Caltrans Bypass – Update (Aug. 28 ’15) - by Madge Strong
The long struggle for a better bypass has become moot. In a microcosm of global and national issues, big machines (literal and political) often prevail. Locally, we’ll do our best for a healthy post-bypass Willits and Valley.
We did recently win one concession: Caltrans and its main mitigation contractor Hanford Restoration Services decided that, for now, they won’t use herbicides on the mitigation wetlands, due primarily to the public pressure they received.
On Aug. 13th, Caltrans had scheduled a public meeting (about herbicide use) which they cancelled, but citizens went ahead with a meeting anyway. It was well-attended and very informative. Issues included:
1) Dangers of herbicide use – in case this plan comes back.
2) The environmental damage being done by bull-dozing and vegetation clearing for so-called wetland creation areas.
3) Caltrans’ blatant disregard for protection of Native cultural sites.
Here’s a link to an excellent 14 minute video on points #2 and 3:
SOLLV and Native tribes have been lobbying Caltrans, elected officials, and resource agencies for a pause in the mitigation activities to explore ways to reduce these impacts.
Another remaining issue is further funding. Caltrans may return to the California Transportation Commission, as well as our county MCOG for more local funds. Current mitigation work is only a fraction of what is needed. There are also likely to be more cost overruns, and the contingency funding has long since been exhausted.
Recently OSHA finally issued its report on the January collapse of a 150-foot section of the viaduct, finding major lapses in the design, construction and supervision. Three workers were seriously injured. The fines, however, were minimal.
As the bypass nears completion, we’ll hear more about the “child projects,” including reconfiguring the Sherwood Road intersection and repair & paving Main Street, as part of relinquishing old Hwy 101 to the City.