Friday, 14 June 2024

Caltrans reaches milestone release of draft environmental document for permanent Last Chance Grade solution

Last Chance Grade. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — In a major milestone toward a permanent solution at Last Chance Grade, Caltrans has announced the release of an essential environmental document that could lead to the construction of a long-anticipated project for U.S. 101 in Del Norte County.

This coastal stretch of highway south of Crescent City is historically prone to landslide activity and indefinite maintenance costs.

As an essential artery that connects Del Norte County with its neighbors, closures of U.S. 101 at Last Chance Grade are devastating. This is why Caltrans and its stakeholders have been working hard — and working fast given the project’s magnitude — on a permanent solution for the area.

In a move that keeps this important project on budget and schedule, Caltrans is pleased to share the Last Chance Grade Permanent Restoration Project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) including a Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation — the aforementioned essential environmental document.

“This document analyzes two proposed alternatives,” said Caltrans District 1 Director Matt Brady. “One involves a bypass inland with a tunnel and the other would re-engineer the existing alignment. Circulating this information gives the public a chance to review and comment on the project description and the assessment of the environmental impacts of these alternatives. With added strength from partnerships and stakeholder coordination, these documents are based on years of new engineering and scientific studies.”

“This document represents the diligent work of Caltrans and the wider community of tribes, conservation groups, agencies, local governments, and business leaders,” said U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman. “Starting back in 2014, I convened the Last Chance Grade Stakeholder Group to make sure the public had a significant role in advancing the project. Since then, Caltrans has embraced that role and expanded its efforts to make this project one of its most collaborative ever. No solution to Last Chance Grade is perfect, and I encourage people to read and comment on the draft proposal and make sure your voices are heard.”

“The Last Chance Grade project is massive and everyone who has spent their time and effort on this project is deeply appreciated,” said California Assemblymember Jim Wood. “People who live in this beautiful area have lived with road failure and ongoing problems for decades and the public’s patience is much appreciated by me. I know that Caltrans has long-term and consistent safety as its top priority in making this a safer transportation corridor for the communities.”

“Highway 101 is the lifeblood of Del Norte County and the North Coast," said California Senator Mike McGuire. "The community desperately needs and deserves a permanent fix to Last Chance Grade. In response, the state secured $50 million to move this environmental study forward. Today, we've reached a huge milestone with the release of Caltrans' Draft Environmental Document, which represents six years of collaboration among a broad coalition of local and tribal governments and community organizations. While this is a day to celebrate, we know there's a ton of hard work ahead and we won’t quit until every last penny is secured to build an inland alternative to the Last Chance Grade.“

This document is available for review at lastchancegrade.com and at the Caltrans District 1 Office at 1656 Union Street in Eureka on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as at the Del Norte County Library at 190 Price Mall in Crescent City. Comments on this document are being accepted by mail or email until 5 p.m. on February 13.

The public is also invited to attend a virtual public open house regarding this subject on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Please continue to check lastchancegrade.com for the posting of the meeting link.

After receiving public comments, Caltrans is scheduled to coordinate with stakeholder working groups to help select a preferred alternative in the spring of 2024. If all goes according to plan Caltrans could begin construction as early as 2030.

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