New Study Finds Caltrans Projects Likely to Increase Truck Traffic

Caltrans projects on Highway 101 in Richardson Grove State Park and on Highways 199 and 197 in Del Norte County will likely increase truck traffic significantly on the North Coast, according to a new study released by the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP).  This conclusion is contrary to claims made by Caltrans about the projects. The group says Caltrans’ conclusions are flawed and based on inadequate information.

The study looked at truck traffic on state highways throughout California. It compared the number of trucks on the road, how much of overall traffic is made up of trucks, and how fast those numbers are growing across different types of highways. The results of the study show that highways which allow “STAA trucks,” which are the largest vehicles allowed on the road, generally had heavier truck traffic. Highways which connect to other STAA truck routes had even heavier truck traffic. Highways 101 and 199 will end up in this category if the Caltrans projects are built.

“This study is designed to show what actually happens on the kinds of highways Caltrans is trying to create on the North Coast,” said Colin Fiske, Campaign Coordinator for CRTP.  “This is a much more serious analysis than anything Caltrans has ever done.  What the study shows is that the Caltrans projects at Richardson Grove and in the Smith River Canyon in Del Norte County are very likely to result in heavier truck traffic.”

“More heavy truck traffic is an important impact by itself,” Fiske continued, “and one that Caltrans has never studied. But even more important is what it means for all the other impacts of these projects. It means more noise, more pollution, more serious accidents, and more damage to local roads. It also means more impacts to the old growth redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park and the salmon in the Smith River. Caltrans needs to take this very seriously.”

The study was based on Caltrans’ own traffic data from throughout the state over the last two decades. It dismisses Caltrans’ assertions that the projects would not significantly increase truck traffic as “qualitative” and “based almost entirely on speculative survey results.”

Read the full study here.

Eureka Replacing Parking with Parklets!

The City of Eureka is making its parklet program permanent, allowing businesses to turn traffic-inducing parking spaces into community-inducing mini-parks. From the Times-Standard:

“…Despite the positive feedback he has heard from the business owners and community members the pilot program was extended for six months in January to address concerns about parklets taking over too many parking spaces.

Over those six months volunteer interns would “spy” on the parklets for four-hour periods at different times throughout the day for those businesses’ operating hours. Every 15 minutes the volunteer would do a head count of people in the business and people using the parklet as well as the number of parking spots taken up and free on that block, Holmlund said.

“Even at lunch times in all those hundreds of hours of data collection there were only two instances, two 15 minute periods, that all parking spaces were taken,” he said….”

Read the full story here.

CRTP Statement on Recent Developments in the Richardson Grove Saga

The Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities was disappointed last month when Caltrans released revised environmental documents for the Richardson Grove oversized truck access project and indicated its intention to proceed with the project with no additional public input. CRTP remains opposed to the project for all of the reasons we have articulated over the last two years. Those reasons include the fact that it draws money and attention away from more urgent priorities, and that it would result in additional large truck traffic, with negative impacts on everything from local road maintenance to global climate change. None of this has changed with the latest Caltrans proposal.

Predictably, litigation has now been filed against the project once again by a collection of environmental groups and concerned citizens. CRTP is not a party to the litigation, but we support the efforts of our allies to challenge the project.

We think everyone should know that CRTP and EPIC – one of the plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit – have been attempting for several months to work in good faith with Caltrans and other project stakeholders to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to the issues with Highway 101 through Richardson Grove without the need for litigation. Unfortunately, Caltrans chose to move ahead with the project unilaterally without addressing many of the major concerns of opponents, leaving EPIC and others with little choice but to sue.

However, CRTP hopes to continue to work with all parties to reach a resolution which meets at least some of the goals of project proponents without causing all of the impacts. If and when such a resolution is reached, neither the project as currently proposed nor the litigation challenging it will be necessary. That’s the outcome we’re hoping for.

$5 Million for Last Chance Grade

Finally, a little bit of progress on this critical project. From the Times-Standard:

“The California Transportation Commission voted Wednesday to approve $5 million to fund environmental and geotechnical studies on a proposal to reroute the landslide-prone section of U.S. Highway 101 known as Last Chance Grade in Del Norte County, according to local government representatives…”

Read the full article here.

New Slide Closes 101

The reasons for spending our limited transportation budgets on basic maintenance and repairs instead of destructive, unnecessary highway expansions keep piling up this winter. From the Times-Standard:

“Caltrans said today the slide on U.S. Highway 101 north of Leggett is still active and it has not had the opportunity to clear debris from the site.

Although Caltrans reported Monday the area could open by Wednesday, that is no longer the case. At this time, there is no estimated opening of the route….”

Read the full article here.

State Transportation Funding Bill Proceeding Through Legislature

The dire state of our existing transportation infrastructure highlights the foolishness of expanding our highways and inviting more big, road- and bridge-damaging trucks into the North Coast. Even the major revenue-raising measure currently proposed would at best only allow us to maintain existing roads and bridges a little better.

From the Times-Standard:

“…’Our road systems are falling apart,’ [Humboldt County Public Works Director Thomas] Mattson said. ‘It’s got to be paid for one way or another.'”

Read the full article here.

STAA Trucks Not Just a North Coast Concern

From the Manteca Bulletin:

“…Lathrop Road, not having the STAA designation, was not engineered with the proper road base to support the weight of these long haul trucks traversing it daily.  This is evidenced by the mere fact that within a few short years after it was paved with new asphalt, it is deteriorating to the point that major work is going to be needed soon.…”

Read the full letter here.

Times-Standard: Sen. McGuire to Make Road Funding Top Priority

From the Times-Standard:

“Highways, freeways, bridges and streets across the state are past due for repairs and upgrades — and in need of billions to make it happen — which is why state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) placed obtaining transportation infrastructure funding for his North Coast constituents at the top of his to-do list this year….”

Read the full article here.