Letter to the Editor: Olancha bypass?

olanchaObviously A Mistake
CalTrans decision to bypass Olancha is ridiculous.
The residents, the business owners  and the Board of Supervisors all stated their preference to be Alt #1, widen the existing corridor. The County has a stated goal and policy of “no bypass”. The cost to taxpayers of building a new 4 lane hwy far exceeds adding 2 lanes to the current hwy.  Likewise it is obvious the environmental impacts would be greater, not to mention they want this new  hwy to be built west of the homes and in the view shed of the Sierra. The County will face more cost in taking over the maintenance of portions of the old 395 and receive less property tax revenue due to resulting lowered commercial property values. This recent decision ignores the sentiments of the people, is far more expensive and  has greater environmental impacts.  It is no wonder they have decided to not have any further meetings for public input, their decision is obviously wrong.
Jenifer Castaneda
Lone Pine

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43 Responses to Letter to the Editor: Olancha bypass?

  1. Ken Warner November 18, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Here’s a stupid idea — leave 395 where it is and give each business and resident the choice o being moved to a New West Olancha. Pick a nicer spot than where it is already. Spend a little time and thought into a coherant and livable design with bike paths and generous commons.

    Everybody wins and it’s cheaper.

  2. JJ November 15, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    I’m a little late in responding, but I have to admit after learning of the amount of deaths around there make me lean to a divided road.

  3. Wayne Deja November 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Bobbie Lee…..Next time you head out of town to destinations south,check the speed limit signs,and blinking light displaying the speed you are traveling just before you get into Cartago…and then when your heading back north,same thing just before you get into Olancha….speed limit…55 MPH…..no kidding….If you feel it should be 75 minimum,get a job at a tow company cleaning up accident scenes and you’ll change your mind real quick.

  4. Wayne Deja November 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    On that stretch of HWY. 395,the way it is now,CHP speed traps wouldn’t be a bad idea.Thing is,if you obey the 55 MPH speed limit through Olancha and Cartago,you’d have nothing to worry about.

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

      Now you’re just being silly.

      55 through Cartago?

      That ghost hotel scares the crap outta me.

      75 minimum.

      • Skier November 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

        The ghost hotel is in Olancha, not Cartago. For those who say there’s more to the Owens Valley then getting to Mammoth, maybe for you, but you can’t force people to stop somewhere they don’t want to stop. I don’t see the logic in forcing tourists through the center of these tiny towns. Do you think that makes people say “ooh, how cute, let’s stop there” or “look honey, there’s that broken down motel that was in that horror movie with the foil, its really not in Oklahoma, lets stay there!” Or even stop for a coke if they aren’t thirsty? Or buy the expensive gas if they don’t have to? Would you pay $4.25 for regular if you can get it in Mojave for $3.75? Because its a cute little town? Or Why?

        • Wayne Deja November 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

          Skier…..I think the argument between the 4-lane through town,or the by-pass,at least for most residents here in the Owens Valley is,or should be safety reasons more so than how quickly Southern Californian tourists can get to Mammoth Lakes.If someone wants a coke,or if they are low on gas and need to fill up, even if they are hungry and want to stop at the ranch cafe,they can pull off the bi-pass,the same as they do at the truck-rest stop at Coso Junction.The way the highway now is crazy…and think making it 4 lane through town could even make it worse…giving the idiots in a big hurry going to Mammoth even more reason to speed.This isn’t an area where vehicles should travel 65+MPH….through 2 little towns…2 lane OR 4 lane.Everyone I know in Lone Pine has either lost a friend or family member on that stretch of highway because of some some speeding Southern Californian in a big hurry.

          • Sandra Smith February 1, 2018 at 10:39 am #

            They have to slow down for every town going up 395!! Olancha is the only one that is 55 mph, But they still want to drive 80 through here!! We wanted it widened, we do not want to be bypassed!! And most of 395 north through here is “open range”, no one has any business driving 80 through here!!

  5. JeniferCastaneda November 11, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    There’s no question that we need a 4 lane hwy. The point is that widening in place costs far less, has significant less environmental impact, goes along with the County policy of “no bypass” and is what the majority of property owners in Olancha prefer.

    • Steve Reese November 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Jenifer was this put to a vote? How do you know it is a majority? I have been to every meeting held by Cal Trans there has never been a vote held.
      Olancha and Cartago combined have a population of 300. There was only 40 to 50 residents at the meetings. So even if there was a vote it could not have been a majority of the area residents. If anything the lack of attendance shows that the majority don’t care one way or the other.

