Lawsuit halts closure of rural Arroyo Grande Highway 101 crossings

May 11, 2019

Jordan Grant

A Sacramento judge ordered Caltrans to halt plans to block left-turn access to and from Highway 101 at four points between Arroyo Grande and Nipomo because of a lawsuit filed by Vintage Wine Estates, the owner of Laetitia Winery. [Cal Coast Times]

Caltrans had scheduled construction to begin Monday night, said Caltrans District 5 public information officer Jim Shivers. However, in response to a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a Sacramento County judge ordered a temporary halt to construction.

“This is due to a legal challenge filed in a Sacramento County court against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to stop the project,” Shivers said. “The assigned judge has ordered a temporary stay while the merits of the case are litigated. It’s uncertain how long this project will be suspended.”

On Oct. 6, 2018, Jordan Grant, 18, was riding his motorcycle southbound on Highway 101 near El Campo Road. A man living in the Falcon Ridge Estates on the west side of Highway 101 attempted to make a left turn onto the highway and pulled out in front of Grant’s motorcycle, killing the Cal Poly student.

Grant’s parents, James and Becky Grant, lobbied local officials and Caltrans to stop allowing left hand turns across four lanes of the highway. In April, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments board voted in favor of restricting left turns at the deadly Highway 101 intersections in South County.

In the lawsuit, Vintage Wine Estates alleges Caltrans violated environmental regulations by exempting the project from the California Environmental Quality Act. In addition, the litigants contend the closures were politically motivated.

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My spirits go UP when somebody else with (apparent) traffic engineering experience posts accurate CEQA and unintended-consequences observations here, and my spirits go DOWN when a bunch of readers down vote the poster’s accuracy. Traffic safety is a highly detailed and nuanced business.

And certainly I’m sorry for the loss of life. Perhaps we can make large new developments pay for safety Hwy 101 overpasses as a condition of their permits?

Oh, no, wait Lame, you’re forgetting that Gary and company snuck out of the 101 overpass for the new hundreds of homes in SLO. Developers often do that. Darn.

It’s more complicated than that. Just placing signals here and there is not the answer because it introduces other unintended consequences such as high speed rear end collisions, massive amounts of delay and congestion, and air quality impacts, to name a few. Route 101 connects the entire state and the west coast of North America for that matter. The highway should not be managed like a local road because of a few local land use decisions and the noise made by project proponents. This not political, just common sense rooted in sound planning and engineering.

Ultimately the answer is to construct grade separations (interchanges) and develop a more complete frontage road system. In the mean time limit movements to right-in and right -out only and give a hard, critical, and honest look when considering the transportation impacts of land use decisions, especially those that rely on US101 for primary access.

If we want to use these intersections, let’s just put in some traffic lights. I’m sure no one would mind that. They are very dangerous the way they are now. Close them to left turning NOW!

Closures were politically motivated? What a stretch. It’s patently obvious that the motivation of the closures was due to the fact that the intersections are dangerous.

The tragic death of such a young man is heartbreaking. There has to be a better way to honor him than bitterness. If every intersection that posed a threat to possible injury were immediately closed then there would be no intersections left. Road safely is a priority, and while improvements are scheduled and in process we should work together to reduce the hardship faced by those who would be harmed. Low cost signage, notices to neighborhoods, public driver safety announcements, and cost and efficiency enforcement of road construction agencies will make all of our roads safer without the division, hate, and blame. First we need love, then the answers come easily. I am truly sorry for the loss of Jordan, let the memory of him unite us.

I’ve driven that part of 101 and I can tell you that some of those folks making left hand turns going on to 101 take some pretty big risks, putting a lot of folks in danger, and a motorcyclist has little or no chance of surviving one of these people hitting him or her. In saying that I’ll also admit it’s a stretch of highway that the speed limit isn’t often followed by those driving it, including me. Combine the those two facts and you have recipe for death (in a study back in 2004 or 2005 showed there was over 200 collisions in a just 36 months directly related to those intersections).

I’m not a big fan of wineries, they take too much of the water that should be used elsewhere, and it sounds like Vintage Wine Estates filed this suit to protect it’s bottom line without regard to the safety of everyone, including their customers and employees, who travel that stretch of highway.

Good for the Judge on ensuring the legal system works. The loudest, most outspoken group would win without this legal intervention. Glad they aren’t letting one family’s emotion dictate our wider public policy.

Judge obviously doesn’t understand CEQA:

1. A simple median closure (yes, this one is simple) is ALMOST always Categorically Exempt (CE). This fact is easily discoverable.

2. “Politically motivated” really? LOL…Albeit, CALTRANS tends to be conservative and risk averse but to assign politics as a motivation is patently absurd. You want to know why CT is the way it is? Because of settlements paid out every year (more than $70 million, every year) to settle predatory lawsuits brought against the State by an out-of-control tort culture, for not addressing “allegedly” unsafe roadway conditions… Change the one-percent culpability/deep pocket laws and this culture is likely to change. But for now that’s what we have.

So, high speeds (65-75 mph), a healthy percentage of trucks, 60k plus average daily volumes, and a future of proposed housing and recreational development(s) planned on the “back-forty” of the Laetitia property that will use the 101 FREEWAY as an all-way access point. Get the picture? Do the math. Doesn’t sound very politically motivated to me. Sounds like it’s all about profit at any cost.

Money grubbing winos. Screw public safety. Let’s ply the tourists with alcohol and send them out across the busiest highway on the central coast and see what innocent person they ping pong across the asphalt.