Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project News

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Frequently Asked Questions – Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project

 

The Eureka-Arcata Safety Corridor has effectively reduced collisions, so why is there a need for this project to close the medians and build an interchange at Indianola?

The Safety Corridor has improved safety conditions since it was implemented in 2003, however from its start the Safety Corridor was originally designed to be an interim solution until a long-term solution could be constructed. With the current Safety Corridor in place, collision rates are still above statewide averages at the Mid-City and Indianola Cutoff intersections. Also, during peak travel periods, long lines of traffic can form on Route 101 and its crossroads waiting to make a left turn across oncoming traffic. When traffic is light, most drivers can wait for suitable gaps in oncoming traffic to make left turns. But when traffic is heavy and other drivers are waiting behind to also make a left turn, drivers sometimes attempt to complete left turns within shorter traffic gaps across lanes with oncoming traffic.

As traffic volumes increase on Route 101 between Eureka and Arcata, the effectiveness of the current Safety Corridor has declined. Its effectiveness is expected to continue to decrease over time. The average annual daily traffic is expected to increase from 35,500 vehicles per day (2008) to an estimated 48,800 by 2033. The proposed corridor improvement project would eliminate the uncontrolled crossing and left turn moves, improving safety for all travelers on one of the most heavily travelled corridors on the north coast.

 

Why not enhance the Safety Corridor with increased speed enforcement? Reinstate the Double Fine Zone for speeding violations?

Permanent funding for additional enforcement on Routes 101 and 255 cannot be provided through any of the funding sources associated with the Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project. Previously, temporary police enforcement on the corridor had been funded through an Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) grant. Reapplying for an OTS grant could provide temporary funding for police enforcement efforts in the future. There are no assurances in any given year that grant funds would be available, or that the request would be granted. The proposed project includes physical improvements to permanently eliminate the potential of broadside collisions resulting from uncontrolled crossing and left turn moves in conflict with oncoming traffic.

A double fine zone requires State legislative approval, and a proposal to extend the double fine zone was rejected by the legislature.

 

Is there a need to remove the eucalyptus trees between Humboldt Bay and Route 101?

The project design has been amended to realign the southbound Route 101 lanes partly into the median near the lumber mill entrance. This roadway realignment would avoid removing eucalyptus trees between Route 101 and railroad tracks. This decision was made in part due to substantial public support for preserving the eucalyptus tree row.

Removal of some other mature trees within thirty feet of the edge of the Route 101 traveled way (the “clear recovery zone,” or CRZ) is needed to improve safety. Fixed objects too close to the edge of the traveled way are hazards for errant vehicles or vehicles making emergency maneuvers. A vehicle could recover within the CRZ without incident with the removal of the obstructions. In certain circumstances, guardrail is an option to shield motorists from fixed objects while minimizing collision severity. Guardrail is itself considered a fixed object and an extended guardrail system to shield an object has a higher probability of an errant vehicle colliding into, and potentially being re-directed into traffic. Guardrail would also add another visual element; the length required would extend far beyond the trunks of the trees. A balance between shielding and removal of fixed objects will be considered to reduce the potential hazards to motorists during project final design and the resource agency permit process.

 

Does the project include constructing a protected bicycle trail?

Although the proposed project does not include constructing a protected bicycle trail, project construction will not commence until adequate commitments are in place to assure that a protected Class 1 bike and pedestrian trail parallel to Route 101 from Arcata to the northern end of Eureka will be constructed as a separate project.

Although bicyclist needs have been a priority since project initiation, the reason a trail is not actually included in the project is that a new trail would not meet the need and purpose of the project – to enhance safety by eliminating potential vehicle conflicts of left-turn movements at intersections and resolving long-term roadway maintenance needs.

The proposed Preferred Alternative for the project would improve bicyclist access and safety in the following ways:

  • Closing or controlling Route 101 medians would prevent motor vehicles from making non-signalized left turns into the path of bicyclists on Route 101. The Redwood Community Action Agency Humboldt Bay Area Bike Map designates the existing Route 101 intersections at Mid-City Motor World, Indianola Cutoff, Bracut, and Bayside Cutoff as “Difficult Intersections – Use caution in these areas.” Traffic volume is projected to increase in the future which would exacerbate intersection conditions for all transit modes. Modified Alternative 3A, the Preferred Alternative identified in the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/S), would eliminate uncontrolled vehicle crossing movements at these Route 101 median openings;
  • Constructing a grade separation at Indianola Cutoff, approximately midway between Eureka and Arcata, to provide safe access and crossing Route 101 for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians;
  • 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 would have an 8-feet wide separated area for bicyclists and pedestrians. Note: The new bridge will be constructed independently of the proposed City of Arcata trail linking Bracut and Arcata.
  • The proposed project improvements would compliment rather than constrain future bay trail planning, design, and construction.

