Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'roadgeeking'

California Highway Headlines for July 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jul 31, 2017 @ 7:36 pm PDT

July. The month for brush fires, roadtrips, and vacations. Also the month for highway work, and highway headlines:

  • Roadshow: Is there hope for the torturous trek over Pacheco Pass?. Q: I know it’s been a few weeks, but I am still recovering. It took me four hours to go from Mountain View to Interstate 5 on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend on highways 101 and 152. I knew it was going to be bad, but four hours? To go about 90 miles? Something must be done. HOV lanes? Yes! Toll roads? Yes! Eminent domain? Yes! We need a four-lane freeway from 101 to I-5. It is absurd to have a two-lane chokepoint like this on Highway 152 for millions of people in the South Bay. Is there any hope?
  • Isolated part of California’s Big Sur opens to public again. A portion of Big Sur which has been cut off since February by a collapsed bridge and a massive landslide is accessible again. Specifically, a public hiking trail that links visitors to popular tourist attractions in south Big Sur opened on Saturday. A daily shuttle takes visitors to the half-mile trail, which was initially built for locals to circumvent the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge after it was badly damaged by winter storms and had to be demolished.
  • More Than $34 Million Awarded to 125 Projects Under Cap-and-Trade Fund. Caltrans today announced that 125 local projects received $34.5 million in funding from the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program. These projects continue California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the sustainability of public transportation systems around the state.

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California Highway Headlines for June 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 01, 2017 @ 7:09 am PDT

Turn up the heat — summer has begun in Southern California. Brush fires are in full force, smoke is in the air, the freeways are packed, and it’s hot. What better than some highway headlines…

  • Car talk: Caltrans Collects Comments to Improve a High Desert Highway. Highway 395 runs along California’s eastern side—a backbone highway figuratively—and a lonely one, too. Not as lonely as Nevada’s Highway 50—the so-called “Loneliest Road in America,” but Highway 395 travels a route through country that is high desert and scrub, shuttered towns and isolated cattle ranches with those sweeping, circular wheel lines that water the heck out of alfalfa fields.
  • San Francisco-sized population at Tahoe? Bridge could have changed lake forever. Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay is perhaps the most spectacular nook in one of the world’s beautiful alpine basins. But it can be an elusive nook. This winter, avalanches closed the highway above the bay for weeks, severing the loop road around the lake. What if the highway didn’t have to make that tightrope walk across the steep mountainside behind the bay? What if it simply ran straight and low along the lakeshore instead, like it does elsewhere in the basin? Of course, that would mean a bridge across the mouth of Emerald Bay.
  • Is Big Sur’s Highway 1 worth saving?. Ever since a thin ledge of pavement was poured along Big Sur’s cliffs, opening the rugged region to tourism in the 1920s and 1930s, California has fiercely fought to save Highway 1. And Mother Nature just shrugs it off. More than 60 times in its history, the Big Sur route has been buried by landslides. Even before this winter’s storms, about $130 million was budgeted over the next decade for repair, replacement and realignment.

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Changes to the California Highways Website: Jan – May 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed May 31, 2017 @ 8:49 pm PDT

Much as I tell myself that I won’t wait more than two months between updates, life gets away from me, my weekends get booked with theatre, and (boom) five months have passed. So it goes, I guess. Let’s start with the important numbers first: 40,818 songs on the iPod, up from 39,653 since Decmeber, with 582 songs on the “5 or Less” list (including two cast albums about Los Angeles, including one about Freeway Dreams), and about 6636 on the “10 or Less” list.

So far, in 2017, we’ve seen the passage of a gas tax proposal to fund roads (if it survives, hopefully), the inauguration of Donald Trump’s administration (which hopefully won’t survive), a proposal for a gazillion bajillion dollars — trust me, it’s yuge — in infrastructure funding in the administration’s spending proposal (which won’t survive in its present form, and would include more toll roads), and the seeming death of Route 1 due to actual weather, and Route 710 due to political weather — and when and whether either will return as a zombie is unknown. Depends on the brains available.

But this site does not work on political opinion. We work on facts: news reports, reports from the fields, legislative actions, transportation commission actions. But before I go into that, a question for those reading this on my website. At times I’ve had the urge to redo the website into something responsive, which would likely take a lot of time. I’ve also worried about the fact that I don’t serve everything via https://. But this is primarily an information site, that doesn’t handle any personal or sensitive data. Going responsive would require Javascript to resize and rearrange pages for phones, as opposed to full width web pages as in the current design. There’s no content management system to do this for me (although the blog is WordPress). My tools still generate hand-coded HTML, at some generation before HTML4 (pretty-much before CSS). I’m inclined not to change things if they work, but if you think I need to do the effort, please drop me a note.

