Over the Hill

More will die on this stretch of Hwy. 101 unless we demand change

North County grape grower Richard Sauret, 82, was killed on Sept. 30 in a collision on Highway 101 at Wellsona Road.
North County grape grower Richard Sauret, 82, was killed on Sept. 30 in a collision on Highway 101 at Wellsona Road. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

The many friends and relatives of 82-year-old Richard Sauret of Paso Robles may want to do something significant to honor him. He was killed on the night of Sept. 30 in a collision at Wellsona Road on the deadly stretch of Highway 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel.

The driver of the other vehicle was 24-year-old Jorge Gomez Ayala of San Miguel. His family and friends may also want to honor him, as well as comfort him. He was severely injured and rushed to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

One way to honor them is to write letters to your state Assembly member, your state senator and Gov. Jerry Brown. Also write to the director of Caltrans. Tell them the state should promptly rebuild our deadly section of Highway 101.

You could tell them that Richard Sauret was a good and respected man who grew prize-winning grapes. But I’m sure many of you knew him better than I did and can find more touching things to say. And if you are a relative or friend of Jorge Gomez Ayala, you can tell the state officials about his excellent qualities and how badly injured he was.

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In fact, anyone who regularly travels that 7-mile, non-freeway stretch of 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel should write letters. Tell the state officials how unsafe it gets because drivers forget that section of Highway 101 is not a freeway.

The state is now rebuilding the northernmost part of those unsafe seven miles, but that project stops more than a mile north of Wellsona Road. That’s a dark disappointment. The Wellsona Road intersection is the deadliest, bloodiest part of Highway 101 in the North County.

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The intersection of Wellsona Road and Highway 101 is part of a 7-mile stretch where the road is not classified as a freeway. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

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Back in 2012 I started keeping track of all fatal traffic crashes on the non-freeway stretch of 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel. According to my unofficial records, nine people have been killed on those seven miles. Seven of them were killed at Wellsona Road and two nearer to Paso Robles.

Those deaths wouldn’t have happened if Highway 101 was a full freeway all the way from Paso Robles to San Miguel. And the state might make it a full freeway if a lot of voters and businesses sent letters about it to our state assemblyman, our state senator, our governor and Caltrans.

Richard Sauret and Jorge Gomez Ayala have thousands of friends. I hope they all write letters. Here are the names and addresses:

▪  Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, State Capitol, Suite 4102, Sacramento, CA 94249

▪  State Sen. Bill Monning, State Capitol, Room 313, Sacramento, CA 95814

▪  Gov. Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814

▪  Mr. Malcolm Dougherty, Acting Director Calif. Department of Transportation, Director’s Office, MS 49, 1120 N St., Sacramento, CA 95814

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

The intersection of Wellsona Road and Highway 101 has been a concern of San Luis Obispo County drivers for years. Tracy Hunter-Gajdos was driving across the road in her SUV in September when she pulled in front of a pickup towing a trailer. The cr

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