Caltrans proposes spending more than 50 million so you can drive fast between Eureka and Arcata

Here’s a view of heavy summer traffic and the eucalyptus trees before the were pruned to near death


On May 23, 2019, CalTrans hosted a public information meeting at the Wharfinger Building about the Highway 101 Safety Corridor Project between Eureka and Arcata.

Here a list of some of the many objections and concerns expressed:

  1. Opposition to CalTrans reducing local, public participation by bringing the Humboldt project to be decided at the San Diego meeting, in June, of California Coastal Commission (CCC). Two months later, the CCC will meet in Humboldt.


  1. Concern the mitigation portion of the project has no costs associated with it so the public cannot comment fully.


  1. Concern the proposed interchange will lead to an increased speed limit on the corridor.


  1. Concern the adverse impacts of both during the construction and after the closure of median crossings at the Bayside, Mid-City, California Redwood Company, and Bracut areas will increase traffic on and negatively impact residents adjacent to the Old Arcata Road/Myrtle Avenue and Samoa Boulevard/Highway 255 corridors. Not to mention the businesses located on the corridor.


  1. Concern the “improvements” will not adequately address the safety needs of non-motorized transit (bicyclists, pedestrians, and users of wheelchairs).


  1. Concern: The Indianola interchange/airport road half-signal cost has escalated to 34 million dollars. Think of all the county road improvements that won’t happen because of this boondoggle.


  1. Concern: The Indianola overpass will induce and facilitate growth all the way to Kneeland via Freshwater and Greenwood Heights.


  1. Concern: No serious consideration on traffic signals on the 101 corridor were ever seriously studied just rejected out of hand because there might be a rear end collision.


  1. Concern: Caltrans is using this project as an excuse to achieve their long-desired goal of clear-cutting the remaining eucalyptus trees along 101.


Also, no serious plan for climate change/sea level rise was revealed!


Note: Public input received before 5/31/19 will be included in the packet submitted to the California Coastal Commission. Public input received before 06/07/19 will be included in the addendum to the packet.


Partly taken from a Facebook post by Ali O. Lee, Bayside

Bad actor Caltrans is up to no good……again

Caltrans is using a disordered process:  In previous lawsuits filed by defenders of the redwoods and public land, the court found Caltrans was not in sync with existing law in reviewing impacts. This time around, Caltrans gathered together documents, new and old, (old documents from the previous shot-down proposal), attempting to either sneak through or ram through woefully inadequate documents in what the plaintiffs called a “disordered and informal process” that is not in keeping with the law. They gave this process their own stamp of approval on May 22, 2017. 