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Max Rockatansky(2): Route 1(1), Route 4(1), I-5(1), I-8(1), Route 9(1), I-10(1), Route 12(1), Route 29(1), Route 35(1), Route 37(1), Route 39(1), Route 46(1), US 50(1), Route 55(1), Route 58(1), Route 65(1), Former US 66(1), Route 67(1), Route 74(1), Route 75(1), Route 76(1), Route 79(1), I-80(1), Route 84(1), Route 91(1), Route 94(1), Route 99(1), US 101(1), I-110(1), Route 121(1), Route 125(1), Route 142(1), Route 174(1), Route 190(1), I-210(1), Route 273(1), I-405(1), I-580(1), Route 710(1), I-805(1), I-980(1), County Route J1(2). Note: I was out of it, and didn’t pick up that much from AAroad (so folks there should just email me desired changes), and no one really emailed me anything during this change period.

Gribblenation.com supposedly closed as of the end of 2016, and Gribblenation.net actually closed as of January 2017. However, gribblenation.com still seems to be up. Per the discussion over on AAroads, a number of pieces will be moving to new sites as of January 2017. Those so identified have been updated. If you were at gibblenation.com or .net and have a new site, please mail me information on the corrected link. Otherwise, your entry has been deleted. As always, if you have a regional road page, please send me the link. If you had a page, please make sure I have the correct link.

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the new California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. Right now, we’re at the point everything for this legislative session has been sent to the Governor for signature. I noted the passage/veto of the following bills and resolutions (for some of these, I’ve highlighted key phrases in red):

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May 2017 Headlines About California Highways

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 29, 2017 @ 9:18 am PDT

Memorial Day. First and foremost, a thank you to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country. Their service has made it possible for me to spend a weekend working on pages about California Highways. Which I am. Which also means I need to incorporate the May Headlines, and thus need to post them first. So here goes:

  • Caltrans Proposes Safety Upgrades Along Entire SR-110 Arroyo Seco Parkway. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, May 2, about its plans to improve motorist and worker safety along the entire length of the SR-110 Arroyo Seco Parkway route from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles. With the SR-110 Safety Enhancement Project, Caltrans proposes to install metal beam guardrails and concrete barriers, add maintenance vehicle pullouts, remove several thousand feet of curb and gutters, and apply graffiti-resistant coating at various locations along the freeway.
  • Marin carpool lane hours could expand by June. Southbound Highway 101 carpool lane hours could be extended in Marin as soon as next month in hopes of better traffic flow for commuters sharing rides and buses. The southbound Highway 101 commute between north Novato and the Civic Center is considered “very degraded,” with traffic flows at less than 45 mph between 50 and 75 percent of the time. The southbound carpool lane is limited to two or more people in a vehicle from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m.
  • Bay Bridge bike path has new $2 million ‘vista point;’ will open seven days a week starting Tuesday. Bicyclists and pedestrians seeking awe-inspiring views of the East Bay will soon be able to get their fix seven days a week. Starting Tuesday, the 2.2-mile path along the eastern span of the Bay Bridge will open during weekdays. After three years of stopping a mere 525 feet shy of Yerba Buena Island, the path was finally completed in October, but it was only accessible on weekends while Caltrans disassembled the remaining portion of the old Bay Bridge.

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California Highway Headlines for April 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 01, 2017 @ 6:17 pm PDT

April has been a busy busy month for me, so (alas) you don’t get a clever introduction. Here are the headlines I collected for the month:

  • Funding OK’d for Highway 37 traffic, flooding study in Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Solano. A group of agencies exploring solutions to flooding and traffic on Highway 37 has taken its first significant step, funding a study that is anticipated to identify actual projects that can be built along the 21-mile roadway. But with construction funds lacking, officials are unsure when any of the future work might take place.
  • Questions remain on Caltrans Hemet state Route 74 median project plan. After responding to Hemet merchants’ criticism of the planned Florida Avenue Raised Curb Median project and $1.5 million in revisions, Caltrans engineers still found some questions regarding the project slated to begin in 2018. Caltrans invited local merchants and other interested citizens to an open house meeting at the Hemet Simpson Center March 20, to further explain the safety reasons for the project and some changes to the left-hand turn lane and U-turn additions made to the original plans. It was the second Caltrans meeting held for Hemet city engineers and local merchants outlining the goal of the project Caltrans believes will prevent cross-median collisions that have been rapidly increasing in recent years.
  • California faces $860-million repair bill for roads battered by record winter storms. There were many dramatic images from California’s extreme winter: interstates flooded, bridges buckled, highways covered in mud, snowbanks blocking key highways. In Topanga Canyon, the lasting memory for many locals was the massive boulder that blocked Topanga Canyon Boulevard in January after one fierce rainstorm. The huge rock became a popular spot for selfies and social media posts.

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California Highway Headlines for March 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 31, 2017 @ 6:04 pm PDT

The adage is that March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb. Here in Southern California that is proving to be true. We started the month with the atmospheric river in full force; we’re going out with 90°F days in the San Fernando Valley. Gotta love California. Here are your highway headlines for last month:

  • Part of Route 66 in Mojave Desert to be closed until mid-September. A portion of Route 66 that runs through the Mojave Desert just east of Amboy, California, will be closed through mid-September because of bridge construction.
  • HONK: CHP has a nifty number for the public. Q: There is an easy way to remember a non-emergency number for the California Highway Patrol –1-800-TELL-CHP. Years back, I saw the number on a freeway sign. I don’t even remember the context, but the number has always stuck with me.
  • Marin looks at using Highway 101 shoulders for buses. Marin transportation officials want to be part of a pilot program that would allow buses to use freeway shoulders to speed travel times, an alignment that has been used successfully in other parts of the country. During commute hours, buses can become tangled in traffic as they cross lanes to get to bus stops on the right side of Highway 101, then cross back over to get back to a carpool lane on the far left of the freeway.
  • Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier completion date set. A date has been set for completion of a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge district last month issued a notice to proceed with the project and is now targeting Jan. 12, 2021, as the date to finish it. Work has already begun.

