Caltrans wants to make Highway 197/199 even more dangerous

Smith Photo by Amber

Smith River canyon photo by Amber Shelton

DON’T Let Long Big Rig Trucks onto the Scenic California Redwood Highway

a guest post from Wendy S Bertrand

A petition from wild Smith River canyon resident Wendy Bertrand is circulating among international tourists and regional visitors who come every year to enjoy the pristine Smith River and redwood forests of Del Norte County, where the Smith River flows from Oregon down into California’s rugged lush landscape.Bertrand’ petition urges Caltrans to Keep Super Trucks away from The Smith River, and maintain existing size restrictions prohibiting the long industrial big rig (STAA) trucks from traveling on the scenic two-lane California Redwood Highway 197/199.

Without any economic, social or environmental benefits, Caltrans has developed this project to remove size restrictions, allowing trucks averaging 78 feet in length and up to 80,000 lbs. to routinely travel the steep and winding shoulderless road; dangerous because of the many blind corners around which a deer, tourist, oncoming motorist or RV might appear. The size and weight of the trucks make it difficult to stop suddenly or to safely negotiate double and triple hairpin turns. Just last year, a park visitor looking at the redwoods was killed by a tractor trailer truck that couldn’t stop in time.

Bertrand, an architect, is passionate about taking care of place and hopes that having the support of outdoor enthusiasts, whether on the trail, on a bicycle, holding a fishing rod, at a picnic table or in an RV, will increase the stakeholders’ voice to be loud enough to focus Caltrans’ attention on the fact that people and nature are equally important parts of the context of transportation planning and this project only harms the character and livability of a treasured part of California’s forested northwest.

For years, Bertrand, along with others in the community, has been writing letters, attending meetings, and collecting over 600 local signatures against the STAA trucks on this corridor, and yet the project keeps rolling along, without any fiscal benefits to County residents or visitors, and with no concern for the negative impact to the human environment. In her research, Bertrand also found that internal Caltrans policies and design standards have not been followed.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors from near and far around the world travel Highway 197/199 on their way to Jedediah Smith State Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its massive old-growth redwood trees, family camping and picnicking sites, kayaking, hiking trails, fishing, and swimming. The highway also borders the unspoiled Smith River, Del Norte’s water supply and one of California’s most treasured wild and scenic rivers, home to chinook and coho salmon, steelhead and sea run cutthroat trout.

Bertrand, who has lived in Del Norte for 25 summers, decided to appeal to everyone who enjoys the serenity and natural beauty of the area, reasoning that they had a vested interest in the cultural, economic, and safety concerns of the current project, currently delayed by the court for ecological impact issues. She is concerned about the toll on the human environment of those who visit and those who live in Gasquet, Hiouchi, or nearby Crescent City. “Why would Caltrans want to run us down?” She wonders!

Highway 197/199 is the only road available to local residents conducting their daily business. Bertrand maintains that allowing the long industrial trucks (STAA Trucks) on the canyon’s only road is inappropriate, negatively impacting the recreational values and rural livability. A more direct road for big rigs on their way to Eureka will soon be available on Highway 299 via I-5. These trucks already serve Del Norte, a county of 25,000 people, on Highway 101. Rather than cutting into rock cliffs and cutting down trees, as the current project calls for, Bertrand is calling on local residents, regional and worldwide tourists, and native peoples to sign the petition urging Caltrans to use the budgeted $61 million California taxpayers’ dollars to enhance the planet’s sustainability, the recreation and ecotourism economy, along with citizens’ livability per the stated Caltrans mission, while not allowing access to the long heavy dangerous STAA trucks.

Says Bertrand, “This will be my first petition, but I feel strongly that Caltrans taxpayers dollars should benefit the population and the place, rather than distressing, depreciating, and threatening tribes, all the visitors and residents, as well as the physical natural setting we depend on and love.”

Concerned parties can sign the petition here: DON’T Let Long Big Rig Trucks onto the Scenic California Redwood Highway


4 thoughts on “Caltrans wants to make Highway 197/199 even more dangerous

  1. I guess it is the only way to make that Nickel that is going to be stripped mined out of the North Fork Smith profitable. I think it is great a CA public entity is helping out a private British Corporation and defer the repairs and liability to the taxpayers. They already widened state route 308 and 305. I wonder how much grease money this all cost. There will be regrets with this one for those at Cal-trans trying to climb the public ladder..

    Liked by 1 person

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