FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 5, 2015
NEW REPORT FINDS DANGEROUS SPOTS ON LOCAL HIGHWAYS
Group Challenges Caltrans to Tackle “Real Safety Projects”
Local Caltrans officials have failed to prioritize projects that would improve safety on local highways, according to a new report by the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP). Instead, the group says Caltrans has promoted highway expansion projects designed for other purposes and falsely claimed that they will increase safety.
To come to their conclusions, the group analyzed data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They looked at fatal accidents which occurred between 2010 and 2013 on state highways in Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity, Mendocino and Lake Counties—the area Caltrans calls District 1. They found that on average, every five-mile stretch of highway experienced one fatal accident over the four years. But 14 stretches of road saw 4 or more fatal accidents over the same time period. These were called out as the most hazardous spots in District 1’s network. Those spots were all on Routes 101, 20, and 29, with the exception of one on Route 199.
“The highest number of fatal accidents on any stretch of highway was on the 101 going through the town of Weott, where I happen to live,” said Barbara Kennedy, a CRTP spokesperson. “But there were also very high rates on 101 in Arcata and Fortuna, on Routes 20 and 29 in Lake County, and in a number of other places.”
“What’s really an outrage is that for years Caltrans has been pushing these oversized truck access projects in Richardson Grove and on Highways 197 and 199 and calling them safety projects,” Kennedy continued. “It turns out these projects are not actually targeting the dangerous parts of our highways. Anyway, Caltrans has given themselves exemptions from their own safety design standards to build these projects which will bring in more big, dangerous trucks. How can you call that safety? We challenge Caltrans to cancel Richardson Grove, cancel 199, and put the money toward real safety projects.”
The group did find that one of the spots targeted by the Highway 197/199 project fell in a dangerous stretch of road, but the actual boundaries for the construction did not include the locations of any of the fatal accidents. “Maybe the most striking thing we found is that there have been very few safety projects designed or constructed by Caltrans on the most hazardous road segments in District 1,” said Colin Fiske, CRTP’s campaign coordinator. “Caltrans recently updated its mission statement, and ‘safe’ is now the very first word used to describe the kind of transportation system they say they want to provide. But with only a few exceptions, mostly in Arcata, Caltrans apparently isn’t doing anything to try to make these dangerous areas in District 1 any safer. We hope that changes in the near future.”