Two months ago, computer engineering freshman Jordan Grant was killed in an accident on Highway 101 at the El Campo intersection just south of Arroyo Grande. A driver made an unsafe left turn across the highway and collided with Grant’s southbound motorcycle. Since then, his father, James Grant, has taken the lead on trying to close the intersection where his son was killed.
The intersection — which allows a left turn to access northbound Highway 101 and a right turn to access southbound Highway 101 traffic — experiences heavy traffic during peak hours. Taking a left turn across traffic has been deemed dangerous by several locals.
Wednesday, Dec. 5, James urged officials to prohibit unprotected left turns across Highway 101 traffic, specifically at the El Campo intersection, at a San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) meeting. Many of Jordan’s friends and family were in attendance, supporting the Grant family as James delivered a speech detailing the past history of accidents at the El Campo intersection leading up to the death of his 18-year-old son.
“We are here to right a wrong in Jordan’s memory. This is for your children, this is our gift to you, but for God’s sake, don’t just start studying this like we don’t know the answer,” James said to the board. “We already know the answer. We knew the answer back then and we know what the answer is now. Our request: please act with urgency.”
Cal Poly freshman Jordan Grant died Oct. 7 after a driver made an unsafe left turn into his motorcycle at the Highway 101 and El Campo intersection. Today, his friends and family are at the @SLOCOGdotORG meeting to call for the intersection's closure. More info at: @CPMustangNews pic.twitter.com/Ahwmrdh98L
— Cassandra Garibay (@CassandraGari) December 5, 2018
The issue of vehicular collisions at the El Campo intersection is not isolated to only the death of his son, according to James. Vehicle accidents, whether or not they resulted in fatalities, have plagued this region of the highway in the past. Five San Luis Obispo residents who were either in an accident or knew someone in an accident at the intersection spoke in support of the Grant family.
A majority vote from the council declared that SLOCOG and the San Luis Obispo county would study the El Campo intersection for a second time.
A 2009 Caltrans traffic study stated that 21 collisions occurred at the El Campo intersection between 2005 and 2008. Between 2012 and 2017, 16 total collisions occurred, and in 2018, two accidents occurred, according to a press release from San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Lynn Compton.
That same 2009 Caltrans study concluded that “the median closure … will not result in degradation to the state highway system or local street network” and would “reduce the number of broadside collisions” at the El Campo intersection.
However, back in 2009 when Caltrans completed the study, there was public opposition to the proposed closure because many residents living near the intersection feared it would negatively impact traffic at other nearby access points and would consequently negatively affect local businesses, according to Caltrans Spokesperson Jim Shivers. As a result, the intersection remained open.
The second study is estimated to cost $75,000. SLOCOG agreed to match the county’s proposed $30,000 for the study to determine what further action needs to be taken.
The council board members also confirmed a meeting for next week to discuss the issues at the El Campo intersection in further detail and decide on immediate remedies for the intersection.
“The response that we just heard is everything we wanted to hear about elected officials that are listening and immediately saying, ‘We’re going to take action,’” James said. “Though they didn’t have the opportunity to vote on [the course of immediate action] today, they told us how they felt. And what they felt was the right thing. They’re going to address this risk … and start working on longer term solutions.”
James’ push for change began with a GoFundMe and a Change.org page, which has gathered more than 21,000 signatures. He has garnered support from locals who felt similar sentiments about the danger of the turn on Highway 101, from a Nipomo local who has also suffered injuries from an accident at the intersection to the individuals who were at the scene of Jordan’s accident.
James has done extensive research on the history of accidents at the intersection and kept track of unsuccessful attempts to increase the safety of the region. He has been in regular contact with officials from the California Department of Transportation and the San Luis Obispo County supervisor.
After persistent efforts, James said it appears progress will be made.
“From what I just observed and what I’m hearing, they’re going to get this done,” James said. “I feel a certain amount of excitement that this is how local government should work. And we’ll keep coming back each month, attending these meetings … We’re going to be here to make sure it does work.”