May 2017 Headlines About California Highways

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

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

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?

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?


California Highway Headlines for February 2017

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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California Highway Headlines for January 2017

Welcome to 2017 — a new year. Whether it will be a better year I can’t say, as we are in tumultuous times. But I have been collecting headlines about California. One note: This has been an exceptionally rainy month for California, and there have been many headlines about road closures due to weather-related road damage. I’m not including those in the list below, because they will quite likely be overtaken by events by the time I go to update my pages. Hopefully. But to give you an idea on some of the roads that are or have been closed due to the storms: Route 1, Route 17, Route 18, Route 23, Route 26, Route 27, Route 37, Route 41, Route 59, Route 74, I-80, Route 84, Route 118, Route 128, Route 158, Route 178, Route 182, Route 198, Route 269, Route 299, US 395. The preliminary damage total was $158 million.

So here are some longer-impact headlines:

  • Westside Parkway in Bakersfield, CA. Here is a link to a site with photos and information about the new construction on the Westside Parkway in Bakersfield, CA.
  • Median barrier on Golden Gate Bridge repaired as system marks two years. Crews repaired the Golden Gate Bridge’s movable median barrier Tuesday after it sustained damage sometime the day before from a passing vehicle on the Marin side of the span. Two lanes were closed for about an hour on either side of the barrier during the repair, which occurred at about 10:30 a.m. Golden Gate Bridge crews noticed the damage to the unit at 1:30 p.m. Monday during a lane configuration change.
  • Horgan: Resolve to avoid Highway 92 if you can. New Year’s resolutions are easily broken. But here’s one that has real immediacy for those on the Peninsula: Avoid Highway 92 if you can. It has become, for all intents and purposes, our horrible “Highway From Hell.” Specifically, stay away from it during weekday commute hours east of Interstate 280. Of course, that’s easier said then done.

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Changes to California Highways (The Website) – Sept to Dec 2016

First and foremost, the numbers at the start of the update are 39,653 songs on the iPod, with approx 383 on the “5 or Less” list and about 7200 on the “10 or Less” list. This is because updating the highway pages is a chance to play down the music lists. We know what is important. Alas, I added some music during the process, and ended up at 39707 songs total. 5 or less playlist at 407. 10 or less playlist at 7168.

We’re at the end of 2016. Updates were a lot less frequent this year — perhaps every four months, which is far too far apart. The end of 2016 has seen the election of Donald Trump, promises of Infrastructure Funding that may be like sugar plums, the passage of Measure M here in Southern California which will fund massive transit and less massive transportation improvements. What will the future bring? It is anyone’s guess, but most people are glad that we’re looking at 2016 in the rear view mirror.

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 Mike Ballard (sdmichael @ AARoads)(2), Ryan Carrigan(3), Coatamundi @ AARoads(4), Mike Cussen(5), pderocco @ AARoads(6), DTComposer @ AARoads(7), Andy Fields (Andy3175 @ AARoads)(8), Neal Parish(9), Sparker @ AARoads(10), Michael Regan(11), Max Rockatansky(12), Joe Rouse (jrouse @ AARoads)(13), Joel Windmiller (14): Route 1(1,7), Route 4(1), I-5(1,2,10), I-8(1), I-10(1), Route 11(1), Route 12(11), I-15(1,2), Route 17(1,9), Route 20(13), Route 24(9), Route 25(12), Route 29(1), LRN 33(12), Route 36(1), Route 39(1,10), Former US 40(9), Route 41(14,12), Route 46(12), Former US 50(9), Route 58(6), Route 65(1), US 66(1), Route 67(1), Route 71(1), Route 75(1), Route 76(1), I-80(1,4,13), Route 84(1), Route 85(1), Route 86(8), Route 91(1), Route 99(1,14), US 101(1,4,13,8), Route 108(1), Route 113(11), LRN 120(12), Route 125(1), LRN 125(12), Route 126(1), Route 138(1), Route 146(12), Route 156(1), Route 163(1), Route 180(14), I-215(1), Route 237(1), Route 241(8), Route 246(1), I-280(1), Route 299(1), Former US 399(12), Route 371(1), I-405(1), Former US 466(12), I-580(1), Route 710(1), I-805(1), Route 905(1), and Santa Clara County Route G4(1). In terms of link lists, the history links were updated(3). Also updated was the page with links to historical maps of relevance to California Highways(9,12). I’ll note there were some particular good background information posts on AAroads — I’ve hopefully been able to capture that information so it isn’t lost into the void (with attribution, of course). I’ll also note that reading AAroads reminded me of my philosphy on this website, and why it is so important: I focus on the history and actual routings. I don’t view it as my place to speculate on numberings, control cities, or opinions on what should be or what Caltrans got right and wrong. That way leads to Dyspepsia, which I understand is a city on an underserved state route somewhere.

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California Highway Headlines for December 2016

Another year has come to an end. 2016 has been a tumultuous year, with seemingly a larger share of significant deaths (although perhaps it wasn’t 2016’s fault), a transformative election (from California’s point of view, not transformative in a good way), and significantly decreased funding for highway repairs and improvement (although there were some bright notes at the end of the year). Here are the headlines from the last month of the year:

  • New freeway connectors help reduce border congestion. Construction crews just wrapped up a year-long project that will help reduce congestion at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Three freeway connectors that link SR 905 and SR 11 to the northbound South Bay Expressway opened to traffic today.
  • Richmond-San Rafael bridge corridor work to be topic of open houses. A pair of open houses on access improvement work planned for the portion of Interstate 580 along the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge corridor will be held next week in Richmond and San Rafael. The Richmond open house is 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 8 in the council chamber at City Hall, 450 Civic Center Plaza. The San Rafael meeting is 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at San Rafael City Hall, 1400 Fifth Ave.
  • Caltrans outlines Riverside, San Bernardino District 8 freeway projects in next 5 years. A list and a map showing 20 Southwest Riverside County Caltrans District 8 freeway projects either underway or planned for the next five years now available from the district offices in San Bernardino were handed out at a Riverside County District 3 Municipal Advisory Council meeting in Anza Nov. 9. The information is available on request from residents in Riverside and San Bernardino County. Caltrans District 8 is a part of the state transportation agency’s efforts to be more transparent with their projects. The district offices are located at 464 W. 4th Street in San Bernardino or and can be reached by calling (909) 383-4646.

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