A presentation on the U.S. Highway 101 safety corridor drew mixed reaction from the Arcata City Council and the public at a council meeting on Wednesday.
Councilwoman Susan Ornelas, who was originally opposed to the proposed safety improvement project, said she is supportive if the bay trail, which would run from Arcata to Eureka, is incorporated.
“I just personally thought ... that a bay trail would be fabulous,” Ornelas said. “It would wake us up that we live on the bay … if you could really walk or ride your bike along the bay it would be much more intimate.” Mayor Shane Brinton disagreed.
“My concern is I don’t like the project that’s proposed,” Brinton said. “I would draw a different project. ... I’m viewing this as needing to get the trail if we take this project that I believe is inferior.” Under the proposed project, median crossings or uncontrolled turns across oncoming traffic lanes — including those at Mid-City Motor World, California Redwood Sawmill, Bracut and Bayside Cutoff — would be eliminated. The southbound Jacoby Creek Bridge would be replaced, a “half” traffic signal would be installed at the U.S. Highway 101 and Airport Road intersection, and a compact diamond interchange would be built at the Indianola Cutoff.
Humboldt County Association of Governments Executive Director Marcella Clem said that HCAOG also has talked with Caltrans and the California Coastal Commission about making a condition of approval that says the bay trail needs to be funded either prior to or concurrent with the corridor project. HCAOG hopes that this would be a solution to gain support from Arcata after the city opposed the project in 2011.
During the presentation, Caltrans project manager Kim Floyd discussed the proposed project and showed slides of what the Indianola interchange would look like when work is complete.
Floyd said Caltrans is trying to reduce potential conflicts, including bicyclist conflicts, by making the proposed changes. Some members of the public voiced concerns about sea level rise, cost and cyclist safety. Others reminded the council safety is the main priority and said the safety project needs to happen to save lives.
The project was pulled from a July coastal commission meeting. It will be heard at a coastal commission meeting on Sept. 12.
The council agreed to draft a letter at its next meeting to send to the coastal commission in advance of the September meeting.