Updates – The following are new developments since this project blog entry was first posted:
As a condition of Coastal Consistency, Caltrans has agreed that construction of the Eureka-Arcata Corridor Improvement Project will not begin before funding is secured for a bay trail project. This funding will include $1 million from Caltrans. The Humboldt County Association of Governments, or HCAOG, is also seeking to secure funding for the bay trail project. The proposed project includes the replacement of the Jacoby Creek Bridge with a new bridge that would include a separated pedestrian and bike facility on the western side.
Caltrans’ current proposed mitigation plan is expected to provide mitigation credits beyond what is needed for the Eureka-Arcata Corridor Project. It is expected that these additional mitigation credits will be used to offset any wetland impacts associated with constructing a bay trail.
Caltrans staff is assisting the City of Arcata with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) clearance on the current phase of their Rail with Trail project.
The needs of both bicyclists and pedestrians have been a consideration for Caltrans since the beginning of the Route 101 Eureka-Arcata Corridor Improvement project. Although a separate bicycle and pedestrian trail between Eureka and Arcata is not formally included in the project, the left lane widths of Route 101 will be reduced in width from 12 feet to 11 feet as a traffic calming measure, and right shoulders will be widened from eight feet to ten feet in order to provide additional room for bicyclists as well as additional clearance from vehicular traffic. Also, a brick-red color will be added to the asphalt shoulder pavement to further visually distinguish the shoulders and help with traffic calming between Eureka and Arcata. Please see the following questions and answers to learn more about what Caltrans proposes for bay trail bicycle and pedestrian access. For example, Caltrans has formally agreed to contribute up to one million dollars for Humboldt Bay trail construction in working with local governments and other public agencies.
How does this project address bicycle and pedestrian access?
The proposed project includes the following features to enhance non-motorized transit between Eureka and Arcata:
- The construction of a grade separation (interchange) at Indianola Cutoff, approximately midway between Eureka and Arcata, will provide safe crossing access on Route 101 for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. A new interchange would become particularly important to provide a safe connection between any future trail along the west side of Route 101 adjacent to local roads, homes, and businesses.
- The project proposes to close or modify all at grade intersections in the Eureka-Arcata Corridor, which would eliminate uncontrolled vehicle crossing and left turn moves at the six Route 101 median openings. Consequently, bicyclist safety would be substantially improved.
- The proposed project also includes replacing the southbound Route 101 Jacoby Creek Bridge with a wider bridge that would include bicycle railing installed on the outside barrier and an eight-foot wide separated area for bicyclists and pedestrians similar to the one installed at the new northbound Route 101 Mad River Bridge near McKinleyville. The proposed wider bridge would be a critical link for the City of Arcata’s trail planned from Arcata to Bracut. The Route 101 corridor improvements made by this project will preserve future trail and railroad use options for the local community.
Caltrans is working with other public agencies and local governments on a bay trail and has formally agreed to contribute up to one million dollars for bay trail construction.
What about a separated trail for bicyclists and pedestrians?
There is strong public support for a rail with trail project between Eureka and Arcata. The primary purpose of the Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project is to reduce collisions at intersections. For the following reasons the construction of a trail for non-motorized traffic would need to be a separate project:
- There are already local and regional efforts underway for developing a rail with trail project adjacent to the railroad tracks. If a trail were to be constructed within the Caltrans right-of-way as part of the Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement project, it may undermine funding for the community-supported rail with trail. A second trail would be perceived as redundant and unnecessary.
- The bed that supports the railroad tracks (known as a railroad prism) between Eureka and Arcata is owned and operated by the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA), which was formed by the California Legislature and has a mission to ensure continuation of railroad service in Northwestern California.
- There is not enough width for a barrier-separated (Class I) bicycle/pedestrian path directly on either side of the highway. Route 101 is adjacent to Humboldt Bay wetlands, wildlife preserves and refuges, and the railroad. The cost and wetland impacts of widening beyond what is needed for the roadway for six miles would not be feasible to provide a separate path for non-motorized transit next to the highway. The permanent wetland impact of the barrier-separated trail is estimated to add an additional 7.4 acres to the project.
- The Eureka-Arcata Corridor Improvement project was designed to facilitate connections with any future bicycle, pedestrian, and railroad transit opportunities. In fact, the project would be compatible and provide safer access to any future bay trail located west of Route 101. A paved trail connecting the proposed interchange at Indianola to any future bay trail could be constructed as a future project.