 

Will the posted speed limit be raised after project construction?

After project construction, the current posted speed limit of 50 mph between the Eureka Slough Bridges and Gannon Slough Bridges would remain at the existing 50 mph. However, 45 days after project construction, Caltrans will conduct an Engineering and Traffic Survey to comply with the California Vehicle Code. The California Vehicle Code requires a renewed engineering and traffic survey whenever substantial changes in roadway or traffic conditions have occurred. If the prevailing 85th percentile of traffic eventually rises above 55 mph after project construction, measures to address the condition, such as raising the posted speed limit, would be considered and possibly implemented. Note: North of the Gannon Slough Bridges, Route 101 is a freeway with a current posted speed limit of 65 mph. This posted freeway speed limit will remain the same after construction.

 

Why not signalize Route 101 intersections between Eureka and Arcata?

Signaled controlled intersections have been demonstrated to reduce the total number of broadside collisions, while at the same time increasing the number of rear end collisions. The potential for broadside collisions is not eliminated because prevention still requires driver compliance to traffic signal commands. Additional traffic signals would require additional lanes to maintain an acceptable level of service, with additional lanes resulting in additional wetland impact.

Signalizing all Route 101 intersections between Eureka and Arcata or signalizing just the Route 101 and Indianola Cutoff intersection were considered by Caltrans.

Signalizing all Route 101 intersections

A signalized “boulevard” (signalizing all intersections between Eureka and Arcata) was evaluated and the Caltrans Traffic Safety Office concluded it could not support this suggested alternative. Compared to a grade separation (an interchange), a signalized boulevard alternative would not be as effective in reducing the total number of traffic collisions and the concern about potential broadside (right angle) collisions would not be eliminated. Signalized intersections often cause an increase in rear-end collisions, especially on a higher volume mainline street that likely did not have stop control prior to the signal installation. Broadside collisions are not eliminated at signalized intersections because travelers do not always obey the traffic signals or try to “race” through the intersection at the end of the yellow light time or the early beginning of red light time.

In contrast, grade separations remove crossing conflicts, which greatly reduce or eliminate the potential for broadside collisions from an intersection because all movements on and off the highway only involve right-in and right-out movements. Since broadside collisions involve more fatalities and injuries than other types of collision, properly designed interchanges tend to experience far less severe injury and fatal collisions than signalized intersections due to the almost total elimination of the more severe broadside collision. Note that the Preferred Alternative does include a half signal at Airport Road that would only control northbound Route 101 traffic. A half signal for this project does not stop southbound traffic; however it stops north bound traffic and provides signal phases for left turns from southbound Route 101 and westbound Airport Road. Since this signal would be near the south end of the Eureka-Arcata Corridor, warning signs with “signal ahead” are more effective to alert drivers and preventing rear-end collisions.

A signalized boulevard alternative would not improve traffic flow in the corridor. It would actually cause an increase in congestion by introducing new traffic signals and new cumulative travel delays that are not currently experienced by drivers on Route 101 between Eureka and Arcata. Because of the resulting traffic delays, some drivers would likely decide to divert to Old Arcata Road and State Route 255, increasing traffic through residential areas.

A boulevard of consecutive signalized intersections with drivers stopping and starting again would substantially change the existing semi-rural setting to one that is more intensely urban. The signalized intersections would also have growth-related impacts because existing commercial development could be more easily intensified from the opportunity provided by signalized traffic controls. The boulevard would cause stop-and-go traffic that would contribute more global greenhouse gas emissions, greater energy consumption, and greater air quality impacts than Modified Alternative 3A, the preliminary Preferred Alternative.

