Old Arcata Road plans unveiled, plus a timeline update

City of Arcata graphic

Steve Robles
Mad River Union

ARCATA/BAYSIDE – Everyone in Bayside agrees Old Arcata Road needs to be improved. But few agree what that improvement should look like.

Days after another accident on the neglected road triggered a vegetation fire, and three years after the City of Arcata first started developing plans for the Old Arcata Road Design Project, an oft-contentious public meeting Thursday, Aug. 15 in which the city unveiled its prospective plans pitted neighbor against neighbor and neighbor against the city planners.

Old Arcata Road is a significant travel route for Arcata and the Bayside community. The road acts as an alternative route and an oversized load route for U.S. Highway 101, provides access to important facilities including Sunny Brae Middle School, Jacoby Creek School, the Bayside Post Office and it provides access to unincorporated areas.

Currently, Old Arcata Road regularly experiences motorists traveling at high speeds, a large portion of the pavement within the project area is in poor condition, and there are limited pedestrian and bicyclist facilities making it a challenging road to travel.

The new roundabout proposed for Old Arcata and Jacoby Creek roads. City of Arcata image

Center stage at Bayside Community Hall was whether or not roundabouts can be used to mitigate the after-hours traffic that comes howling at ungodly speeds down Old Arcata Road. Some were skeptical.

“I would rather have a stop sign than a roundabout,” said Marc Delany of Bayside.

But others in the community, such as nurse Kristi Colbert, who said she has witnessed two fatal accidents near her home, implored her neighbors to embrace change.

“We need to suspend our disbelief that this can work,” she said, “it can.”

At times the meeting represented the tension inherent in a community like Bayside. It’s not really a part of the city, much of it is unincorporated, and while it falls on the city to shepherd projects such as these, some residents seemed eager to remind their city officials not to push their “city folk” ideas like bicycle access, roundabouts, and paved rights-of-way on their quiet, country byways.

“This is not the city!” cried one flummoxed neighbor.

While some accused the city of steamrolling past public input, proceeding without a traffic survey, assistant city engineer Netra Khatri reminded residents three previous meetings in which public input was sought had taken place during the process which began in 2016.

But Delany said he had only heard about this meeting at the last minute, as word-of-mouth spread through the community in recent days.

“We never got a notice about this meeting,” he said.

Some were concerned about how the changes would affect street parking (Khatri said they were looking into it), whether bus service would be extended out toward Jacoby Creek Road (it won’t), and whether the city was properly accounting for aesthetics such as walkability (remains to be seen).

Denise Downey of Bayside didn’t think the city was paying enough attention to drainage along the highway.

Residents looked over giant printouts of the road spread out over tables, as well as images of the city plans, and stayed well after the meeting, which went longer than scheduled.

“I’ve been going to these things for three years,” said Khatri, “and I’ve never seen anything like this.

Funding for the $4.1 million project will be provided by the State Transportation Improvement Project ($2.4 million), ighway Infrastructure Program ($841,000) and the remainder from Measure G, Arcata’s .75 cent Sales and Use Tax increment.

The project is in its environmental study phase, with the initial design about 35 percent complete. 

The design should be finished by 2020, when finding will be finalized and the project will go out to bid. Another public hearing will be held to review plans, with construction set to begin in 2021.

A dashboard view. City of Arcata image

Update from Assistant City Engineer Netra Khatri

Thank you all for attending the Old Arcata Road Design Project update meeting/workshop on 8/16/19.

The project information presented at the workshop are available at : http://www.cityofarcata.org/720/Old-Arcata-Road-Design-Project and a tentative project schedule is depicted below:

As stated during the meeting, currently we are in the Environmental and Preliminary Design phase of the project.

This phase of work started late last year and as a part of this phase we are preparing following documentations:

  • Geotechnical investigation and study report
  • Historic property and archeological surveys/reports
  • Necessary engineering and environmental studies

o   Preliminary Environmental Study

o   Area of Potential Effect (APE), both horizontal and vertical

o   Historic Property Survey Report & Archaeological Survey Report

o   Special Status Plant Surveys and Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) Evaluation

o   Wetlands Delineation

o   Initial Site Assessment (ISA)

o   Drainage and Stormwater Evaluation

o   Preliminary Right-of-Way Evaluation

  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation &
  • Preliminary design (30% Design).

Next Steps:

  • Finalize above documents, target date October 15, 2019
  • Continue to work on design, specifications and cost estimate documents, complete by March 2020
  • Advertise and bidding , target date August 2020
  • Construction, target date April 2021.

As always please do not hesitate to contact me if you need additional information regarding the project.


Netra Khatri, P.E.

Assistant City Engineer

City of Arcata - www.cityofarcata.org

Office: (707) 825-2173

Cell: (707) 267-4287

[email protected]