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Business owners and Curry and Del Norte county officials worried about losing money because of long delays on Highway 199 demanded Tuesday that Caltrans do something to end the backup.
I am having to tell my employees not to come to work today, said Bill Weir of Patrick Creek Lodge. Business has dropped off 30 percent, he said.
Weir and others made the comments at a special meeting of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, which was called to decide whether or not to petition Californias government to declare a local state of emergency.
(Editor's note: The latest CalTrans report on Highway 199 reads "This highway information is the latest reported as of Friday, May 18, 2001: One-way controlled traffic 14.1 miles south of the Oregon State Line from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday due to slide repairs. Motorists are subject to one to two hour delays.")
The reduction of traffic and the difficulty travelling between Oregon and California will significantly affect this community, said County Administrative Officer Ben Angove. This can cost us millions of dollars across the private sector.
Curry County Commissioner Marlyn Schaefer said, We have a lot of businesses that are concerned. Medical is a big issue. There are a lot of people travelling to the valley for medical treatment and they have to use 199.
Caltrans officials at the meeting said they understood the hillside stabilization project on Highway 199 is inconvenient, but said something must be done to prevent possible rockslides.
It could come down tomorrow, it could come down today, or it could come down a year from now, said Caltrans engineer Gordon Johnson. But it is going to come down and wed like to bring it down in a controlled fashion.
The possible threat of a slide closing the road also makes delaying the project until after the summer impossible, Johnson said.
When asked if the work and road closures could be done after dark by using work lights, Johnson said this couldnt be done because necessary light wouldnt reach the 300-foot high level the blasting is being done at. Also, the falling rock would crush the work lights.
Caltrans said it would consider an idea from Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure that the blasting be done during late daylight hours and the cleanup be done at night.
Peter Spratt, of the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce, asked for a joint session with Del Norte officials to seek some short-term solutions for a long-term problem.
There has been a lot of advertising money spent in Rogue Valley, Spratt said. That money will be wasted if valley residents started looking for someplace else to go.
Wed like to be a player in this, said Curry County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer. This is a much bigger problem than just California. Id be open to having another session on this to find other ways to go forward.
Port of Brookings Harbor Commissioner Ken Byrtus said, We need to solve this problem somehow, simply for all the summer business were going to lose.
Like Marlyn said, however we can help you just make the phone call and well be there, he said.
Leonard Brick, who sits on the transportation board for Jackson and Josephine counties , said his counties want to get involved as well.
The Cave Junction City Council is offering their full support on this resolution, he said. We already have an energy problem and the gasoline problem, so we certainly dont need this.
Clyde Radke of the California Highway Patrol in Crescent City said that although delays have been diminishing somewhat, emergencies are still happening on Highway 199; not on a financial level but on a personal one.
We have a motoring public experiencing these 1-to-2 hour delays which they werent expecting, he said. They can be sitting out there in 100 degree temperatures, without public services, in a car that is overheating and will no longer run and with a sick child in the backseat. Now that is an emergency.
The supervisors approved recommending that an emergency be declared. If granted by the governor, affected businesses would be eligible for low-interest, long-term loans.
Although the supervisors passed the resolution, they said the loans would be difficult to pay back and were not the answer.
If the whole mountain came down, that would be an emergency. But this is a self-imposed trickle emergency, said Supervisor David Finigan. What is not acceptable is to decimate the economies of a couple counties in a couple states.