      • Sandra Smith February 1, 2018 at 10:46 am #

        Sorry Steve, the majority of Olancha does NOT want the bypass, and that is a fact. There were well over 150 letters written to Caltrans from local people who do not want the bypass. There is only a handful of local people who want it. People who do not live here want it, so they can drive 80mph or faster. Perhaps you should become EMT and volunteer on the fire dept and start picking them up off the hwy??

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      These 4 lane “widening in place” roads (directly THROUGH towns rather than AROUND them) are done for purposes of setting up CHP speed traps, right?

      • Rob November 12, 2011 at 10:29 am #

        There’s enough people out there speeding that the CHP doesn’t need to setup any speed traps.

        • upthecreek November 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

          They need to protect the cows and sheep..

          • Wayne Deja November 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

            Just so happens a few years back I went on a vehicle accident clean up about a quarter mile south of the Ranch Cafe between 2 cows and a big rig to where the big rig hit the cattle, lost control,ran up a tree and burst into flames….The driver of the truck was lucky to have survived.So if you are protecting the cows and sheep,you are also maybe preventing an accident waiting to happen.Like JJ says,the more you look into this matter,it’s hard not to favor a divided road.

    • Eamon January 4, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      The County may have a policy of “no bypass” but that isn’t a policy either the Federal or State governments have to follow.

      The majority of “users” of US 395 don’t a four lane through Olancha as evidenced by the surveys conducted 5 years ago.

      The cost between widening the highway in place or around Olancha are basically the same.

  6. esfotoguy November 11, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    Lets look north to the ‘bypass’ north of Carson City.Thats going real well. Bring in the Nevada highway workers w/ absolutely no economic benefits to California. Meanwhile Harry Reid’s constituents are make prevailing wage in California to take back to Nevada.BRILLIANT…question….Who is the head of the transportation committee?

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Anyone know what this guy is talking about?

  7. John Barton November 10, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    With good signage advertising offramp businesses, Olancha can still thrive without become an ugly sideshow next to a 4 lane highway. There are ample examples of successful businesses aound the country who depend on the highway a short distance away for people to stop, rest, shop and eat. Olancha actually has a lot of potential due to the remoteness from other convenience locations.

    • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 10, 2011 at 9:29 am #

      “Olancha can still thrive”

      That’s the first time I’ve seen “Olancha” and “thrive” in the same sentence.

      • John Barton November 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

        Bobbie- You’re right. I should have written “Olancha could or might thrive…”. Oh wait, that still uses both words in the same sentence.

      • Wayne Deja November 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

        Bobbie Lee….Olancha happens to be one of quite a few small little towns in the Owens Valley,and Inyo County…Olancha,Cartago,Lone Pine,Big Pine,Independence…and for many of us,maybe a lot of us don’t “thrive” living in them,but it is the way we want to live,and choose to live our lives…out of the bigger cities and away from the crime and hectic pace,and all of the drama in cities like…say Mammoth Lakes…Don’t matter which one it is…a 4 lane,or a bypass…either one is going to be better for Olancha,and the safety of it’s citizens,as well as the safety of the HWY.395 travelers…

        • Rob November 11, 2011 at 9:29 am #

          When I think of a thriving community, I think of hussle and bussle.

          I have to agree with you Wayne I like those communties just the way they are. And you won’t ever catch me just hanging out in TOML

  8. Mark November 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    We have a cabin near Lee Vining & often travel their from our home in Santa Ynez via US 395, unfortunately the current “road conditions” through Olancha is just “an accident waiting to happen”….and there may have been some already based on the crosses/headstones we see posted in that area of US 395.
    Yes, these projects can be very expensive, but well worth the cost if it will save a few more lives in the future!
    Sure would be nice if they would make it four (4) lanes all the way from Red Rock State Park to Independence; perhaps some Federal Grants and revenues from the Reno, NV Casinos could be sought/obtained for such a project (s).

