Guest Post by Wendy Bertrand:
Politicians seem to have been lured by Caltrans source funding into unnecessary and dangerous project development, to add longer trucks to the rural roads of the North Coast. But I and others don’t want to tangle with long heavy trucks on our residential two-lane scenic byway bordering the wild Smith River.
Caltrans can do better, and we deserve better from our politicians. As a past federal architect myself, I know that government employees can provide great service and be excellent stewards of the public trust.
Horrified by Caltrans actions to expose the public to known safety hazards using millions of taxpayers dollars to support the truck industry, rather than to enhance the health and unique context of Redwood Country, I decided to look into the background of District 1’s actions.
What I discovered is alarming:
- There are no internal goals, either by the Federal Highway Administration or by Caltrans, to add longer trucks to Hwy 197/199, a two-lane winding scenic road used daily by residents and by thousands of recreational visitors a year. So why are District 1’s projects STAA truck-centered?
- Caltrans transportation design engineers actually did not meet their own design standards (Design Manual Chapter 80) for the safety of big rigs passing on our Redwood Highway, making the road much less safe for every user. That is deadly, why would they allow that?
- Caltrans directive (DD-64) requires every project to accommodate non-motorized travelers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and persons with disabilities, encouraging healthily communities. But this project cuts down trees and cuts into the side of cliffs without concern for these users. How come?
- Caltrans 2001 policy (DP-22), to use a context-sensitive approach to all phases of all projects, has been ignored. How come?
- On the first page of the Environmental Analysis 2013 for this project District 1 Director wrote there was “no human environmental impact.” What happened to Public Participation with years of stakeholder comments telling him that we can see the negative impact. Why can’t he?
- The Court has found Caltrans District 1 out of order for not conducting the environmental reviews necessary to respect the ecology, and has sent the project back to the drawing board. What about respecting and protecting us humans too?
- The Federal Highway Association says it has no authority over how Caltrans spends their money. Why not any oversight of District Directors? What would accountability look like?
- Big rigs already make STAA truck deliveries to Del Norte via Interstate 101. There is no need for another industry standard trucking route in rural Del Norte. So why proceed with this unsafe, inappropriate project in our precious Smith River Watershed?
- According to Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety: increases in truck size and weight over more than 35 years have never resulted in fewer trucks on roads; the bigger/heavier the truck is, the more accidents occur; injuries and deadly truck accidents are on the increase; poor truck brakes are a big problem; big trucks need bigger radiuses to turn and longer distances to stop, posing considerable safety hazards; big trucks cause major damage to road infrastructure and use more fuel; 75% of Americans oppose big trucks and think it makes driving harder. Caltrans knows this, so what is driving this single minded expensive effort endangering daily rural life?
- District 1 has gone against Caltrans own mission statement for a “safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.” Why should this project and others like widening Highway 101 in Richardson Grove State Park and the oversized Willits Bypass project in wetlands, suffer from the consequences of bad planning, bad design, bad management and politician blindness?
Interstate-5 is for industry trucks, we are not a hub, cluster, or urban gateway, that means that freight mobility is not a priority here. The Caltrans Freight Mobility Plan even states “to avoid and reduce adverse environmental and community impacts of the freight transportation system.” Caltrans Chief of Design’s has made it clear that, “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ design philosophy is not Departmental policy”. The trucks-everywhere approach of District 1 is damaging, dangerous, and detrimental to all Californians.
Since politicians have not yet taken action to protect us and our special places, I am hoping the public will speak up, DON’T Let Long Big Rig Trucks onto the Scenic California Redwood Highway, sign my petition at change.org, and defend the places we love.
Wendy Bertrand, Gasquet California