On Nov. 13, the City of Eureka held a public workshop to gather input on a new plan for the 101 Broadway Corridor. Described as a “Multi-Modal Corridor Plan” to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists while decreasing traffic congestion, the City unfortunately began this public process by reviving controversial plans for a new road along Humboldt Bay.
In 2012, the Eureka City Council voted to stop pursuing its proposal to punch a new road through the Palco Marsh. But for some inexplicable reason, the City has revived this impossible project, despite years of controversy. The Waterfront Drive Extension was rejected in 2012—and should be taken off the table forever—for several reasons.
The coastal wetlands at risk are protected by the Coastal Act, the City’s coastal regulations, and by conservation easements. The proposed road would plow through wetlands that were protected as mitigation for the Bayside Mall development. Since 1985, the City has received $1.5 million from the State Coastal Conservancy to acquire the Palco Marsh for wetland restoration and non-motorized public access.
When the Waterfront Drive Extension was rejected by the City Council in 2012, the funding was allocated to build the Waterfront Trail, which has since become a popular area for enjoying the Palco Marsh and Elk River Wildlife Sanctuary. A road in this area would be not only disrupt wildlife habitat and coastal recreation, but it would also be vulnerable to flooding, liquefaction, rising sea level, which will inundate the area in the foreseeable future.
There’s another reason that Eureka shouldn’t waste its money pursuing pie-in-the-sky road-building schemes, and it’s an important one. That money is desperately needed for real, feasible, effective transportation solutions. Between 2005 and 2009, the City spent more than $1.2 million dollars pursuing this project while knowing it would never be approved. Rather than throwing more money at a road that’s going nowhere, public funding should go into desperately needed safety improvements on Broadway.
“Broadway is trying to be both a downtown Main Street and a highway, and failing at both,” says Colin Fiske of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities. “It’s a frustration for drivers and a death trap for bicyclists and pedestrians. The only thing that will make Broadway both safer and more pleasant is redesigning it to make it the kind of place where people want to be, rather than the kind of place people want to get through as fast as possible.” In other words, embrace its reality as a Main Street and stop trying to make it a highway.
There are lots of proven methods for improving the safety and comfort of a downtown streetscape like Broadway. Widen the sidewalks and narrow the road. Plant trees and install art. Build buffered bike lanes, bulb-outs, and pedestrian refuges. It’s not rocket science.
You can join us in urging public officials to drop the plans for new roads west of Broadway and instead, focus on multi-modal transportation to reduce traffic congestion, including projects that will make walking and biking along and across Broadway safe. Have your say by going to the comment section at https://www.eurekabroadwaycorridorplan.com.