Caltrans Four Bridges Project Meeting Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 4:30PM at the South Fork High School Gym in Miranda

Back in March, 2011 CALTRANS floated this project, called the “Four Bridges Project”.  They proposed to replace the railings on four bridges along the Avenue of the Giants.  Sounds innocent, right?  Don’t believe it!  They are going to replace the bridge decks in the process to add an extra lane “for safety.”  Always the “safety” excuse.  What makes the “safety” excuse laughable is that there is no extra lane alone the Avenue of the Giants to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists so why do the bridge decks need to be enlarged?  You can bet that this is going to be a huge project – enlarging the bridge decks will mean new bridge supports, in effect new bridges – and the consequent disruption to the environment, stream diversions and injury to the old growth trees.

The meeting is supposedly an “update.”  But that does not mean that there will not be surprises.  The meeting is to be held on Wednesday, August 23, 2012 at 4:30PM at the South Fork High School Gym in Miranda.  It would be great to have a good turnout at the meeting to show community concern.

To read their announcement for yourself click here: <http://times-standard.com/localnews/ci_21290318>

Below is my letter sent March 14, 2011 with Scoping Comments:
To Sandra Rosas
Office of Environmental Management
703 B Street
Marysville, CA 95901
sandra_rosas@dot.ca.gov

March 14, 2011

RE:  Four Bridges Project – Scoping Comments

Considering the environmental damage that this project will inflict uponHumboldt Redwoods State Park, its wildlife, old-growth trees, streams and fish, the cost to the taxpayers, the disruption to Park visitors, the losses to local businesses and inconvenience to local residents, it is hard to establish any justification for this project.

The ostensible purpose of the project is to replace bridge railings but if the railings of these bridges are deficient then the railings should be replaced in as cost-effective manner as possible without adding other elements to the project.  Why this alternative is being dismissed does not make any sense to the public.

The claim is being made by CALTRANS that the bridge decks need to be enlarged “for safety.”  Yet, no accident statistics are provided to show that the bridges are unsafe.  Regardless of the fact that newer bridges allow for shoulders, this is a scenic and historic roadway and should be preserved as it exists without distorting its historic character.  Tourists come from around the world to meander down this roadway and marvel at the pristine natural beauty.  Traffic moves slowly.  Locals know to watch for bicycle riders and pedestrians.

If safety is such a concern, why is there no consideration of lowering the speed limit?

Given the fact that there is no bike or pedestrian lane existing along the Avenue of the Giants, why is it necessary to provide such a lane on the bridges?  Have any other alternatives for bikes and pedestrians been considered?

There was no information given on how the determination was reached that the Bridge Creek bridge is structurally deficient.

What access roads and staging areas are planned?  These will extend the project’s footprint with root damage, vegetation removal and soil compaction.
The impact of heavy construction vehicles driving and parking on the roots of old growth trees is barely mentioned.

Of the endangered species mentioned, the murrelet is known to be disturbed by noise in the vicinity of its nesting areas and CALTRANS intends to work during nesting season.

Additionally, diverting streams at the height of the summer, when the river is running low, warm, slow and often full of algae will only create additional stress and adversely impact whatever endangered fish are trying to exist in the waters of the South Fork of the Eel River.

In summation, this project needs to be scaled back to address only what is absolutely required – replacing defective railings.  This approach would greatly mitigate many of the adverse impacts that are envisioned with the current scope of the project.

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