Caltrans is exhibiting an obsession with this project. Conceived in 1994 and first proposed in 2007, with an EIR* released in 2008 that received a large volume of comments, overwhelmingly opposing the highway expansion. After the final EIR came out in 2010, environmentalists filed a state lawsuit based on CEQA*, and then a federal lawsuit based on NEPA* 
The current lawsuit just filed in State Court by EPIC*, the Center for Biological Diversity, CATS, et al, cites specific violations of CEQA, which governs development that could affect the environment, at the state level), including: 
  • Failure to prepare and adopt an adequate EIR
  • Invalid use of an addendum  
  • Failure to provide the public its right of review 
  • Failure to evaluate significant environmental impacts 
  • Failure to evaluate and adopt feasible alternatives 
  • Failure to adequately disclose and evaluate cumulative impacts 
  • Failure to adopt mitigation measures or a mitigation monitoring plan  
  • Failure to adopt findings of the court
The lawsuit states:
“Caltrans proposes to engage in a multimillion dollar project and to endanger the survival of giant old-growth redwoods that have towered over the area for millennia, not to solve any safety issues, but rather to let an unknown number of bigger commercial trucks pass through a one mile stretch of road without the hassle of seeking an exemption. The short-sightedness of this Proposed Project is dumbfounding, and Caltrans review of it is contrary to state law.”  
The ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove, and indeed, the associated other plant and animal species that share the forest are a precious, irreplaceable and valuable beyond words part of the natural environment, and have a right to exist for their own sake as well as for future generations to experience.  
The Proposed Project contradicts Caltrans’ own acknowledgment of “the importance of redwoods.” The ancient redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park are protected trees, within which State Parks declares “it is impossible to install a new facility without causing damage.” Accordingly, State Parks further advises that:  
“There should be no construction activities in the Structural Root Zone of a protected tree … Any Intrusion into this zone is usually accompanied by significant injury to roots further from the trunk; this will shorten the useful life of the tree in the developed area by reducing vigor and introducing root disease. Furthermore, damage to any structural roots may cause an already structurally compromised tree to become hazardous.”  
Below are talking points you can use to communicate your opinions to Caltrans, to your elected representatives, and to spread the word about the need to stop this project. We need to put the brakes on Caltrans!
Flawed justification:  When Caltrans first proposed the Richardson Grove Highway Expansion Project, they argued it was needed on safety grounds. After that was shown to be baseless, they dropped that premise. Caltrans’ only justification this time around for this project, which clearly carries grave threats to the State Park, the forest and the ancient redwood trees themselves is to allow over-sized big rig trucks known as “STAA* trucks”. But this justification is flawed because these larger trucks already travel through this stretch of highway 101 through exemptions given by the state. Granting additional exemptions is not analyzed as an alternative, as required in the project proposal process.
Failure to pursue less impactful alternatives:  Lowering the speed limit through the Grove, a sound idea obvious to anyone who has traveled through Richardson Grove, on the grounds of safety as well as in recognition of the proximity of the paved road to the massive trunks of these ancient trees is also not analyzed as an alternative.
Failure to honestly and scientifically analyze impacts to ancient redwoods:  It is not unreasonable to presume that the huge, old trees towering over this stretch of highway 101 are already heavily impacted by the pavement of the road coming right up to their massive trunks, covering a good portion of their root system, so any further impact would have even more serious repercussions. Impact from pavement, compaction and digging around the roots of redwoods is made especially severe because redwoods, unlike other large trees, do not have tap roots to stabilize them, but rather have a lateral, spreading root system close to the surface to take advantage of moisture that the tall branches capture and drip down to the root zone. 
Failure to adequately consider impacts to Coho Salmon:  The watershed of the South Fork of the Eel River, including its tributaries, is designated critical habitat under the ESA for the SONCC Coho. All of the work Caltrans is proposing to do is upslope for the South Fork of the Eel River. 
No meaningful assessment of the cumulative effects of increased truck traffic and resulting development and increased sprawl. In addition, there is less need for this project now that upgrades have been made to highway 299, connecting 101 and I-5.  
There are many other repair and mitigation projects that should have higher priority, that the public supports and wants its tax monies directed toward. (For example, massive slides in Big Sur, Last Chance Grade in Humboldt County, and perpetual slides on northern highway 101, plus many others, particularly after this past winter.) 
The proposed project absolutely does not have our stamp of approval, and there is no amount of mitigation or legal concessions that could make it right. Please let Caltrans and your elected representatives know how you feel about this project.
Write to:
Malcolm Dougherty, Caltrans Director
or – 1120 N St., MS49
Sacramento, CA  95814 
Brian Kelley
Secretary of Calif. State Transportation Agency
or — 915 Capital Mall, Ste. 350B
Sacramento, CA 95814 
YOUR representatives. 
Taken from an Email blast forwarded to us by regular reader re:pete  
Originally from SoHum activist Barbra Kennedy!
Much gratitude to Karen Pickett for authoring this email alert …as you may be aware, Caltrans is once again renewing its assault on the ancient redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park.  With their current conclusion of “findings of no significant impact” they are attempting to modify their original Environmental Impact Report without allowing for the re-opening of public commentWe cannot let them get away with it!

Caltrans is reviving its awful, unnecessary and unwanted Richardson Grove project, again

leave it be

It was bound to happen so it is no surprise that once again Caltrans has unleashed its mighty bureaucracy on Richardson Grove State Park with its insistence that Highway 101 be “realigned” to allow Interstate trucks to legally navigate this scenic stretch of the road.  You may have seen the announcement in area newspapers on May 22.  You can find the documents at:

Since 2007 concerned citizens have battled Caltrans in Court to address deficiencies in the plan and most importantly determine why Caltrans is so insistent on forging ahead with this costly project (projected now to cost as much as $8.5 million.)  Supposedly the rationale is to “improve goods movement” into and out of the County but the documents do not provide any example of how the public would actually benefit from this expenditure of tax dollars at a time when our existing roads need REPAIRS rather than new projects.

How can this expenditure be justified in light of the fact that the State Legislature has voted to INCREASE OUR STATE GAS-TAX BY 12 CENTS PER GALLON because of the need for road repair and maintenance? With the potential failure of Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade estimated as costing as much as $1 billion dollars where is the economic justification for the Richardson Grove project?  You won’t find such an analysis in the newly released documents.  Perhaps our Caltrans bureaucrats need to take a course in cost-benefit analysis. We tax-payers deserve some answers on Caltrans spending.

