This website is the official source for news and information for the Willits Bypass Project. Regular updates will ensure that the media and the public will have access to the latest news and information on this important regional transportation project. Links to outside websites are not an endorsement of those websites or organizations. Questions about this project should be directed to Phil Frisbie, Jr., Caltrans Public Information Officer for Lake and Mendocino Counties, at 707-441-4678 or Phil_Frisbie@dot.ca.gov
About the Willits Bypass Project
The Willits Bypass Project was awarded in August 2012 to the partnership of DeSilva Gates Construction and Flatiron West Inc., for the amount of $107 million, and construction began in February 2013. This project will relieve congestion, reduce delays, improve safety for traffic which is passing through Willits, and eliminate the only stoplights on Route 101 between San Francisco and Eureka.
The project will bypass Willits to the east, constructing about 6 miles of new highway. Although designed as a 4-lane highway, two lanes will be built now and two additional lanes will be added in the future when additional funding becomes available.
Two interchanges will be built; a full four-lane interchange on the south end for the new junction of Routes 20 and 101 and a smaller two-lane interchange on the north for local traffic. The portion of existing Route 101 between the southern interchange and the Main Street/Route 20 intersection will be re-designated as Route 20.
The $210 million project was funded by a $17 million contribution of Regional Improvement Program funds from the Mendocino Council of Governments, and with $136 million in Proposition 1B funds, the 2006 California voter-approved transportation bond.
A Brief Project History
The Willits Bypass dates back to at least the mid 1950’s. In 1962 the California Division of Highways (later to become the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans) recommended a four-lane bypass to the east of Willits. When a section of freeway just south of Willits was completed in 1969, excess excavated material from the project was stored alongside the highway to be used in the anticipated bypass. However, due to funding shortfalls and lack of local support, the project was halted until 1987.
The current project has its roots in 1987 when the California Transportation Commission (CTC) directed Caltrans to re-evaluate the project and look at alternative routes. From 1988 through 1994 a number of alternatives were evaluated. By 1995 funds were being transferred to seismic safety projects in response to the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes. Due to this redirection of funding, this project was suspended until 1998 when the CTC allocated funds to move the project forward.
The draft environmental report was released May 2002, and the final environmental report was released October 2006. In August 2007 Caltrans held a public open house where the staged construction plan was presented.
For a more detailed project history and documentation, please visit the Caltrans District 1 website.