Judge halts Highway 101 widening through Humboldt redwood grove

  • In this photo taken July 28, 2010, California State Park peace officer Tim Wallace stands among redwoods at Richardson Grove State Park, Calif. Richardson Grove State Park is called the gateway to Humboldt County but officials and local businesses say this narrow roadway is actually a barrier to the regions economic growth. (AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Manny Crisostomo) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge halted work on a highway project in Richardson Grove State Park, saying a trial is needed to determine whether the road widening work would harm a grove of ancient redwoods.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco issued his ruling late Wednesday, and set a trial date for Dec. 1.

The California Department of Transportation planned to begin work in late January to realign a one-mile section of Highway 101 that snakes through a stand of old redwood trees.

The agency has not proposed removing any of the ancient redwoods, but the plaintiffs argue the digging needed to widen the road will damage the roots of the towering old trees.

This stretch is the only part of Highway 101 from San Francisco to the Oregon border where the large Surface Transportation Assistance Act trucks — used to ferry goods around most of the nation — cannot fit without their rear wheels falling off the roadway.

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