    • Sandra Smith February 1, 2018 at 10:32 am #

      Excuse me, if you “drive” here you actually were on a deadly two lane north of Redrock Canyon or on 395 from the 15. You are being ridiculous about Olancha being the problem! you do not live here, we do. The people making the decisions are out of line, as is Reese, he and his wife have not lived here that long. Does anyone not think it weird that the state would choose to use Fall Road as their main route when supposedly building this bypass?? Hmmmmmm makes one wonder what is really going on, with the Inyo Board of Supers involved and some of them being on the local Trans Committee. This is right up there with Supervisor Tillemans “investing” in property in the Olancha area, to grow commercial cannabis all while voting and making motions on agendas related to commercial cannabis, until he could not anymore. These are the same people wanting to bypass Olancha, the question is, WHY?? NO BYPASS!!!!!!!!

  9. JJ November 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    There’s not even a stop sign in Olancha. Why do we need to send money on a traffic problem that never existed.

    • Wayne Deja November 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

      JJ…..Check out the traffic collisions,,,and fatalities on that stretch of highway the past 10 or 15 years….And personally speaking,a near miss head-on collision of my own a couple years back…..There is more to the Owens Valley than getting to and from Mammoth Lakes for the Southern Californians….

      • Benett Kessler November 10, 2011 at 9:27 am #

        You’re right, Wayne. Caltrans’ Cedric Zemitis told us that from January of 1999 through December of 2008 135 accidents occurred in the Olancha area with 16 fatalities and 121 injuries.

        • Steve Reese November 10, 2011 at 11:15 am #

          Thank you Benett for getting the facts about the accidents, injuries and deaths. That is why I am in full support of a bypass around Olancha. Also like Wayne Deja said there are so many close calls that are unreported. My wife and I coming back to Olancha from the South and making the left turn on to Fall road from 395 have repeatedly said ” we made it” safe once again back home.
          With the projected doubling of big trucks and traffic in the next 10 to 20 years I can only hope we will not see a doubling of accidents and related injuries.

      • Bobbie Lee Swagger November 10, 2011 at 9:30 am #

        “There is more to the Owens Vall”ey than getting to and from Mammoth Lakes”

        True. There’s the Jack in the Box in Bishop for sustenance and Schatt’s for dessert.

    • Rob November 9, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

      people need to slow down and enjoy the ride

  10. Bobbie Lee Swagger November 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Build it, and they will come, I mean get to and from Mammoth faster.

  11. Steve Reese November 9, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    I live in Olancha at the top of Fall road. There would not be anything left of Olancha if the Hwy was widened to 4 lanes with a 100′ foot median running at 65mph. The 4 lane project was proposed in 1955 to make Hwy 395 from Hwy 14 to Nevada border a 4 lane Hwy. It is almost complete. Olancha will still be a gateway to Death Valley and see lots of tourist traffic. The trucks pulling in and out of Crystal Geyser now are doing so with all of the traffic on Hwy 395. With the currant plan only a small part of that traffic will be running past the plant.
    With my wife and I living at the top of Fall Rd. we will deal with the truck traffic during construction and be left with a whole town not cut in two and much safer trip to the Post office

    PS we would like to know who you are if you are commenting on this issue. That way we can continue the debate as we pass each other at the Post Office. So please use your full name on your post, thank you.

    • Eamon McNamera November 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      So basically, you’re being a not-in-my-backyard opponent because your residence is closer to the proposed alignment than the current alignment through the village….the surveys conducted by Caltrans 4-5 years ago were vehemently in support of a bypass around Olancha /Cartago…..even the majority of responses from Bishop supported a bypass. Im sorry but a few “milliseconds” is still a saving of an unrenewable resource in my life -time. So sorry but the majority of people want a bypass around a community that hasn’t grown or shown promise of growth in well over 75 years.

  12. JeniferCastaneda November 9, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Realist, you’re funny. I have no special interest in Olancha and I do not agree with the occupy wall street mentality. You obviously don’t me, and I don’t know you, because you refuse to use your real identity. CalTrans widened the hwy throughout every other community in the Eastern Sierra so why not Olancha? Why don’t you address the huge tax payer burden of this very expensive decision or the increased enviromental impact ? Let’s discuss the facts and stop the personal attacks.

  13. Realist November 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Just think folks, how many of you enjoy traveling across this great country of ours without having to slowdown for every community. Can you imagine if locals were allowed dictate every decision involving transportation? It would take you 20 years to drive from Mammoth to Los Angeles having to navigate all of the silly slow down spots. Anyway, this is great news. There really is no cohesive community in this area anyway, so it really doesn’t matter. The B.S. about private land down here is that if development has not happened by now, then it is not going to happen. Even if it did, the new bypass would provide an opportunity for business anyway. BTW, I am sick of hearing about the realtor “think special interest group, occupy wall street” for this area. Credibility is lost when a realtor with a special interest complains about these issues.

