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Caltrans-parency

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Editor:

Your article "Straightening the Hairpins" (July 11) was one of the worst I've seen in the Journal in a long time. Its flip, light coverage of the issue shows no grasp of the depth of the meaning and ramifications of the project.

This project is part of a package of projects Caltrans has been pushing for years. The other parts are Richardson Grove, the 199/Smith River project and the already damaging Willits bypass. They are all tied to a trucking industry push to get access for trucks with trailers 53 feet long — huge and long tractors that double as living quarters for the driver and a width greater than current trucks. The plan is to reroute them from Highway 5 to the coast to alleviate crowding on 5 and give them a straight run up the coast. That means the whole length of Highway 101 through the county will have these monster trucks jamming through, fumes and all. They can leave the freeway for food, deliveries, service, etc. and will cause damage to local roads for which Caltrans doesn't pay. I have seen a number of them in Humboldt County (illegally) on narrow roads in the bottoms, in Arcata, through Eureka. The tight turn in Eureka will have to be ripped up and widened next.

There is next to no proof that the trucks will benefit Humboldt's economy in any significant way but they will cost us all in many ways.

Within the lifetime of our children, gasoline will be disappearing and these trucks will be obsolete but the environmental damage done by these projects will be there forever.

The arguments used by Caltrans are fallacious; safety issues at all of the locations have other, less invasive solutions but Caltrans will not consider them because safety was never their real concern.

Sylvia De Rooy, Eureka

Editor:

One hundred percent of Caltrans' and our policymakers' agenda is to induce growth and facilitate sprawl development. Notwithstanding their safety claims, the Richardson Grove, Willits Bypass, 299, and 199/197 Smith River projects are designed to transform Highway 101 into a "High Emphasis Route in the Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan," a "principal rural artery," and "desirable for those large trucks to be able to drive through the county," so the northwest region can become an "economic engine."

Even before the 16,000 vehicle trips anticipated in the Marina Center traffic were envisioned, Caltrans identified "traffic congestion on US 101 in Eureka's commercial and retail areas due to heavy overlapping uses for trucking, through traffic, and local traffic" as a significant "constraint on economic development."

Caltrans' safety claims are misleading. The inevitable increase in large truck traffic spells danger for passenger cars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that although these large trucks represent less than 3 percent of vehicles, they are involved in 13 to 14 percent of fatal crashes, and 98 percent of the fatalities in car vs. truck accidents are automobile passengers.

The 10-15 percent savings on junk we don't need when larger trucks ply our roadways will be more than offset by the cost to taxpayers for road damages, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: "Heavy trucks are overwhelmingly responsible for pavement damage. An STAA truck weighing 80,000 pounds exceeds 163,000 times the damage of a 2-ton car. A 20,000 pound single axle consumes 1,000 times more pavement life than a 2,000-pound passenger motor vehicle single axle."

We ignore at our peril Caltrans' 2003 report that "the county's relative geographic isolation has spared it from some of the sprawl and growth pressures that have impacted many of California's coastal communities, lending the area a quality of life cherished by residents."

Ken Miller, McKinleyville

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