The California Department of Transportation will officially announce tomorrow that the opening date of the beleaguered Willits Bypass Project is being pushed back another full year — to the summer of 2017 — the Outpost has learned.
A few moments ago, Caltrans Public Information Officer Phil Frisbie said that the decision to push back the opening date stemmed from the realization that the construction window on one portion of the project — four bridges on the north end of the town — is rapidly approaching, and work that needs to be completed before that deadline will not be complete.
Specifically, the department had hoped to have enough fill dirt trucked and put in place to settle through the winter, so that the approaches to the four bridges would have a stable foundation. But a lawsuit brought by local environmental groups earlier this year delayed the trucking in of fill dirt for several weeks, and now Caltrans cannot meet their Oct. 15 deadline, Frisbie said. The work will have to proceed next year.
Frisbie was eager to note that the department estimates that the delay will end up raising the cost of the project by between $5 million and $10 million. This on top of the delays and increased cost to taxpayers that activism and legal action have already occasioned, a vexed Frisbie declaimed: “Last year’s protests already added about $12 million to the cost of the project.”
You wouldn’t know it if you only pass through the town as quickly as possible, but the Willits Bypass is already well along. Check out this aerial photo taken by Willits resident Maureen Moore earlier this month.