    • avg.citizen November 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

      Are you people CalTrans or Granite Construction employees? If you are not Owens Valley residents or lovers of rural Inyo, then you are going out of way to diss something of no matter to you. If you are even a CA taxpayer, then are you happy to contribute toward the $10’s of millions it will cost to hypothetically save the fast and furious a millisecond so they can get to the 25mph zones in Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine, and Bishop a heartbeat quicker? Puh-leeze!

      • Realist November 9, 2011 at 7:56 am #

        Nope, just a user and taxpayer of our beautiful highway system, and that’s what it is, a highway, not a local street to support a business or please a small group of local folks, it is for all taxpayers. I like to use the highway that I paid for from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Your concerns to the price are irrelevant. All things cost money, you might as well go down the list of how much it costs to build a house, an airport, a commercial building, and so forth. That argument could be used for anything, lets just stop spending any money on anything….now. BTW, isn’t the person that wrote the above referenced letter to the Board of Supervisors a new owner from the flat-land?

  14. Eamon McNamera November 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Fortunately Caltrans works not only for the locals, but also for Californians at large. Years ago the forward thinking employees at Caltrans sent out a survey to the majority of users of 395 (tourists) and the majority of respondants wanted a “bypass” yet the Inyo County Board of Supervisors (who need reelection votes) supported what only the locals (Olancha/Cartago residents) wanted. Mr. Hallenbeck’s combined alternative meets both wants- a bypass and not a bypass. A vocal minority doesnt want their community bypassed but unfortunately for them the Highway isn’t intended to support economic viabilty of individual communities, but instead move people and goods throughout our State and Nation.

    • avg.citizen November 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

      What self-serving out-of-towner would not want the path of least resistance to Mammoth or wherever? The people who live in Olancha-Cartago understand what the CalTrans scheme would do to the community/environment, and so do the Supervisors and Local Transportation Commission. CalTrans works for CalTrans and has a rich history of ill-advised projects; I imagine the road to Hell is paved by CalTrans. If the reason for a bypass is to save trucks and tourists a few seconds, then why does it not completely skirt the communities instead of slicing thru Cartago? Note that the proposed semi-bypass ADDS 1/3 mile over the existing path (so much for saving a few seconds).

  15. avg.citizen November 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Not only does CalTrans intend to plow a new 4 lane divided highway w/ 100′ median around Olancha and slashing through Cartago, but their approach was spontaneously devised after $5 million taxpayer dollars were spent on four earlier ‘alternatives.’ Unlike those, the new scheme does not provide for any public/gov’t. review, so CalTrans is currently at liberty to spend another $115 million on an environmental and local community disaster, free of any outside resistance. They intend to use the busiest residential feeder road in Olancha-Cartago (Fall Road) to access a new ‘borrow site’ where for years large trucks will travel for “soil and road materials for the project.” This is just one example of the gross disregard CalTrans has for the health, safety, and worth of the local residents. Read a statement made today to the Inyo Board of Supervisors: http://www.sierraeast.com/Supervisors_reCalTrans110811.pdf . If you share concerns, please attend the next Local Transportation Commission meeting in Bishop on 12/7: they have the power to withhold 40% of the project’s funding until it meets the needs of Owens Valley).

  16. Steve Reese November 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    I for one am in favor of the bypass of Olancha and have said so at all the Caltrans meetings. I don’t want to see Olancha gutted wide open the way Lone Pine and Independence was. The traffic will double in the next 20 years on Hwy 395. This will make it just that much worse to get from the East side of these towns to the West side. While this is okay for the business owners to pack as many as possible at their front doors. It is extremely dangerous for the people who need to cross the Hwy. In Olancha we have a chance to change the way it has been done. And make it better for the traveler and the residents to stay safe and enjoy the beautiful place we live. Please think with your hart and not your wallet.

    • avg.citizen November 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      If a bypass is constructed to the west of Olancha, then ‘old’ I-395 will become a new extension of Highway 190, and employed by the thundering truck traffic in and out of the Crystal Geyser plant (planned for expansion). If Olancha is surrounded by two major highways, how could this possibly make it safer for the local residents? The people here are thinking with their hearts when they foresee an environmental disaster that tears at the heart of nature as well as the heart of the community.


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