Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bye-Bye Bypass?

The Willits freeway bypass funds at risk? Oh, boo-hoo-hoo.

Has the experience of thousands of small towns, hundreds of cities, tons of pollution, lungs full of poison, shortened lives, lost community and peace of mind, crime, speed and killing in hopped-up freeway toyland, i.e., America, finally trickled down to off-the-beaten-track Mendocino County so that Ft. Bragg, Ukiah and Point Arena won’t kneel in worship with our Willits city council’s deep love for Caltrans? They won’t give everything they have for a bypass? Tut.

Strange how we feel such breathless haste to completely destroy our lovely valley and the lives we’ve built in it. Something like lemmings scrambling and shuffling into the sea. An example for human life, lemmings aren’t. Trust me.

Obviously our Willits city fathers don’t want those nasty tourists clogging up our main street (so let’s forget about one of the town’s only means of income; yes, that’s good thinking; and tourist traffic has been clocked as 15% of the traffic and Caltrans will save us with a $150 million scar right up the last alluvial wetlands valley left in the state).

Councilman Lucier doesn’t want to “damage the possibility of ever constructing the bypass” — is that a cherished goal in somebody’s heart? It assumes, unthinkingly, such a monumental change to our lives, lands and futures is a good thing, like it never was in the places we left.

In fact, the freeway and the degradation it both represents and engenders would be tragic.

In bringing satirical attention to the hoodwinked city council who after all are just buying the big baloney America has eaten for 40 years, I am opposing first, that the freeway is a solution to anything that matters, and two, that the club of inevitability Caltrans uses on small towns is nothing but a bluff.

I can understand that citizens who are fed propaganda for two generations — if you want to be a virile, happy, powerful, free individual, it means a car driving fast on “your” freeway — will give up in the face of a big agency like Caltrans. You’re made to feel ashamed for all kinds of unconscious reasons dating back to youth. But we’re grown-ups. We’re big boys and girls.

Napa Valley residents, wine growers especially, rejected Caltrans’ pressures and bullying. They realized the tourist industry would wither if a freeway spread its concrete snake, taking up valuable land and scarring the valley’s whole lifestyle and purpose. They opposed the freeway. Napa Valley is booming. Their little secret? They knew that citizens with money want to go to interesting places, places that the people there treasure and protect. Interesting people get interested in communities that have integrity, and they spend money, and some of them move there and make the communities better and — are you listening? — richer. 

As for our specific issue of the day, I know full well that Fort Bragg and Ukiah are grousing about sacrificing their funds to a “Willits” freeway project because it doesn’t pave their roads or line their pockets. Caltrans will get that extra $17.5 million somehow, don’t fret feint hearts.

Caltrans is run by the California Transportation Commission, a board made up entirely of mall, real estate, construction and tire interests. Do you doubt for a second what this pawn of auto, oil and big machinery will do to our home?

The two-lane truck route for $66 million was just the foot in the door. Caltrans doesn’t build truck routes. The freeway they have in mind rings up at $105 million, right through our valley, a fraudulent estimate because it ignores the eight-foot high roadbed to keep the road from sinking.

In a few years there will be sinkholes. How do we know? Caltrans drops its broken asphalt in the north valley; it sinks and disappears in a winter. Where would Caltrans get 220 acres of eight-foot high rock? By stripping the surrounding mountains and devastating the wildlife and watersheds.

And all land between a railroad and freeway becomes a slum, degraded land; that is an invariable law. The slang term is sprawl.

Stupidity and cowardice make for a poor common future. I would encourage my fellow citizens to throw off the illusions that auto and oil advertisements have so cleverly entwined and weakened them with.

Poisonous oxides increase exponentially under higher speeds. But the auto industry tells you that’s when cars become more efficient — efficient for the engine, not efficient for the water supply. Nor for tax base, businesses, lives, lands or children.

Business brought by freeway traffic amounts to a bunch of gas stations, casinos and franchise uglies.

It isn’t inevitable that we live like that, a way we cannot honor.


  1. William Ray January 11, 2020

    Couldn’t have said it better today. The final cost for this bamboozle was, not $150 millions from the taxpayers, but over three times that, $459 million, $76 million per mile for six miles. The comparable cost per California (FREE)way mile elsewhere is $12 million.

    Conclusion: millions of tons of carbon pollution thenceforth into the pure lungs of the region, what Alita Colli once defined “our lovely little Valley,” and ownership of a quarter of those 8,000 acres by Caltrans forever, with its North interchange being built for 30,000 vehicles per day, five times the actual traffic, and placed directly over the archaeological site of the prior Pomo culture. These are not good omens.

    The city fathers continued to degrade their trust and the area’s future after being informed of the bureaucracy’s perennial falsehood that the federal government would “only fund roads of four lanes”. They answered back, “Thank you Caltrans,” defiling sustenance by breaking bread on the concrete pad.

