Willits bypass – the long and winding road

In the summer of 1991 I was fresh out of college and working as a freelance reporter/photographer for The Willits News. One of the many meetings I attended and covered for the paper was a hearing on a proposal to build a highway bypass around Willits.

Today, more than 20 years later, Caltrans signed the final permitting paperwork. It’s been a long and winding bureaucratic road!
– Jack

Here’s the press release from Caltrans:

CALTRANS SIGNS FINAL PERMIT FOR WILLITS BYPASS

EUREKA – This afternoon, after a careful review by Caltrans staff, District
1 Director Charlie Fielder signed the final environmental permit for the
Willits bypass. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) provided the
permit to Caltrans for review late yesterday, and it will now be returned
to USACE for their final signature.

This $200 million project will relieve congestion, reduce delays, and
improve safety for traffic passing through Willits, eliminating the only
stop lights on US 101 between San Francisco and Eureka. Caltrans will be
going before the California Transportation Commission on March 28-29 to ask
for the funding needed for construction.

“We are very pleased to be moving forward with this important project”,
said Charlie Fielder. “Not only will we be constructing a bypass to help
alleviate traffic congestion and delay on Route 101 through Willits, this
project is also providing the opportunity for significant environmental
restoration in the Little Lake Valley. I want to thank our permitting and
resource agencies, local agencies, and our legislative representatives who
supported this project. But most of all, I want to thank all the citizens
and groups who provided their comments and support. This project is better
because of them.”

Besides the USACE, the permitting and resource agencies included the
National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and
the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Local agencies
included the City of Willits and Mayor Bruce Burton, Mendocino County
Council of Governments and Executive Director Phil Dow, and Mendocino
County Supervisor John Pinches. Legislative representatives included U.S.
Congressman Mike Thompson and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Local groups
included the Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Mendocino County Resource
Conservation District, and the Willits Environmental Center, which provided
valuable feedback and were strong advocates for local sustainable
agriculture.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Willits bypass – the long and winding road

  1. HL

    What a waste of wilderness, resources, money loss of jobs in Willits… to save 10 min traveling time? Amazing.

  2. Phil C.

    Drive north bound through Willits on ANY day of the week between noon and 3pm and it is more like a 30-40 minutes extra travel time. . .

  3. Ragtag Fool

    It’s about time. Now if we could just get a bypass around Eureka. People wanting to shop or eat or get gas will still do that, and the quality of life of everyone who lives in Willits will be vastly improved. Shame on HL for disregarding the well-being of Willits.

  4. Anon2

    I think a lot of people will still get off to go through Willits if on the way to San Francisco as it is about the half way point. Some get gas others get fast food. We use it as a short break in driving and usually get a snack at one of the fast food places. Not too long ago we decided to get off in Cloverdale as we had not been through there for years. What a change the bypass made. Lots of new buildings and businesses and the town seems to be doing quite well.

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