Part 1: Broadway Bottleneck
EUREKA- Highway 101 in Eureka is the main route people take to get through town, but drivers face issues.
Commuters say traveling on Highway 101 in Eureka can be irritating.
“It's annoying to go from one end of Broadway to the other end," said Whitney Morgan, who is a Eureka resident.
Caltrans traffic engineers estimate that using Highway 101 in Eureka, it takes 11 minutes to get from V Street to Kmart, a distance of just over 4 miles. Eureka residents have noticed a change over the years.
“It's a lot more congested and busy. You can't park on it really. You get stuck in traffic from light to light. You just can't make it through," Morgan said.
Others, like Blue Lake resident Brenda Starr, avoid the route at times due to traffic jams.
“Whether I experience them or not, I think they're there so I circumnavigate and go a different way,” said Starr.
And the number of cars on the road is going up.
“We do anticipate that that traffic will increase gradually. The growth factor there is not huge…. it would be a 25 percent increase over a 20 year time span," said Brad Mettam, the Deputy District Director for Planning and Local Assistance for Caltrans, District 1.
As late as the early 1990s, there were plans for a bypass through Downtown Eureka. Caltrans even purchased properties in preparation for construction, but the state funding to build the project never came. Community support dwindled, as well.
"As it became drawn out over time, people just started to give up on the idea of ever having a freeway and maybe enjoyed the fact that there weren't going to be all these buildings and structures torn down to allow the freeway," said Chuck Goodwin, who served on the Eureka City Council from 1969-1980.
State officials rescinded the plans in the 1990s.
"Nobody really sat down and looked at the other side and said, 'Well what's going to happen if we don't do anything?' And that's what we're stuck with now. We didn't do anything and now this is what we have is congestion," Goodwin said.
According to Caltrans, most of that congestion occurs between 7 a.m.–9 a.m. and 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
Congestion isn't the only concern. The State Office of Traffic Safety ranked Eureka as having the third highest accident rate for a city of its size in 2008, 2009 and 2010. A third of all those collisions take place on Highway 10.
In 2013, there were nearly 200 reported collisions, 111 injuries, and one person killed on Highway 101 in Eureka. This year, three people have died on the stretch.
"I think we do see a lot of our collisions during the commute times when there's more traffic on the streets. So stop and go traffic I think plays a role," said Sgt. Gary Whitmer with the Eureka Police Department.
Authorities attribute most of the accidents to driver error.
"I think it's the people who drive on these roads with cell phones and things and texting. It causes distractions and I think people need to focus and pay attention to their driving. Obviously, if you're driving on Broadway, with stop and go during the commute times, it's time to put those devices down and focus and pay attention," Sgt. Whitmer said.
Some say cars aren’t completely to blame either.
"I was driving on 4th Street and I ended up rear ending a different car because I was dodging a person who decided to just run into the middle of the road and unfortunately, I totaled my car," said Kenna Shapiro, who is a Eureka resident.
For Part 2 of Broadway Bottlneck, we speak with Caltrans officials about what’s being done to make Broadway, 4thStreet and 5th Street safer and more efficient.