    One is tempted to switch the slogan’s “C” to an “M” in an attempt at humor. But folly is so ancient the Romans wrote the adage, “Si mundus vult decipi, decipiatur,”––If the world wishes to be fooled, let it.

    • Wayne January 11, 2020

      Those dollars were well spent. Living in Willits after the bypass is much nicer & safer than before it.

  2. William Ray January 12, 2020

    “Those dollars were well spent. Living in Willits after the bypass is much nicer & safer than before it.”
    The greatest argument for reality is the fact itself. The through traffic was 15% of vehicle volume “before it”. Now after “it” is the additional fact of exponential increase in poisonous nitrous oxides, produced as the inevitable byproduct of the higher speeds which by definition the roadway guarantees. Your breath “before it” is complicit after it. The lowest expulsion of this poison occurs between 25-35 mph, the speed limit through Willits’ Main Street “before it”. Therefore, your lung fouling has not been bypassed. Nor is the nearly 20% loss of the businesses within the city, or the 20% removal of ranch and dry-farming livelihoods across the valley. I would differ that overbilling six-fold for a mile of freeway is nicer and safer. There were two deaths on Main Street in the last fifty years, neither involving through traffic. Though another point may not matter in your thinking, on a broader time and moral perspective, the remains of the Pomo sites lie homogenized in that valley now, a 250,000 cubic yard long mound by East Side Rd. off-loaded onto previously “prime ag land”.

    The “Free”way ruse has merely moved from threatened to actual existence by passive uninformed consent. There was ample opportunity to build a minimal impact “bypass” truck route without these eternally damaging results. But to regretfully modify the Roman axiom of human folly, you wished to be fooled, and thereby used and degraded, and indeed it came to pass.

  3. Lazarus January 12, 2020

    Mr. Ray,
    If your points are toxins, graft and obviously money, that issue was decided decades ago. Power does not care.
    Sure some bypass protesters huffed and puffed but blew nobody’s house down and a couple of guys made the media darling list… for about a minute, then morphed into the obscurity of irrelevance.
    If the dope law had not been changed, Willits would still be a haven for expenditures of disposable income crowd, bypass or not, but that has also ended.
    With or without the bypass, Willits and The Valley, sacred as some think it may be, has risen or sunk to its appropriate level. I know folks who use the bypass as a point of interest for visitors, which I’m sure is appalling to you. Then I suppose, there are folks who vomit at the sight of the concrete behemoth, oh well.
    Get over it sir, the deed is done, move on or blow it up, and see how that ends for you… this whining years after the fact is sad if not ridiculous.
    As always,

  4. George Dorner January 12, 2020

    I’ve recently ridden around the bypass. My reaction to this string of ordinary two-lane highway is, Is this all there is? They spent half a billion dollars for this?

    • Lazarus January 12, 2020

      Who F**king cares…right or wrong we bought and paid for it, and a section even fell down!

      As always,

    • Mark Scaramella January 12, 2020

      And I gather from the Caltrans traffic cam that the traffic is pretty light too.
      When they propose their next “bypass” (without even an intersection for the main crossroad) maybe we should at least ask for better justification.

      • Lazarus January 12, 2020

        The City Council in Willits messed with CT for years. My read at the end was, Caltrans does what Caltrans wants, straight up…
        As always,

  5. Eric Sunswheat January 12, 2020

    The recent hwy 20 Potter Valley turn off Caltrans ‘improvements’ is another lesson, on how the agency keeps building safety design flaws into this intersection and with inadequate signage, in order to increase accident statistics, so the personnel can come again in a few years, with more millions to have another road construction party out in the sunny country side, away from most of the rains and fog of Caltrans District 1.

  6. William Ray January 12, 2020

    “Get over it sir, the deed is done, move on or blow it up, and see how that ends for you… this whining years after the fact is sad if not ridiculous.
    As always,

    Laz(arus) who had to be raised from the dead by supernatural agency, or just Laz(y)? Only the wordless dead really know what always is. For us the possibly living the truth matters whether or not it wins a given day or struggle. I believe I am not alone mourning what happened to the last, formerly ‘our’, undisturbed alluvial valley in California. Ursula Le Guin foresaw that survivors of so called civilization would use the Alta California abandoned roadways at times if still stable and convenient. I admit to not achieving the anesthetizing comforts of Cynicism just yet, though there is ample time ahead. I’m only seventy-six. Cheers.

  7. George Dorner January 13, 2020

    The Great Bypass Brouhaha led me to three conclusions about CalTrans:
    1) They do whatever the hell they want.
    2) They pay no attention to laws and regulations.
    3) The truth is not within them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *