CalTrans’ Richardson Grove Improvement Project is not an isolated occurrence. The project through Richardson Grove State Park is one of many projects Caltrans is pushing on the Northcoast of California in order to remove existing restrictions to Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) trucks.
Buckhorn Summit: Unbeknownst to many North Coast residents, the largest of the Caltrans big truck highway expansion projects is currently under construction—and the project has purposefully received no challenge from our organization. When completed in 2017, the $60 million Buckhorn grade infrastructure construction projects on Highway 299 will facilitate unfettered access East/West access along Hwy 299 between Interstate 5 and the North Coast.
Smith River 197/199:
Caltrans’ 197/199 Project is intended to realign and widen the roadway along U.S. Highway 199 and State Route 197 in seven different locations in order to allow increased and unrestricted access for STAA trucks. The 197/199 Project would increase unsafe heavy and oversized truck use on narrow roadways along the designated “wild and scenic” Smith River Canyon, increasing the likelihood of deadly accidents and toxic spills, especially during dangerous winter conditions. The project would harm old-growth trees and habitat for protected salmon runs, as well as harm tourism and local residents.
Willits Bypass: While not a STAA project, the Willits Bypass is designed to “relieve congestion” and reduce travel times through the town of Willits (population: 4,845). The Willits Bypass ($300+ million project) is an overbuilt 4-lane, 6-mile long bypass through a wetland valley (requiring the largest wetland fill permit since the 1960s). Caltrans’ own analysis shows that nearly 80% of the traffic in Willits is local traffic and that the Bypass would carry fewer than 8,000 cars a day.
Caltrans is intent on opening a north-south link in a circuit connecting Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 101 via routes 199, and 299, to improve goods movement and trucking through the region.