The new documents are entitled an “Addendum to the Final Environmental Impact Report.”  This means that Caltrans gets away with not having to issue a new EIR/EIS and therefore there is no public comment period.  However, this does not prevent citizens from voicing their discontent via letters to the editor and via social media.

More substantive comments as soon as the documents are analyze, so stay tuned!

(thanks to  Barbara Kennedy)

The County and Caltrans get called out on their BS

Humboldt County’s Economic Development department and Caltrans have been misleading the public about potential impacts of projects to open Highways 101 and 199 and State Route 299 and to the largest trucks allowed on the National Highway Network. The latest example of this occurred in Caltrans’ response to a new safety study reported on in “Transportation group looks at fatalities” (Times-Standard, Nov. 12, 2015, Page A1). The Caltrans spokesman said, “The projects at Richardson Grove and on Routes 197 and 199 are not safety projects in-and-of-themselves. Those projects propose to realign the roadway to accommodate industry- standard commercial vehicles … .”

While the county and Caltrans have labeled oversize Surface Transportation Assistance Act trucks as “industry-standard” for years, no other county or agency has used such a nonsensical and misleading term.

For example, a 2011 CHP Highway 101 Richardson Grove safety report title appropriately includes the phrase “over-length vehicle study.” The report concluded, “Although statistical data alone does not establish a threat to public safety, the CHP cannot ignore the fact Caltrans’ studies have shown that portions of U.S. 101 are not sufficiently designed to handle the longer vehicle combination lengths … and could result in increased damage to rural highways and increased safety hazards due to longer truck tractor and semitrailer combinations having to cross into oncoming lanes while negotiating curves on narrow highways.”

The Director of South Sacramento’s Public Works reported to their City Council in July 2008, “The business owners, the public and the Police Department reported issues with STAA trucks traveling along streets that could not accommodate their size, resulting in damage to public facilities such as sidewalks, medians, signing, traffic signals and other street furniture.”

Alameda County’s ordinance on Highway Traffic Regulations includes chapter 10.16 Oversize Trucks that includes the following definitions: “Interstate truck” means a tractor-semitrailer or a tractor-semitrailertrailer which meets the requirements for operation on an interstate highway. “Oversize truck” means an interstate truck which exceeds California’s overall combination length limitations as set forth in California Vehicle Code Section 35000.

The Humboldt County Economic Development department and the Humboldt State University School of Business released their joint Humboldt Business Confidence Report in September. The report stated that the second most commonly identified barrier to growth was “costly limitations on transportation of goods … namely the limitations to smaller than standard trucks on highways … .”

I may have been born, but I wasn’t born yesterday! So I contacted the authors of the report to request the related survey and data that supported that conclusion. After studying the files with other members of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, meeting with the authors, and stating our observations, a revised Humboldt Business Confidence Report was released in December.

The revised report includes the note: “Due to the small sample size of survey data and focus group sessions, results should be interpreted with caution. This version was updated in December 2015 based on feedback from community members. The intent is to provide periodic reports/ updates to promote discussions for effective decision making and development strategies.”

The section of the report using the misleading phrase “limitations to smaller than standard trucks” has been replaced by the more accurate: “In the survey data their second barrier was costly limitations on transportation of goods and people in and out of Humboldt County due to remote location. Several focus group participants also indicated that widening road access to the region could reduce costs. The initial version of the report should have clarified that issues related to ‘remoteness of location’ were raised by the survey respondents and issues related both to remoteness and road access were brought up by several focus group participants. We recognize this is a controversial issue; we are merely providing feedback from different sources.”

There have been no comprehensive studies of the cost/benefit or cumulative impacts to safety, traffic, and development from adding the Highway 199/ State Route 197 and Highway 101 corridors through Humboldt and Del Norte, plus SR 299, to the National Highway Network. Those interested in tourism, recreation, economic development and quality of life issues need to demand honest answers or live with the consequences of the deceptive strategy used to sway the public and some elected officials.

Dave Spreen

HELP! Politicians Aren’t Taking Care of Northern California

Guest Post by Wendy Bertrand:


Smith River North Fork: photo by author

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:


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. Caltrans 2001 policy (DP-22), to use a context-sensitive approach to all phases of all projects, has been ignored. How come?


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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, and defend the places we love.

Wendy Bertrand, Gasquet California

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