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What Is The Right Road to Take?

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Mar 16, 2017 @ 8:28 pm PDT

Along with Donald Trump’s budget proposal comes news of significant cuts at the EPA, both in research funds and in regulations. An article in Governing Magazine uncovers an interesting debate regarding those cuts with respect to infrastructure funding: Is it right to gut environmental regulations that both delay and raise the cost of infrastructure funding in order to get more infrastructure faster? Quoting from the article:

President Trump has made no secret over the course of his campaign and early administration that he thinks it takes too long for infrastructure projects to get approved and built. A report from The Wall Street Journal last week indicated just how much he’d like to speed things up: The president wants states to start building within 90 days of getting federal money, compared with the years it can take for projects to start now.

The biggest hold-ups for most projects, though, come from federal — not state — regulations. State and county transportation officials say federal environmental, safety and workplace reviews can more than double the time it takes to complete a project.

But, they add, a GOP-controlled Congress and new administration provides the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate many of those long-standing environmental laws.

“We are not talking about trying to go out and gut the environmental process,” says Tim Hill, the administrator in charge of environmental services for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). “That’s not what states are about. They support clean air. They support clean water. They want to make good, common-sense decisions. But they want common-sense decisions in a process that allows flexibility.”

Of course, many environmental groups are wary of any major changes to landmark environmental laws, especially because Congress has already sped up many parts of the reviews in recent years.

“They already won,” says Scott Slesinger, the legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The problem isn’t and has never been [environmental reviews] that have caused the delays. It’s other stuff. It’s money. It’s local opposition. It’s supply-chain problems.”

This is something that can be clearly seen in California. Before the days of the EIR, roads could be built anywhere and everywhere, seemingly. Since the EIR process started, there are meetings and research and reports even to widen a road in place. The article talks about the many regulations and laws affecting infrastructure funding, from the Clean Water Act to the Endangered Species Act to the National Environmental Policy Act to the Buy American provisions. Quoting again from the article, regarding the NEPA:

The scope of the review depends on the size of the project. Projects that cost less than $5 million — which are the vast majority of transportation projects — are generally excluded from the impact study. Slightly larger projects, like a new intersection or highway on-ramp, require a more involved process called an “environmental assessment.” The biggest projects, like ones that require new rights of way, require a full environmental impact statement.

It’s the biggest projects that tend to get the most attention, and they’re the ones with the longest approval process. For projects approved in 2011, for example, the average time the NEPA process took was more than six years.

Congress responded to criticism about the lengthy reviews when it wrote its last two major surface transportation funding bills in 2012 and 2015. Federal lawmakers, for example, expanded the types of projects that were exempt from the reviews. They also allowed states to conduct their own NEPA reviews on behalf of the federal government, which California, Florida, Ohio, Texas and Utah have opted to do. Hill says Ohio saved $4.6 million in the first three months of doing the reviews itself.

So what do you think is the right answer? Do you think infrastructure trumps environmental quality. Literally?

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California Highway Headlines for February 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 01, 2017 @ 5:02 am PDT

It has been another rainy month for California. Great for our reservoirs. Great for the drought. Not so great for our road system. Here are some headlines from February (excluding things like mudslides and temporary storm damage):

  • OCTA Signs Design-Build Contract for I-405 Improvement Project. On January 31, 2017, OCTA’s CEO, Darrell Johnson, signed a $1.2 billion contract with OC 405 Partners for the design and construction of the I-405 Improvement Project. This is the largest contract in OCTA’s history. With this signature, OCTA has issued Notice to Proceed No. 1 to the design-build team, which marks the official beginning of the I-405 Improvement Project. In November, the OCTA Board of Directors selected OC 405 Partners to design and construct the I-405 Improvement Project. OC 405 Partners is a team of firms led by OHL USA, Inc. and Astaldi Construction Corporation.
  • Rising seas and pounding storms taking toll on Highway 37. Surveying flooding along Highway 37 in January, ecologist Fraser Shilling began doubting his projections for when climate change will cause severe, perhaps catastrophic impacts on the major North Bay thoroughfare. In an influential 2016 report used as a guide for the highway’s future, Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis, had established a timetable of several decades for those impacts to be fully realized.
  • Highway 37 flood fix could happen this year. Caltrans is looking at an $8 million fix along Highway 37 in Novato to help stave off flooding that shut down the road after heavy storms. With renewed focus, the State Route 37 Policy Committee met Thursday at Novato City Hall to discuss flooding and short- and long-term solutions to fix the increasingly busy thoroughfare.

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