road light (and beyond due to high school and further residences too), but there are  many many residences in Brooktrails and higher up in the western hills accessed by the Sherwood Road light, and a large chunk of traffic turning east out to the valley and eastern hills -- all further north than Safeway.  Plenty of Laytonville and Covelo traffic, too, driving down to Willits to shop or for appts. that doesn't proceed to Ukiah.

          Cite for truck traffic is also Caltrans' own traffic study: that shows 10 percent of all ADT (average daily traffic) volume is trucks. And that 3 percent of all ADT (not just 3 percent of the truck traffic) is trucks from locally owned trucking companies, with trucks coming in and out of Willits. So that's nearly a third of all truck traffic right there. And that doesn't count the rather large number of trucks in recent years owned by Sparetime Supply (not a "local trucking company") that drive out of Willits to deliver fertilizer further north. So that's an easy more than third, no doubt.

          More than another third is trucks NOT owned by local trucking companies that stop in Willits. Much more visible than the local trucks, tons of 'em. Sure, a lot of those trucks continue up to Humboldt -- the Safeway trucks and the gasoline trucks, etc., etc.  don't dump their load in Willits and turn around south again -- but they are "local traffic" in the sense that they will still have to use the old Highway 101 to do their business in Willits because the Caltrans bypass of Willits offers no other option.

          Highway 20 interchange? Didn't I quote the Caltrans guy on "not in the forseeable future"? IF -- and I think that's a big IF - Willits gets another big pot of highway money in my lifetime, it will go to building out the 2-lane bypass into a 4 lane bypass, as promised by Caltrans to "meet safety conditions." (2 lane elevated on berms highway at freeway speeds, no median barrier, and tule fog? 6 miles with no exits? ladder from a fire truck the only emergency access on the mile of viaduct?). I don't know where you got your understanding about Highway 20 interchange, but it's not the understanding of the local City Council - or anyone I talk to locally - that a Highway 20 interchange will ever be built in our lifetimes.

          enough - look at that web cam  and keep on looking, and you will see the reality: empty and almost empty highways almost all of the time. the caltrans traffic study projected traffic increases every year; in fact, as the traffic study for the Harris Quarry project showed, traffic has actually gone down 20 percent. Bypass is a way too expensive - in $ and in environmental costs - solution to a minor traffic problem, with much more effective, efficient and "green" solutions.

  •  By the way, I highly recommend y'all visit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Time Waits for no Woman

    Willits. It is a lovely town with some unique attractions and beautiful scenery. I especially enjoy Roots of Motive Power on the days when they steam up all their old engines.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 08:49:54 AM PDT

  •  Public comments from 2002 (0+ / 0-)

    Your government at work. Scanned letters from the public paired with direct response to the comments written by wonks, for wonks.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 12:00:06 AM PDT

  •  Has the Sherwood Valley Rancheria (0+ / 0-)

    or any other tribes taken a position on this issue?

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