The Collector – February 16, 2018

Welcome to the first edition of The Collector*, CRTP’s new weekly news roundup! We are aiming to collect important North Coast transportation news – including state and national news with particular local relevance – and publish it here each Friday. If you’d like to submit a news item for the weekly roundup or provide any other feedback, please email colin@transportationpriorities.org. Enjoy!

*In traditional planning nomenclature, a collector road collects traffic from local roads and delivers them to major arterials. Our news roundup collects transportation news items and delivers them straight to your eyeballs!

Arcata Student Housing Project Saga Continues; Parking Unbundling Secured

The Arcata Planning Commission conducted Part 7 (no kidding!) of its initial hearing on The Village, a proposed private development near HSU intended to house 700-800 students. After some pressure from CRTP, and with the support of city staff, the developer has agreed to “unbundle” parking costs from housing rents. This is one of the most effective measures a multifamily housing development can use to reduce car travel, and it’s now one of the official proposed conditions of approval for the project.

Hundreds Show Up To Celebrate New Eureka Trail

People love trails! Enough said.

Humboldt County Announces New Public Meeting on Completion of Bay Trail

Show up on February 27th to get the latest Bay Trail news and provide your input to the County. Only 4 miles left!

State Legislature Considering “Radical Upzone” Bill

State Senator Scott Weiner has introduced a bill that would remove residential density limitations and parking requirements for new housing near major transit hubs and lines. The bill is intended to stimulate infill housing to meet the state’s housing needs without sprawl.

Water Board Announces Proposed Road Management Discharge Waiver

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has announced a tentative order on a waiver of discharge requirements for road management activities. Public comment is open until March 19th and a hearing will be held on May 17th.

HCAOG Considers Budget & Work Program

The HCAOG Board met yesterday, and its agenda included a review of the proposed Overall Work Program and Budget for FY2018-19. HCAOG is our regional transportation planning agency, and these documents lay out their plans for the coming year. Exciting stuff!

Trump Unveils Infrastructure Plan

Anyone hoping Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure plan would mean big federal money for local priorities like Last Chance Grade is likely disappointed this week, as the administration has now made clear it expects most of the money to come from state, local, and private sources.

Big Rigs Exploiting Loophole in Pollution Rules with Help of Trump’s EPA

The New York Times reports on a loophole the size of the national highway network in truck pollution control regulations. The Trump administration has recently nixed an effort by Obama’s EPA to close the loophole. Stories like this should resonate as we consider how freight gets into, out of, and through our region.

 

Times-Standard: Hundreds attend Waterfront Trail celebration

From the Times-Standard:

“Hundreds of people including city of Eureka officials and community members packed into the Wharfinger Building on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the Waterfront Trail and watch the first screening of a documentary on the trail‘s entire planning and building process.

The final phase of the Waterfront Trail was completed earlier this year and it now stretched 6.3 miles along Eureka’s picturesque waterfront on Humboldt Bay from Herrick Avenue in the south to Tydd Street in the north…”

Read the full story here.

Mad River Union Covers Living Plaza Proposals

From the Mad River Union:

Picture a Plaza free of cars on Eighth and Ninth streets, the vehicles replaced by bistro dining. A playset full of squealing children is surrounded by picnicking parents noshing on items from an array of food carts. Musicians perform from a small stage, while a chess game is played on a giant board with fireplug-sized pieces. Tourists pluck brochures from an information kiosk, their visit untrammeled by day-campers of the smoking/yelling/fighting variety. Surrounding businesses are thriving with walk-in business, thanks to the restored popularity of the Arcata Plaza. 

Idyllic, yes, but achievable, according to the McKinleyville-based Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP), representatives of which outlined their ideas Tuesday, Oct. 12 during a presentation in the Plaza View Room in Jacoby’s Storehouse….”

Read the full article here.

New York Times: Converting Parking Spaces into Parklets

Eureka has led the way locally with the development of parklets, but other communities can and should join in easily. Transitioning public space from vehicle-serving to people-serving is good for human health, community, the economy and the environment. From the New York Times:

“While each street seat typically takes up two parking spots, the benefits of serving hundreds of people a day — versus a handful of cars — have outweighed any concerns over lost parking, said Shari Gold, a senior manager in the transportation department’s public space program.”

Read the full story here.

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.