Caltrans is proposing to spend $200 million to bulldoze a six-mile, four-lane freeway the size of Interstate 5 around the community of Willits, in Mendocino County, California. The project would cause unnecessary environmental damage to increasingly rare wetlands, salmon-bearing streams and endangered plants, and is not needed for the traffic volumes through Willits.
The project would fill more than 86 acres of wetlands and require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the last 50 years!
A 1998 Caltrans study found that 70-80 percent of traffic causing congestion in downtown Willits was local traffic; the bypass would only divert 20%-30% of Willits’ Main Street traffic.
There are alternatives to reduce traffic congestion in Willits including: internal street connections, bike paths, safe crosswalks, improved intersection performance, and better local public transit that would be able serve the needs of the interregional traffic and reduce construction impacts, time, and cost.
EPIC joined conservation partners in filing a lawsuit in April 2012 challenging the Willits Bypass. Caltrans must consider alternatives that do not fill wetlands, harm endangered species and respects the local community. The federal court challenge is based on claims under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. The case has been fully briefed, and the oral arguments were heard on June 21, 2013–with a decision from the judge expected anytime after that date. EPIC will inform the community about the judge’s order as soon as we receive word about the decision.
UPDATE (November 1, 2012)
UPDATE (September 10, 2012)