SLOCOG holds contentious forum on deadly intersection

Jordan Grant

During a San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) public outreach meeting Thursday on potential fixes for a deadly Highway 101 intersection in Arroyo Grande, parents of a Cal Poly student who died in a crash at the intersection spoke out against landowners whom they say would like to develop a neighboring property.

A consultant for SLOCOG asked attendees to raise their hands if they supported making safety changes to the El Campo Road and Highway 101 intersection, and all but about four people showed support. Many speakers voiced their support for closing the intersection to left hand turns.

On Oct. 6, Jordan Grant, 18, was riding his motorcycle southbound on Highway 101 near El Campo Road. A man living in the Falcon Ridge Estates on the west side of Highway 101 attempted to make a left turn onto the highway, pulled out in front of Grant’s motorcycle, killing the Cal Poly student.

Grant’s parents, James and Becky Grant, have since lobbied local officials and Caltrans to stop allowing left hand turns across four lanes of the highway while they seek a permanent solution to the danger that the intersection poses. SLOCOG is conducting an assessment of the implications of restricting access to the intersection of Highway 101 and El Campo Road.

At Thursday night’s SLOCOG meeting, held at the Arroyo Grande Hospital Annex Conference Room, a consulting firm presented a study of traffic at the intersection. The Grants attended the meeting, as did Susan Smith, a woman seriously injured at the intersection.

Smith said she suffered a spinal fracture and brain injury. Her brain condition is probably not getting better, Smith said.

James Grant said the special interests of nearby landowners are preventing the intersection from getting fixed. Grant directed his comments at major landowners who want to develop land across the street. 

The landowners want an overpass, and they believe if the intersection is closed the overpass will never be built, Grant said.

A Caltrans spokesman said the agency also wants to carefully study what the potential changes might look like before finding a solution.

The debate over the intersection has also sparked controversy in Arroyo Grande city politics. During her recent election campaign, Mayor Caren Ray Russom signed a petition circulated by the Grants demanding changes at the intersection and wrote a letter to Caltrans about the matter. 

But, Ray Russom now claims the Grants have misrepresented her views on the matter and that she was not in favor of permanent closure of the intersection. Ray Russom threatened to have Change.org remove the petition.

On April 3, SLOCOG is scheduled to make a determination on what changes if any will be made at the intersection.

People wishing to have their voices heard can send their comments to pio@slocog.org on or before March 27.

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