OK, I finished the A-Z Challenge, so I am going to restart it. This time, however, I am going to focus on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is B for bypass.
Bypass Is a Four-Letter Word
There is a bypass soon to arrive in Willits. Or maybe not. Right now the whole project is in limbo. The folks gathered along the east side of the 101, just outside the south end of town, believe strongly that there should not be a bypass, or at least not where it is currently slated to be built. The folks on the west side of the 101, believe there should be a bypass. Whichever side a guy is on, he better be ready to hash it out, because there is bound to be a great deal of palaver.
I live much of the time in Willits, so I have my personal perspective, but I would like to present both sides, objectively, so I am going to keep my opinion to myself. There does not seem to be any way to carry on any type of dialogue, without someone getting hot under the collar.
When leaving San Francisco on the 101, travelers make it all the way to Willits, before they encounter a traffic signal. Now, of course, there are three, as progress has created the need for more. Many people believe that the traffic going through the center of Willits brings blessings along with its curse. Businesses benefit, tourists benefit and what could be bad about that?
Others argue that too much traffic goes through Willits, and why not just reroute it, so as to allow those who want to pop into Willits to be able to do so, thereby benefiting businesses, while allowing the rest to, well, bypass it? The biggest slowdown occurs while traveling north, because the 101 narrows from two lanes to one, just at the midsection of the town, creating the classic bottleneck. This does not occur at all hours, just at peak times, like the morning school rush, the afternoon school rush, and various times in between. Late afternoons are always congested.
Wait, school traffic? What does that have to do with the 101, and a bypass? It’s all kind of muddled, but some believe that without the additional through traffic, school traffic by itself would not create the slowdowns. Others point out that it doesn’t seem to change dramatically in the summer, so what’s up with that?
Another point of contention, is that CalTrans has chosen a particularly vulnerable route, one that will create a great deal of havoc within the natural wetlands ecosystem. Others argue that it does not matter which route is chosen, because the wetlands extend from the current site of the highway, all the way to the foothills east of the highway. It’s a jumble of confusion and mixed dialogue, some of it not particularly polite.
There’s a young woman perched seventy feet up a tree, who has vowed to remain there until the dilemma is resolved, to the satisfaction of the environmentalists. There are those who support her. On the other side, we have those who are simply tired of the traffic, plus those who are employed by CalTrans, demonstrating in favor of the bypass. I have read articles in the newspapers as far north as Eureka, and as far south as the San Francisco Chronicle. I have read numerous letters to the editor(s).
There are even those who believe that if the section of Highway 101, which goes straight through the center of town, could be reconfigured, there would be no need for a bypass at all. There appears to be no easy solution.
Folks have been talking about a bypass for forty years, and money has been allocated by the state, withdrawn, and reallocated. Still there is no construction. The process was even under way, for all of a few days, recently, when the discovery of two birds’ nests brought the whole shebang to a screeching halt. There are rules and regulations concerning the migrations of birds, and there are certainly people who feel that until matters were clarified, that no progress should occur.
All I know is that, regardless of which side of the highway you are on, bypass is a four-letter word.