No Easy Solution for Deadly Stretch of Highway 70

BUTTE COUNTY -- A stretch of Highway 70 between Marysville and Oroville has been nicknamed "Blood Alley" because of a number of deadly crashes that have happened over the last decade.

Some crashes can be blamed on the highway's outdated design, but the California Highway Patrol says careless driving is also a factor.

Since 2010, 33 people have died along the 25 section of highway. In 2017 alone, 13 people have been killed -- including two on Sunday.

"I'm pretty shook up about it," Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly, who lost a friend in a crash last year, told FOX40.

Then there was Caltrans employee Paul Inman who was killed in a head-on crash last summer when a driver tried to pass a truck on the two-lane highway. Slower trucks and farm equipment are common along the stretch of road.

"They really don’t have patience for us that live here and are trying to move farming equipment from one ranch to another," grower John Rehermann said.

Small sections of the highway have a center turn lane, but it isn't much help.

"They'll pass in the center lane," grower Bud Samuel said. "They'll bass four or five cars at a time."

Yuba and Butte County officials along with the CHP and Caltrans are telling drivers on Highway 70 to take extra care this holiday season, knowing that there will be even more vehicles on a highway that is outdated.

"Traffic counts are way up. People are impatient and obviously the deaths at 13 just this year are... they’re terrible," Connelly said.

The CHP says the highway may be crowded at times, but that isn’t what kills and injures people.

"It's human caused," CHP Captain Shon Harris said. "People make the decision to drive the way they do. That makes it unsafe."

The CHP will be paying extra attention during the week of Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, Caltrans' longer term solution is $500 million in improvements -- including more passing lanes.

"We wanted to make sure we provided the opportunity for the slow moving vehicles to be in the right lane so the traveling public can make that passage safely," Caltrans District 3 Director Amarjeet Benigal.

It’s a formula that has worked between Sacramento and Marysville, the wider highway tamed a section previously known for crashes. But local residents gave local lawmakers an earful Monday, objecting to a wide faster highway.

"The more traffic, the harder it is to achieve that, to get on and off, especially when the speed is increased too," Rehermann said.

Everyone knows there is a safety issue, but some say a bigger and faster road will be just as unsafe.

"Five lanes of highway, how am I going to get on that highway? How am I going to get off that highway safety?" neighbor Kathy Foster-Cahouette said.

The solution is a now abandoned plan for a bypass around Marysville to ease congestion in the city that will form despite the road widening. Assemblymember James Gallagher says there is time to hear from locals before construction begins.