EUREKA- Traffic on Highway 101 in Eureka is expected to increase by 25 percent over the next 20 years. Now, Caltrans is looking at ways to improve the commute.
State officials cancelled plans for a Eureka Bypass in the 1990s.
“The freeway went away but the traffic congestion is still here and now we have to do something with that," said Chuck Goodwin, who served on the Eureka City Council from 1969 until 1980.
“It would take the City of Eureka to come to us and convince us that there's community support before we would invest money in looking at a new bypass," said Brad Mettam, the Deputy District Director for Planning and Local Assistance for Caltrans, District 1.
However, Eureka city officials say there's little interest for a freeway system at this time.
"I think from the city council's standpoint, to do any kind of a bypass at this point in Eureka would require either taking out a lot of homes and businesses or going so far east around the city that it just isn't practical," said Greg Sparks, the Eureka City Manager.
Some eureka business owners say they wouldn’t support a bypass either.
"We depend on that traffic for our walk-in business… A percentage of people would just drive right by if there was a bypass, even with exits,” said Chris Ambrosini, the owner of the Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay Inn.
"I wouldn't be in favor of a freeway through town…I think we would lose business because of that," said Jeff Hesseltine, the owner of the Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe.
Without a bypass being on the table, Caltrans began working several years ago to resolve issues on Highway 101 in Eureka. The agency finalized the Broadway Feasibility Study in February. The study is a multi-year report crafted through traffic data analysis and community input.
"Future plans along the Broadway Corridor are going to be driven by deficiencies such as congestion or accidents and then those projects will then use the parameters we set up in the Feasibility Study to determine the solutions," Mettam said.
There are no such projects currently in official planning stages, but Caltrans is looking at a potential adaptive signal system.
"Which would link all of the signals along the Broadway Corridor and they would effectively talk to each other and look at traffic in a real time method. Right now, signals adjust based on historical, known variations in traffic. This would actually look at traffic as it was occurring and would make adjustments to the signal timing to help make traffic flow easier," said Mettam.
Also, Caltrans is looking at possibly extending the medians on Broadway. Officials say doing this would make turning vehicles less of an impediment to other commuters.
“Crossing over is a huge problem and it just takes forever,” said Whitney Morgan, who is a Eureka resident.
"Essentially, we would create a raised median in some areas there to control where they can turn and where cars couldn't turn," Mettam said.
In addition, Caltrans will consider improving pedestrian and bicycle access in all projects moving forward.
"There's a lot of out of town traffic and it makes it a little dangerous sometimes to walk across 4th street and 5th street," said Bernice Turner, who is a Eureka resident.
"The non motorized transportation, bicyclists and pedestrians in the corridor, have a big impact, both because they interact with the vehicular traffic and because they need to have their own way to get through. All of our projects will continue to look at that and maximize that access," Mettam said.
Any current projects won’t be complete until years down the road.
Eureka city officials say the most congestion on Highway 101 will occur between now and Christmas.