Thursday, September 27, 2001
While Monterey County races to pave the way for an additional lane on Highway 1 before the rains come, two citizens groups--whose members at one time faced off over a similar transportation issue--have joined forces to stop the flow of asphalt.
Two local organizations, Citizens for Hatton Canyon and Responsible Consumers of the Monterey Peninsula, have appealed the county''s project to the California Coastal Commission on the grounds that it does not conform to the local coastal plan. It''s likely that the appeal will be heard at the commission''s October 8-12 meeting.
The highway-widening project, which would add one northbound lane beginning 500 feet north of Carmel Valley Road and running north to Morse Drive, was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 4 and has won the approval of Gov. Gray Davis.
An additional northbound lane is a relatively cheap and easy fix to the existing traffic problem, says Supervisor Dave Potter. The doomed Hatton Canyon freeway project, an idea born in 1956 and intended to alleviate traffic congestion along Highway 1 by providing an alternate route through Hatton Canyon, died in 1999, along with its funding. That left few options for easing traffic troubles along Highway 1.
"This is basically a desire to do some sort of short-term project that will provide congestion relief on the hill," Potter says. "This is about a $2.5 million project, and it''s really nothing more than putting a little bit of asphalt on either side of the highway."
The project would also remove between 58 and 81 trees along Highway 1, wherein lies the basis for opposition and, as it were, the roots of discontent. The local coastal program requires that the forested corridor along Highway 1 be "maintained as a scenic resource" and that new development along Highway 1 "preserve the forested corridor effect and minimize visual impact."
"It directly contradicts the local coastal plan," says David Dilworth, co-chair of Responsible Consumers of Our Monterey Peninsula. "It says maintain [the forested corridor along Highway 1], not maintain part of it. It intends for all of it to be protected."
Dilworth says more asphalt is not the answer to the county''s traffic woes.
"Once you have a congested road, traffic solutions are no longer possible. The only solutions are land-use solutions, decreasing the density, decreasing the number of people who use the area. You can''t pave your way out of congestion."
In 1987, Dilworth founded the Hatton Canyon Coalition in opposition to the Hatton Canyon freeway project, which environmentalists feared would decimate sensitive red-legged frog habitat. At the time, the Coalition''s nemesis was the pro-freeway Citizens for Hatton Canyon. In an unexpected turn of events, Citizens for Hatton Canyon has now joined Dilworth in opposing the county''s Highway 1 widening efforts. The two former rivals both cite the environment as a primary concern.
"This project is not consistent with the coastal plan and involves the destruction of environmentally sensitive habitat," says Christine Gianascol, attorney for Citizens for Hatton Canyon. "It doesn''t solve the long-range traffic problems for Highway 1, and in fact, it really doesn''t even solve the immediate traffic problems. It takes out trees, many of which are landmark pine trees and oak trees, and removes the forested corridor along Highway 1. And it''s not going to provide any measurable traffic relief."
The Citizens have yet to give up on a Hatton Canyon freeway project, she adds.
"Our main goal is to see the Hatton Canyon freeway built," says Gianascol. "And despite all that has occurred, it''s still a potential project. I don''t think that the issue is in fact dead. It is really the only long-term solution."
Potter concurs that the additional northbound lane isn''t a long-term solution, but says it will alleviate current traffic congestion. And while he says he''s not familiar enough with Dilworth''s appeal to comment on it--Dilworth did not attend the Sept. 4 Board of Supervisors hearing--Potter says the Citizens for Hatton Canyon''s motives are more political than environmental.
"Obviously, the Hatton Canyon project is deceased, and I think it''s a community injustice that the pro-freeway crowd continues to object to anything other than the freeway," Potter says. "It''s an affordable project, there''s no take, why should we continue to go ahead and not do something for the community as far as Highway 1 goes?"
the Weekly Tally$19.05 Hourly wage required in order for a single parent in Monterey County to meet basic needs (housing, child care, food, transportation and health care). California''s median hourly wage is $13.10. The state minimum wage is $6.25.
--Source: California Budget Project