Monday, December 31, 2018

State Staff Recommends Funding Final Leg of Bay Trail

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2018 at 12:01 PM

click to enlarge A map of the Humboldt Bay Trail. The 4-mile section in red has yet to be completed. - SUBMITTED
  • submitted
  • A map of the Humboldt Bay Trail. The 4-mile section in red has yet to be completed.
Folks eagerly awaiting the completion of the Humboldt Bay Trail got a bit of a New Year's gift this morning with the county's announcement that state staff is recommending allocating a $13.3 million grant to finish the last 4-mile stretch of waterfront trail.

The recommendations will come before the California Transportation Commission at its Jan. 31 meeting.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved an environmental impact report for the project back in July and, assuming the commission follows staff's recommendation to fund the project next month, construction is expected to begin in 2021.

See the full release from the county copied below:

The project to complete the 4-mile gap in the Humboldt Bay Trail between Eureka and Arcata is on the list of projects recommended for funding through the state’s 2019 Active Transportation Program.

The Active Transportation Program is a competitive grant program that funds bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout California. The list of recommended projects was released by California Transportation Commission staff on Dec. 28 and is expected to be formally approved by the Commission at its Jan. 31 meeting. Humboldt County’s “Humboldt Bay Trail South” project was tied for the fifth-highest score in the category of projects that competed on a statewide basis. The recommended funding amount is $13.3 million.

The Humboldt Bay Trail will provide a balanced transportation system between the county’s two largest cities by constructing a facility dedicated for non-motorized use separated from U.S. Highway 101. In addition to serving the region’s transportation needs, the Humboldt Bay Trail will achieve a critical link in the California Coastal Trail and enhance recreational use and enjoyment around the bay.

“Our community places a high value on trails,” said 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn. “Trails give people the opportunity to be physically active and connect with the outdoors. I see families, young adults, and seniors enjoying the Eureka Waterfront Trail all the time. Trails help make Humboldt County a great place to live and visit. Many people have told us they would bike or walk between Eureka and Arcata if they felt safe to do so. We appreciate the Transportation Commission’s support for the Humboldt Bay Trail as an important investment in safety and quality of life for our region.”

The Humboldt Bay Trail South project will provide a paved path with two 5-foot lanes from the Eureka Slough area to the Bracut Industrial Park, creating the interconnecting link between the Eureka Waterfront Trail and Arcata’s Humboldt Bay Trail North segment. The proposed alignment for the multi-use trail is situated primarily along the U.S. Highway 101 and railroad corridor with the exception of a proposed levee trail segment around the California Redwood Company mill site. Construction is projected to begin in 2021.

The project design accounts for constraints along the narrow transportation corridor and sensitive habitat areas along the shoreline of Humboldt Bay. The current design includes three new bridges, modifications to the existing railroad bridge across Eureka Slough, retaining walls, repair of the shoreline revetment along the railroad, removal of a portion of the eucalyptus trees along the highway, removal of at least one billboard, and construction of a cable barrier between U.S. Highway 101 and the trail. The project includes extending the cable barrier along portions of the City of Arcata’s existing trail adjacent to U.S. Highway 101.

The Humboldt Bay Trail is being developed as a series of projects through the collaborative efforts of the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG), Humboldt County, City of Arcata, City of Eureka, Caltrans, California State Coastal Conservancy, North Coast Railroad Authority, Redwood Community Action Agency, Humboldt Trails Council, and other partners. In 2017, the Humboldt Bay Trail Fund was established at the Humboldt Area Foundation enabling individuals and businesses to provide financial support. So far, nearly 450 donors have contributed almost $300,000 to the fund. Completion of Humboldt County’s project will result in a continuous non-motorized trail from central Arcata to the southern end of Eureka for a total length of nearly 14 miles.

Humboldt County initiated technical studies to evaluate alignment options for Humboldt Bay Trail South in 2013. Preliminary engineering and environmental studies began in 2015. The Board of Supervisors adopted the environmental study report in July 2018. Prior to starting construction, Humboldt County will need to complete the engineering plans and specifications, acquire environmental permits, develop a plan for mitigating wetland impacts, and acquire right-of-way.

The proposed project crosses property owned by the North Coast Railroad Authority, Caltrans, City of Eureka, and three private landowners. Humboldt County will need to obtain right-of-way through easement or acquisition from the three affected private landowners. Humboldt County has initiated discussions with the affected landowners regarding right-of-way and seeks to work cooperatively with each of them to obtain the rights needed for the trail. Right-of-way for transportation projects is acquired based on appraisals to determine fair market value.

The Humboldt Bay Trail is related to the Highway 101 Eureka-Arcata Corridor Improvement Project, a major project initiated in 2002 by Caltrans and HCAOG to improve highway safety and operations at six at-grade crossings on U.S. Highway 101, including a major new interchange at Indianola. In September 2013, the Coastal Commission adopted a condition that construction of the Corridor Improvement Project cannot begin until the Humboldt Bay Trail is fully funded and has right-of-way secured. Completion of the Humboldt Bay Trail will enable completion of the Corridor Improvement Project which has been a regional priority for highway safety since 2002.

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Thadeus Greenson

Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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