Proponents claim that Caltrans’ Richardson Grove Project will improve the economy of Humboldt County and the North Coast, by removing the STAA-restriction within the Grove it will help local businesses be more competitive, allowing them to retain and create jobs. However, none of these claims are supported by scientific evidence!
Caltrans basis the “need” of the Richardson Grove Improvement Project on the 2006 and 2008 Regional Transportation Plans (RTP) that were prepared for the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG), for Humboldt County.
The Regional Transportation Plan claims that, “STAA restrictions at Richardson Grove increases shipping costs;” and further claims that, “Truck-length restrictions and backhaul opportunities in Humboldt County are preventing businesses from being profitable and competitive with similar business along the West Coast.”
There is no evidence or scientific analysis to support the claims within the Regional Transportation Plan–and that is what Caltrans is basing their justification of the project on!
The economic analysis and rationale for the proposed project largely hinge on a suggestive but indeterminate economic survey (the Gallo report, which conducted an online survey only 14 businesses in the county) and inappropriate use of the IMPLAN economic analysis tool. Having heard form many other local business owners, including small business and people involved in transportation, EPIC believe the proposed project will benefit some local businesses while injuring others. While such actions may be valid public actions if properly analyzed and disclosed, a state agency may not legally proceed on the basis of one-sided analysis that minimizes or fails even to present the negative economic impacts of the proposed action.
The fact is very few local businesses ship in full truckloads and even fewer are limited to using oversize STAA trucks that exceed the California legal length. Unfortunately the county and Caltrans offer only a skewed analysis, but additional research questions whether any jobs will be created at all. Consider the following: The 2007 Del Norte County Moving Goods & People report specifically references the extra expense of the big box stores located in Crescent City. In addition, the local lily bulb industry will be the beneficiary of nearly half of the total projected economic benefits. However, since the local bulb grower already completely dominates that market, there will be no additional hiring as a result of allowing STAA trucks through the 101 corridor. And, of course, the negative economic impacts of big box growth are well documented.
Neither Caltrans nor the county even admits any local trucking jobs would be lost, but at least 15 jobs would be cut due to the lily industry alone no longer needing local truck services. The cattle industry has received exemptions to use oversize STAA trucks(200 trucks/year) through Richardson Grove for years. A CHP safety report issued in 2011 states that while no accidents have occurred, issuing a permanent exemption could be a mistake because it would set a precedent for other exemptions, which the CHP concluded would reduce safety and increase damage on the rest of our county roads. The economic cost of that future damage has yet to be calculated.
Caltrans’ EIR acknowledges that local Humboldt County industries do not need these [STAA] trucks: “… There is a maximum weight restriction for loads as well as maximum length of cabs and trailers, and that for heavy loads, the economic advantage for the larger vehicles is not there,” concluding that the “Proposed project would not result in significant increases in overall economic productivity in the region.”