Caltrans invites the public to join with us on Thursday, November 3, to celebrate the opening of the Willits Bypass Project. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m., and parking opens at 10 a.m. The ceremony will also include the dedication of the 1.1 mile long viaduct as the Jesse D Pittman S01 Navy SEAL Memorial Bridge. The celebration will be held on the new highway, at the south end of the viaduct. Entry will be through the south interchange, just south of Willits. Follow the signs for “Special Event” to be directed to parking.
The Willits Bypass Project, first conceived over 60 years ago, will relieve congestion, reduce delays, and improve safety for traffic and pedestrians along U.S. Highway 101 and through Willits. This $300 million highway improvement project is funded by $136 million in Proposition 1B funds, the 2006 voter-approved transportation bond. In total, about $19 billion in Proposition 1B funds have been distributed statewide.
On August 6, 2011, U.S. Navy SEAL and Willits local Jesse Pittman was aboard a military Chinook CH-47 helicopter participating in a night raid to root out Taliban fighters in a village in Afghanistan when the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed, claiming the lives of those aboard. Jesse served his community and the people of California as a CAL FIRE firefighter in the Mendocino Unit for two seasons in 2003-2004, shortly before deciding to enlist in the Navy. CAL FIRE will provide a color guard for the ceremony.
Speakers will include: Malcolm Dougherty, Caltrans Director; Charlie Fielder, retired Caltrans District 1 Director; Betsy Totten, Caltrans District 1 Chief of Public Information; California Assemblymember Jim Wood; Phil Dow, Mendocino Council of Governments Executive Director; Bruce Burton, Mayor of Willits; Justin Diston, Operating Engineers, Local 3; Mike Costa, Flatiron West District Manager; Jeremy Treskon, US Navy Seal, served with Jesse Pittman; and Terry Pittman Jr., brother of Jesse Pittman.