A Signalizing Indianola Cutoff

There are many drawbacks to signalization at the Route 101/Indianola Cutoff intersection:

  • Signalization would result in increased travel time, which could in turn result in traffic diversion to parallel roadways such as State Route 255 and Old Arcata Road.
  • By adding an isolated signal at Indianola Cutoff, there is the expectation that due to repeated alerts to hazards and signals, this would leave motorists less aware of a single signalized intersection about halfway between Eureka and Arcata, increasing the potential for collisions.
  • Bicycle access through the signal would be problematic. From Route 101, both westbound to southbound and southbound to eastbound turn moves by bicyclists would require crossing the highway (mainline) through lanes to access left-turn channelization and may be perilous and disruptive to the mainline traffic stream.
  • Pedestrians are not prohibited on the expressway segment of Route 101 between Eureka and Bayside Cutoff: their presence would likely cause longer signal phasing time for mainline Route 101 traffic, which in turn would result in longer traffic queues, increased potential for rear end collisions and diverting traffic to State Route 255 and Old Arcata Road.

Signals are not an appropriate traffic control system for an isolated intersection on a rural expressway with high traffic volumes. Since there is a well documented, continuing safety problem at Indianola Cutoff, collision projections and existing poor performance of similar facilities affirm that installing a traffic signal there would not solve the problem. Conversely, a grade separation feature (an interchange) would reduce collisions and provide safer access for all travel modes including bicyclists and pedestrians.

 

Because of increasing fuel prices and climate change concerns, why doesn’t the project Purpose and Need and range of alternatives be revised or expanded to include public transit improvement alternatives?

Although some research has shown public transit use can rise due to increased fuel costs, other factors involved complicate predictions. Examples of factors influencing transit choices include: bus routes, bus stop locations, the frequency of bus trips, the number of bus transfers required as well as other factors. Any combination of these factors could be crucial in terms of travel time and convenience.

While it is true that the focus of this project does not directly provide transportation options for the non-driving population, all three proposed Build Alternatives would enhance safety and provide long-term roadway maintenance for trucks, buses, and bicyclists that directly or indirectly serve the non-driving population.

An increase in bus ridership from future population growth and rising fuel costs could conceivably be accommodated by expanding the existing public transit services, but as mentioned previously, there are several factors which influence public transit use. In other words, providing a full range of bus options does not guarantee full or near full bus ridership. Caltrans recognizes the importance of a balanced, sustainable transportation system and actively promotes and encourages public transit through support and participation in regional committees.

 

Will this project increase global warming? Would the rising sea level eventually cover the Route 101 roadway?

Caltrans is committed to implementing transportation strategies that will help reduce fossil fueled energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Caltrans’ overall approach to lowering fuel consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) from transportation is twofold: 1) reducing congestion and improving efficiency of transportation systems through smart land use, operational improvements, and Intelligent Transportation Systems. These are objectives of the State Strategic Growth Plan, a ten year mobility investment program, and 2) institutionalizing energy efficiency and GHG emission reduction measures and technology into planning, project development, operations, and maintenance of transportation facilities, fleets, buildings, and equipment.

Adaptation measures for future sea level rise (SLR) on Route 101 or the adjacent railroad bed will eventually be needed; however, incorporating SLR considerations for the proposed project would substantially delay a project needed to enhance safety for the existing Route 101 corridor between Eureka and Arcata. The proposed project includes improvements within the existing roadway that generally would not complicate nor foreclose opportunities for future SLR adaptation improvements.

Future improvements to address SLR will be difficult to plan, fund, and construct because of the sensitive environmental setting and the constraints to realign or elevate the 101 roadway or rail road. In the interim, higher and more frequent maintenance and repair costs to the highway and railroad are anticipated if SLR related improvements are not constructed. Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will continue to plan for the eventual implementation of SLR adaptation strategies with state, regional, local agencies and organizations including key stakeholders, such as North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA), the City of Arcata, the City of Eureka, the County of Humboldt, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Would the proposed grade separation (local road interchange) be visually imposing and establish a freeway-like setting, which would encourage higher speeds?

The proposed interchange would not visually resemble an urban interchange because it would connect a local two-lane County road (Indianola Cutoff) from only one direction to a four-lane highway. In addition, the highway would gradually slope over the County road and would be visually enhanced with vegetation. Overall, the small-scale interchange would proportionately match the surrounding agricultural and rural setting. The proposed interchange would not obstruct bay views, since there are no public vantage points within a mile of the proposed grade separation other than views from westbound Indianola Cutoff itself.

 

 

 

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