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Coastal Commission Meeting Sept. 12

Dear Friends and Supporters of the Bay Trail,

On Thursday, September 12, at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka, the California Coastal Commission will be reviewing the request by Caltrans for permission to move forward with the 101 Corridor Improvement Project. The Coastal Commission staff, which has identified several areas of concern, has recommended that a barrier-separated bike path be a part of the 101 Corridor Improvement Project because they believe that the Bay Trail is much too speculative.

In talking with Coastal Commission staff, it is clear that they would prefer a Bay Trail but believe that, with some additional pressure, Caltrans could be a more significant player in the creation of the multi-modal Bay Trail adjacent to the existing North Coast Railroad Authority rail line between Eureka and Arcata. The Commission staff has reiterated that it is very important that the Commission hear from the public:

1) that there is strong community support for a multi-modal Bay Trail between Arcata and Eureka,

2) that an expensive barrier-separated bike path adjacent to 101 (estimated by Caltrans to cost as much as $11 million) is an unacceptable solution and that building a bike path so close to the proposed Bay Trail would strike a lethal blow to the Bay Trail, and,

3) understand that there is the will necessary to make the Bay Trail happen.

Simply put, we believe that there should be NO PROJECT WITHOUT THE BAY TRAIL.

The Commission will take public comment (which probably will be limited to 5-minutes or, most likely less per speaker) and we hope that we can “pack the house” with supporters and individuals willing to speak to these three talking points. It is difficult to know when the agenda item will be discussed on Thursday, September 12. It is the final item on the agenda and can be viewed at:

Letters can be submitted but need to be received by Thursday, September 5th, noting the agenda number of your item (Th12a), the application number (CC-016-13 Caltrans, Eureka), your name and your position in favor or opposition to the project on the upper right hand corner of the first page of your submission. They should be sent to: Mark Delaplaine, California Coastal Commission, 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219 or faxed to 415.904.5400.

Dennis, Don, Judy, and Rees

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Coastal Commission Priorities the Bay Trail

continued from home page... By “speeding up” the traffic flow it may become less safe for bicyclists, and closure of medians would make some bicycle trips longer. To address the Coastal Trail needs and public access and recreation policies the staff is recommending that the Commission find that EITHER the project needs to be modified to include at least an interim Coastal Trail in the form of a separated bicycle/pedestrian pathway along the highway shoulder, OR that Caltrans will need to commit, at this time, that it will establish, to the Commission’s satisfaction, no later than at the coastal development permit stage of the Commission’s review, that an alternative parallel trail nearby (from Arcata to Eureka) will be funded prior to or concurrent with any construction of the 101 Corridor, and that it will have the necessary ownership interests or permissions to be allowed to proceed."

The staff also suggested the Commission find that "the proposed Indianola Interchange, with its raised elevation and 240,000 cu. yds. of grading, is inconsistent with the scenic view protection policy (Section 302 51) of the Coastal Act, because it would not minimize alteration of natural landforms, would degrade scenic public views, and would be not be compatible with the character of the surrounding area."

The full report is here:

Tell the Coastal Commission:

No to Caltrans 101 Corridor Project without the Bay Trail!

continued from home page...  

Therefore we urge you to tell the Coastal Commission No project without the Bay Trail! Caltrans’ project must ensure safe access for bike commuters, touring cyclists, and pedestrians alike, and ensure that such travelers from Eureka, Arcata, Bayside, Indianola, and places in between can access a Class I trail along Humboldt Bay. The section of trail connecting Arcata and Eureka is the region’s highest priority for completing the California Coastal Trail. This part of 101 is also designated as the Pacific Coast Bike Route. Caltrans should not be allowed to move forward until they agree to provide a safe route for cyclists and pedestrians by incorporating the Humboldt Bay Trail as part of the project.

Please send your comments to the California Coastal Commission by August 20!

by email:

by U.S. mail:

Mark Delaplaine 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000

San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

Arcata / Eureka Bay Trail

For more information on the Bay Trail go to

Coastal Commission’s 101 corridor conditions ‘workable,’ says CalTrans.

TImes-Standard, Sept. 12, 2013

The California Coastal Commission in a 9-1 vote today gave Caltrans the go-ahead to build an interchange at the Indianola Cutoff -provided the agency meets certain conditions.

"I don't know whose idea it was to put us all in a bus with no seat belts and take us across the intersection, but it was very effective," Commissioner Jana Zimmer said during the commission meeting at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. "This is obviously a public safety issue."

Under conditions laid out by the commission for the Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Improvement Project, Caltrans officials must facilitate a separated bike trail and pedestrian right-of-way, remove all billboards along the corridor, submit a sea-level rise analysis report in their Coastal Development Permits and thoroughly explore wetland mitigation plans.

Caltrans District 1 Director Charlie Fielder called it a "workable solution" and confirmed that Caltrans pledged $1 million for a bay trail on Tuesday.

"We're very pleased that a good majority of the commissioners approved the project," Fielder said. "We recognize the community support and desire for a bay trail, and we will be doing what we can to make that a reality."

The 50 mph safety corridor between Arcata and Eureka on Highway 101 was established in May 2002 due to public outcry over higher than state average collision rates. Overall collision rates dropped by 45 percent during the first year of implementation, but Coastal Commission District Manager Robert Merrill reported that rates at Mid-City Motor World and Indianola Cutoff remained at more than twice the statewide average.

Caltrans' solution is a $46 million project for a signaled intersection at Airport Road/Jacobs Avenue on northbound 101, a raised interchange at Indianola Cutoff and the closure of median crossings at Mid-City Motor World, California Redwood sawmill, Bracut and Bayside Cutoff.

