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!
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