Douglas P. Jackson: A newly completed Caltrans project is measurably, dangerously wrong


To the distinguished members of the Arcata City Council, Eureka City Council, and Mayor of Eureka,

Recognizing your valued time, I am attempting to very briefly inform you of a dangerous, substandard condition along U.S. Highway 101 within both of your city’s jurisdictions.

Last summer, Caltrans completed an asphalt pavement resurfacing (overlay) and restriping project between Eureka and Arcata on US 101 from north of the Eureka Slough Bridge to the West End Overhead Bridge. Caltrans, by Federal mandatory minimum requirements and a granted “design exception,” were obligated to construct the project such that:

1. Within the freeway portions of the project, the paved left-hand shoulders would meet the Federal mandatory minimum width of five feet (5’) and

2. Within the expressway (“safety corridor”) portions of the project, the paved left-hand shoulders were required to meet the reduced minimum width of four feet (4’) which was granted by “design exceptions” that were requested by Caltrans and approved by Caltrans authorities in Sacramento.

Upon completion and formal acceptance of the project by Caltrans on Aug. 13, 2014, just four days later, on Sunday, Aug. 17, at approximately 5 p.m., an 18-year-old male driving a pickup truck in the southbound freeway lanes of US 101 with a 16-year-old male passenger, accidentally drifted off the paved left-hand shoulder of the freeway at approximately Post Mile 86.0 (which lies within the Arcata city limits) onto the steep graveled shoulder placed as part of the subject project due to the increased depth of asphalt pavement by the resurfacing.

The 18-year-old driver swerved back onto and across both southbound lanes, entered the right unpaved median and over the adjacent deceleration off-ramp lane and subsequently rolled the pickup several times before coming to a rest. Both the driver and the passenger sustained injuries with the 16-year-old being flown to a Santa Rosa hospital with major injuries.

Upon measuring the paved left-hand shoulder at the scene of the accident, the paved left-hand shoulder where the driver left the paved left-hand shoulder was and continues to be approximately just one foot nine inches (1’, 9”) in width. Taved [sic] left-hand shoulder where the driver reentered the paved left-hand shoulder was and continues to be approximately only one foot six inches (1’-6”) in width.

In fact, from approximately the 11th Street Bridge to the Gannon Slough Bridge, or for a distance of approximately 1.6 miles within the freeway portion of US 101 that lies within the City of Arcata, the paved left-hand shoulder is consistently less than five feet in width and for the most part, is less than two feet in width.

Within the expressway portion of the project, where by the granted design exception, Caltrans was obligated to construct a minimum four-foot (4’) wide paved left-hand shoulder, such a condition does not exist save for a limited portion in the southbound direction of US 101 opposite Jacobs Avenue. In fact, at one randomly measured location opposite the runway at Murray Field, the paved left-hand shoulder width in the northbound direction is only 2.9 feet in width.

Upon my having understood the physical as-built conditions accepted by Caltrans, in late August of 2014, I informed the California State Department of Consumer Affairs Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologist of the physical as-built conditions accepted by Caltrans engineers whose employment demands they hold valid licenses as registered professional engineers in the State of California.

To date I have not received a response from this state agency whose responsibility is to protect the public of California from those who are issued professional licenses.

In September of 2014, I notified both the Federal Highway Administration Office of the Inspector General (FHWA OIG), and the Caltrans State Highway Traffic Safety Investigations Branch Chief in Sacramento via email of the physical as-built conditions accepted by Caltrans. I notified the FHWA OIG due to the Federal Highway Administration having funded the project. The FHWA OIG directed me to contact the California Division of the FHWA in Sacramento.

I then immediately proceeded to inform the California Division of the FHWA of the physical as-built conditions accepted by Caltrans also in September of 2014. To date I have not received a response from either the California Division of the FHWA, nor the Caltrans State Highway Traffic Safety Engineer.

Since my having understood the existing physical conditions accepted satisfactory by Caltrans, I have contacted the local print and television media organizations in the Humboldt Bay area fully informing them of the physical as-built conditions accepted by Caltrans. To date I have not received one response of interest from any of the news media.

I recently sent out an email to all emergency first responders of accidents along US 101 including the local hospitals, ambulance companies, and tow truck operators explaining to them the physical as-built conditions accepted by Caltrans. To date I have not received a response from any of these contacts.

I cannot overemphasize this is a serious, dangerous, existing physical condition along a stretch of roadway that has an average annual daily traffic volume of approximately 35,000 to 38,000 vehicles per day and a peak hour traffic volume of approximately 4,050 to 4,200 vehicles in a single hour. Each and every single day, the unsuspecting public is exposed to a dangerous condition where the safe recovery of the left-hand shoulder is not available in the event any motorist must swerve to avoid an impending collision with either another vehicle or an object in the roadway.

I am therefore requesting, beseeching if you will, that you, the elected representatives of your respective communities, generate and issue resolutions calling for Caltrans to accept responsibility for, and remedy as soon as possible, the existing dangerous and substandard roadway conditions they have allowed.

I am copying the governmental agencies, local media, and local emergency first responders to this email in hopes those governmental agencies will finally take action, the local news media will warn the innocent public of the existing dangerous conditions, the and emergency first responders will publicly express their support for any resolutions you may adopt.

Under separate email cover I intend to furnish you with more detailed information for your valued consideration that has been forwarded to those previously contacted.

I thank you for your valued time and consideration regarding this matter,

Douglas P. Jackson, PE



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One Comment;

  1. curlybill said:

    I think a lawsuit will be necessary for you to get a response. I wish it weren’t.

Comments are closed.