Under the proposal, the highway will be raised by 25 feet so cross traffic can pass below. Caltrans Project Manager Kim Floyd said the interchange will have a "compact" diamond design, meaning sloped with on- and off-ramps will be at maximum grade for a smaller overall footprint. The project is estimated to take three years once construction begins.

The project was brought before the state commission to review whether it is consistent with the policies of the California Coastal Management Program under the Coastal Act. Commission staff recommended rejection of the project, because under the act road expansion is not allowed " ... where there is no feasible less environmentally damaging alternative" and development must designed to protect views along scenic coastal areas. They suggested a signal light.

Community members, residents and business owners from Eureka, Arcata, Manila, Bayside and Indianola, as well as county and city representatives, from a crowd of around 50 spoke during public comments addressing issues such as safety, possible alternatives, increased traffic, environmental impacts and the want for a bay trail.

One presentation that was met with applause was a video featuring 11 examples of confusion and close calls among drivers - caused by factors ranging poor judgment to illegal maneuvers - that were recorded at the Indianola intersection from 4:50 to 5:50 p.m. on Monday. Gasps from both the crowd and the commissioners could be heard as they watched a bicyclist, cars and a semi-truck dodge traffic.

Coastal Commission Gives Conditional Go-Ahead to Caltrans' 101 Corridor Project

Ryan Burns, North Coast Jounal  - Sep 12, 2013

Going against its own staff's recommendation, the California Coastal Commission this evening voted 9-1 to give a conditional federal consistency determination (translation: a go-ahead) to Caltrans' proposed project for the 101 corridor between Arcata and Eureka. 

And that's not all: The "conditional" part of the approval means that Caltrans will have to address a number of community concerns before a Coastal Development Permit will be issued.

First off, Caltrans must include a Class 1 bicycle trail (definition here) in its project design. 

Secondly, Caltrans must submit a plan to remove not just the one billboard it planned to take down (at Indianola) but all of the billboards along the corridor, to the extent feasible. (With all the jurisdictions involved this likely won't wind up being every last billboard, but still: Many of those suckers will come down.)

And third, Caltrans must integrate sea-level-rise analysis in its design.

The decision came after several hours of public testimony, the majority of which was in favor of the project. As designed, the project includes median closures at most intersections, a half signal at Airport Boulevard and an interchange (conceptually pictured above) at Indianola Boulevard. (For background, see last week's cover story.)

That interchange was the major point of contention between Caltrans and commission staff. The staff argued that the over/under-pass could induce development in the Indianola area, created a visual blight and would have a more significant impact on the environment than a fully signalized intersection (staff's recommendation for Indianola).

Representatives of local environmental groups including Humboldt Baykeeper, the North Coast Environmental Center and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) all urged the commission to deny the project and tell Caltrans to go back to the drawing board. The groups all suggested that other design alternatives — such as roundabouts or "Michigan lefts" at Indianola — were never fully considered by Caltrans.

But elected officials, including County Supervisors Mark Lovelace and Rex Bohn and Arcata City Councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Mark Wheetley, along with a number of local business owners and government workers, urged the commission to move forward with the project due to safety concerns.

Commission members had taken a tour of the corridor yesterday to understand the context, and Commissioner Jana Zimmer got the biggest laugh of the day when she described the experience of crossing 101 at Indianola.

"I don’t know whose idea it was to put us in a bus with no seat belts and cross that intersection — two times," she said, "but it had an effect."

Caltrans can now move forward with the project while incorporating the conditions set forth by the commission. It will still need to obtain a Coastal Development Permit before construction begins.

From Dan Ehresman, Executive Director – Northcoast Environmental Center, and Jessica Hall, Executive Director – Humboldt Baykeeper

September 13, 2013 – The Northcoast Environmental Center and Humboldt Baykeeper declare today's Coastal Commission decision on the Highway 101 Corridor Project a victory for our community.

After a lengthy hearing with public testimony covering very broad opinions on the project – for, against, and everywhere in between – the Coastal Commission voted to approve the Highway 101 Corridor Project with the following conditions: construction of a separated Humboldt Bay Trail, removal of all billboards along the 101 corridor, address sea level rise in project design, and further study of wetland mitigation areas.

Along with these conditions, the project will still consist of the proposed interchange at Indianola Cutoff, a half-signal at Airport Boulevard, and closure of the other medians within the safety corridor.

In response to the decision, Jessica Hall, Executive Director of Humboldt Baykeeper stated, “While we were disappointed that the Commission approved the interchange without addressing the increase in speeds that will result from the project, we are very pleased that the Coastal Commission incorporated four conditions of approval that we have fought hard for over the years.”

Hall concluded by expressing her gratitude, “Thanks to the Coastal Commission and staff for their efforts on this project and for their work to uphold one of California’s greatest environmental laws – the Coastal Act.”

Dan Ehresman, Executive Director of the Northcoast Environmental Center weighed in on the hearing outcome, “We think that the Commission’s decision today is a win/win for North Coast residents. Although we question whether the interchange is the best solution to address traffic safety concerns, we believe that the conditions Caltrans will have to meet are a huge victory that will benefit generations to come.”

Ehresman went on to urge members of the public to stay involved, “Even though there is cause for celebration right now, we have a lot of work ahead. The Coastal Commission’s decision is an opportunity to work together towards a completed 101 Corridor project that ensures the Bay Trail gets funded and built, all billboards are removed along the Bay, and appropriate measures are taken to address sea level rise and wetland fill.”

While this decision green-lights the Caltrans proposal, details of the design and progress on the conditions will be reviewed by the Coastal Commission again during the Coastal Development Permit phase of the project.

Rees Hughes of the Volunteer Trail Stewards addresses the Board, Sept. 12

photos Nancy Stephenson

CalTrans Blog

Information about the 101 Corridor improvements, including pedestrian and bike safety.

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Phoebe unveils the Bay Trail Poster