After a long afternoon of public testimony, which included harrowing video footage of near-collisions at the Indianola cutoff, the California Coastal Commission this evening approved a long-planned renovation project from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for the six-mile stretch of Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata.
Voting 10-1, with Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh casting the lone dissenting vote, the commission approved the project, but only after adding some conditions designed to expedite sea-level rise planning, which the commissioners agreed is urgently needed on this road in particular.
Executive Director John Ainsworth and Chair Dayna Bochco both referred to this section of highway as “ground zero” for sea-level rise, noting that the land around Humboldt Bay is subsiding as the oceans rise.
But ultimately the commission decided that safety concerns are too pressing to hold out for more comprehensive (meaning expensive and bureaucratically complex) planning measures, such as building a causeway or embarking on managed retreat to higher ground for the businesses and infrastructure now sitting on reclaimed tidelands.
Construction of the “corridor improvement” project — which will include an undercrossing at Indianola, a half-signal at Airport Road and closure of the other four median crossings, among other elements — is scheduled to begin next year and last into 2026.