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Protesters descend on Willits bypass construction site again

  • Adam Young reads a book among signs protesting the Highway 101 Willits bypass project south of Willits. (PD FILE, 2013)

Protesters again disrupted work on the Willits bypass Wednesday morning in an ongoing effort to halt the Highway 101 project.

Two dozen people, including a member of the Willits City Council, blocked construction machinery at the north end of the project until CHP officers threatened them with arrest. They left about two hours after arriving at the site, north of Willits, said Willits Councilwoman Madge Strong.

“We all decided we weren’t going to have arrests today,” she said.

Strong said the $210 million, 5.9-mile bypass is an unnecessary, costly and ugly mistake that will harm the environment, damage Willits’ economy and ruin the surrounding Little Lake Valley’s beauty.

“It’s going to change us forever and ever for the worse,” she said.

Bypass proponents disagree.

“I think it’s going to improve the rural flavor of town” by shunting traffic around the historic downtown said Willits City Councilman Bruce Burton.

Traffic often comes to a standstill as Highway 101 narrows and makes its way through town.

The heavy traffic is both inconvenient and a safety hazard, Burton said.

Strong said traffic studies show only 25 percent of vehicles drive all the way through town, an amount not worth the financial, economic and environmental costs of the bypass.

Burton said he believes people who live in Brooktrails — a large subdivision at the north end of town — will drive a little farther north to use the bypass when commuting to work south of town. That will add to the overall traffic reduction, he said.

Wednesday’s protest is the latest since work began on the project in March.

Other bypass-stopping efforts have included tree sitting and a lawsuit set to be heard in San Francisco federal court June 21.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com.

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