James Grant’s plans for future safety of Highway 101
Thank you, James Grant.
In the end, your persistence paid off — the dangerous El Campo Road/Highway 101 crossing will be closed, and the more than 60,000 drivers who travel that stretch of highway every day will all be safer as a result.
It’s beyond sad that it took the death of your son, Cal Poly freshman Jordan Grant, to finally persuade the powers-that-be to act.
And state and local officials weren’t the only ones who needed persuading.
The owners of Laetitia Winery filed a lawsuit to halt the work, which, in addition to closing the crossing at El Campo, includes blocking left turns at three other crossings in the same area — including one that leads to the winery’s popular tasting room.
Grant’s reaction to the lawsuit was swift: He called for a boycott of Laetitia wines.
On Thursday, Vintage Wine Estates, which owns Laetitia, announced it would put the lawsuit on hold, clearing the way for the work to begin.
The lawsuit was a terrible PR move. Vintage Wine Estates should have supported the project from the start as a way to show they care about their customers and want them to be safe, rather than grousing that Caltrans’ decision had been motivated by “politics.”
If only we had more of this type of politics.
It’s no exaggeration to say this work has the potential to save lives.
It needs to happen now, before anyone else is killed or badly injured at an intersection that officials have been warning about for years.
As long ago as 2004, an Arroyo Grande planning director advised closing the El Campo crossing until an interchange could be built.
“It may be inconvenient for Nipomo and Falcon Ridge (a high-end development in rural Arroyo Grande), but access to northbound 101 is unsafe at this crossing,” he wrote.
The latest development is not the end of the story.
Many in the area, including Vintage Wine Estates, want an overpass at El Campo Road — ideally within five years, not the 11 to 25 years that it may take for the project to work its way up the priority list.
There’s even been talk of raising funds for the overpass project; the Grant family has pledged $100,000.
It’s impressive that the community is willing to get involved to that degree, but this isn’t exactly a project that can be funded with charitable donations.
An overpass typically costs $35 million, according to SLOCOG Planning Director James Worthley, and can take 25 years or so to make it through the myriad steps, from initials studies to construction.
Could private donations at least speed up the process?
“We haven’t had direct experience with that happening,” Worthley said.
For the foreseeable future, closing the crossings is the most practical step, especially since there are alternate routes in and out of the area.
For instance, Laetitia customers heading south on Highway 101 can pull off at Los Berros Road exit, then jump back on the freeway and head north to Laetitia, making a much safer right-hand turn to the winery.
That adds roughly five miles to the trip, and depending on traffic, takes all of four or five minutes
Considering the benefit of improved safety, an extra four or five minutes is a small price to pay.