Wider Highway 101 in California redwood grove is blocked by judge

Author Bob Egelko May 20, 2019

A longtime state proposal to widen a 1-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 in Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County to make room for bigger trucks has hit a roadblock in federal court, where a judge says Caltrans lacks adequate plans to protect ancient redwoods that soar 300 feet above the highway.

For the third time since the project was proposed in 2007, the state Department of Transportation assessed it in 2017 and concluded it would cause “no significant impact” to the environment. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco said Caltrans had brushed aside evidence that the road-widening could suffocate some redwoods, cause root disease in others and worsen damage to trees hit by trucks that skidded off the highway.

The department’s studies have failed to rule out “significant risks to the lives of these giants,” some of which are 3,000 years old, Alsup said in a ruling Friday that rejected the 2017 assessment. He said Caltrans had also given short shrift to the noise generated by heavier trucks and its effect on park visitors.

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