HIGHWAY 199 WORK HALTED FOR WEEKEND

May 24, 2001 11:00 pm

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As promised, Caltrans put a halt to blasting on Friday, meaning only minor traffic delays at the Highway 199 construction site east of Crescent City.

According to officials, the project will not resume until Tuesday morning as an accommodation for Memorial Day travelers and the tourism industry in Del Norte and Curry counties.

Only minor delays of 10-20 minutes are expected through the three-day weekend while pilot cars ferry traffic through the one-lane construction area.

Highway 199 is the main connection from the coast to the Rogue Valley and Interstate 5.

Among the holiday weekend events that could receive a boost from the delay in construction will be the Azalea Festival in Brookings.

The rock slide abatement project has come under severe criticism for the one-to-two hour traffic delays it causes while blasting takes place and materials are removed from the site, know as The Narrows.

At a recent Del Norte County Board of Supervisors meeting in Crescent City, it was estimated that businesses along the 199 corridor were losing up to 60 percent of their tourist dollars so far. And concerns are, that with the summer tourist season just beginning and the news of the construction delays spreading, the 2001 economy for the two counties could take a big financial hit.

Earlier this week, the Del Norte supervisors continued to question the necessity of the blasting and the timing of the project. But they seemed to have accepted that Caltrans was not going to stop the project any time soon.

Instead, the supervisors are placing their focus on attempting to assist the affected businesses make it through the constructions duration without having to go bankrupt.

Additionally, the superintendents endorsed a draft four-point plan developed by the Del Norte Local Transportation Commission to help combat the problems created by the Caltrans project:

To find a solution to the rock slide problem, as defined by Caltrans, that would either postpone the blasting until the tourism season is over in September, or completely cancel the project.

To coordinate emergency and public services on the stretch of U.S. 199, to ensure they will continue without tragic consequences or inconvenience.

To coordinate the dissemination of public information and to formulate a public relations plan to offset the negative news impact of the traffic delays.

To identify specific economic impacts and provide a clearing house for information about potential sources of financial assistance to affected businesses, and to develop a coordinated summer marketing effort for the region.

Several Curry County agencies and organizations have passed resolutions promising support of ongoing efforts in Del Norte County to address the construction problem.

The Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Curry County Commission, City of Brookings and Port of Brookings Harbor are all taking a proactive role in attempting to stem the economic impact of The Narrows project.

The Curry County resolutions also include a request that the possible start of air service between Crescent City and Medford be expedited as one solution to the traffic dilemma between the coast communities and the I-5 corridor.

It is hoped the urgency of the transportation problem being faced by area residents, and the resulting economic impact, might move the FAA to fast track funding for air service.