After calls for action, what many call one of the most dangerous intersections along Highway 101 will be changed. The project is being celebrated in hopes it prevents future collisions and deaths.
“We are pleased with how quickly Caltrans is working to restrict left turn access at these four at-grade intersections on U.S. Highway 101. SLOCOG looks forward to the continued collaboration among state, regional, county, and city agencies that got us to this point as it will be essential to developing a long-term solution for this section of the 101-corridor,” said SLOCOG Executive Director Peter Rodgers.
Starting May 13, motorists will no longer be able to turn left from northbound 101 or from El Campo Road. It’s one of four cross intersections along the highway that are set to be eliminated after years of safety concerns.
“This was a move we had to make to maintain safety and to bring this corridor to a more modern standard,” said Jim Shivers, Caltrans District 5 spokesman.
Tens of thousands of vehicles zoom past El Campo Road along Highway 101 daily, Shivers said. Turning left from or onto El Campo can be treacherous and the pavement has the markings to prove it.
The $250,000 project comes six months after the death of Jordan Grant, an 18-year-old Cal Poly student who died while riding his motorcycle at the intersection. His family has worked to make the change happen ever since.
“We felt this sense of relief knowing that no other family would be subject to this pain and anguish from having a loved one injured or killed at these unsafe crossings,” said James Grant, Jordan’s father.
Richard Giuli, who was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence in connection with the crash that killed Grant, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, James Murphy, says a top-level accident reconstruction firm out of Torrance has four serious injury or death cases at the El Campo intersection.
“That intersection has been a death trap since I moved to San Luis Obispo County in 1975,” Murphy said. He praised the work done by the Grants in making a change at the intersection.
“I think that James Grant is a remarkable human being,” Murphy said. “My client and his wife are remarkable people but for James Grant to take the death of his son to apply himself, to make the community safer, James Grant is saving lives. He’s going to save the lives of many, many persons in the future.”
But Murphy says the responsibility ultimately falls on Caltrans for not addressing the issue sooner.
“I highly doubt that Caltrans would be doing anything whatsoever if James Grant didn’t have the organizational genius and skill to get together a group of people and force a change… It’s 45 years too late and it’s a year too late for Mr. Grant’s son,” Murphy said.
The Grant family was told getting a project of this magnitude would take years. Instead, it took six months and they believe they had some help in that.
“It’s truly, truly extraordinary and I think Jordan had a hand in that,” Grant said.
The closure will impact nearby residents, like Michele Dracup who is familiar with the dangers of the road.
“My husband was t-boned 15 years ago,” she said. Dracup uses the intersection as many as 10 times a day and will need to take a new route, but is optimistic about the change.
“I hope it makes it safer in the area,” she said.
Caltrans will close three other crossings, including Tower Grove Drive near the Laetitia Winery, as well as Hemi and Telephone roads.
Grant says he will continue to work with Caltrans and neighbors to create an over or underpass for access onto Highway 101 in the future.
Motorists will encounter lane closures along northbound US 101 weeknights during the overnight hours from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and southbound from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Median access will be maintained for emergency responders at Hemi Road and Telephone Road (between El Campo and Los Berros Road).
It’s scheduled to be complete by the end of May.