California Highway Headlines for December 2015

userpic=roadgeekingAnother calendar year is drawing to a close, and so to another year of highway headlines. I’m busily working on updating the highway pages, taking advantage of “shutdown week”. So here’s the last round of headlines from 2015:

  • Here are better ideas for the land Caltrans has stockpiled for the 710 Freeway extension. We’re having the wrong debate about the 710 Freeway. To put it another way: The debate we’re having about the 710 Freeway should be a whole lot broader and more imaginative than it’s been so far. State and local transportation planners announced last year that they were finally abandoning the controversial idea of building an aboveground extension of the 710 through Pasadena and South Pasadena. In its place they presented five options, including adding new transit lines or building the roadway as a five-mile, $5.6-billion tunnel.
  • California Fights Road Expansions in the Face of a Growing Populace. The California Department of Transportation has decided that as the state’s population grows, it might be a bad idea to build more roads to accommodate the new residents. That’s the news from The Sacramento Bee, which reported last week that the department is prioritizing maintenance of existing roads above expansions and new roads. It’s a reflection of a culture shift CalTrans has been touting for a while now — latching onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s environmental policies, the department is now whole-heartedly embracing a concept it previously dismissed.
  • Terminal Island Freeway Removal Project To Face More Scrutiny Before City Takes Action . The fate of the city-owned portion of the Terminal Island Freeway, specifically regarding whether or not it’s feasible to decommission the space and transform it into park space, lurched another step forward Tuesday night, when the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously in favor of further traffic and environmental impact studies. The vote moves along a process that was initially proposed by advocates nearly a decade ago and was kickstarted when the city won a grant from CalTrans in 2013. The grant was part of an environmental justice initiative that provided it with the funds to hire a firm to come up with concepts for a potential freeway removal. That bid was awarded to Los Angeles design firm, Meléndrez, the same firm commissioned for the Bixby Park redesign.
  • Cost of 101-23 freeway expansion swells . A decision to redesign a sound wall along the 101 Freeway in Thousand Oaks could push back the scheduled completion date of the 101-23 interchange expansion weeks, if not months, according to a Thousand Oaks city official. Started in February 2014, work to expand the juncture of two of Ventura County’s busiest freeways was originally expected to last around two years. Now it’s looking more like two-and-a-half..
  • Interstate 5: The facts, the fiction, the video. For many Californians, winter vacation is a prime chance to spend some quality time on Interstate 5. This two-minute video shows you a big chunk of it — beginning with a Taco Bell parking lot in Coalinga — while sorting out freeway fact and fiction. It is a fact, for instance, that I-5 covers 796 miles in California and continues through Oregon and Washington. It is fiction, however, that Junipero Serra cast mustard seeds to show Caltrans engineers where to put the exits.
  • Roadshow: Tuesday marks 50th anniversary of Highway 85 to Mountain View. Q In 1965, I was 8 years old and living in Sunnyvale. My dad sold real estate at various subdivisions springing up around the Santa Clara Valley. Because he was a real estate salesman, he worked weekends. His day off was Wednesday. So on Dec. 8, 1965, which happened to be a Wednesday, we heard the Highway 85 freeway opening parade was to be held, and he agreed to take me. I never forgot that day and how special it was to be there with my dad. It’s one reason I’ve had a lifelong fascination with transportation of all kinds, including your column. I chaired the committee that updated the San Mateo County bike plan in 1999.
  • On the Road: Caltrans taking a look at a new freeway interchange. Q. With another 40 homes going in at the Marywood site and possible plans to replace the driving range on Meats Avenue with housing, are there any plans to move forward with building an on/off ramp at the 55 freeway and Meats in Orange? I know studies have been done, but I don’t know the results or if there is a timetable to any work.
  • Funding package could advance Highway 101 widening through Novato Narrows . Sonoma County transportation officials believe they have identified a funding source to complete a widening project at the northern entrance to the Novato Narrows, a notorious section of Highway 101 south of Petaluma that enrages many motorists. Carpool lanes would be opened on a 5-mile stretch of Highway 101 from the Petaluma River Bridge to just south of the Sonoma-Marin county line as part of the project, which faces a crucial test before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission next week.
  • Transportation bill allocates $26 billion to California. Congress has agreed for the first time since 2005 on a long-term transportation bill that will raise federal spending on highways by 5 percent and transit by 8 percent in its first year. Over the bill’s five-year life, California will get $26 billion in federal funds for a variety of transportation projects, a 14.5 percent increase.
  • Improvements and Change in Speed Limit on I-5 South Project. Crews have finished driving about one hundred steel piles for the new Interstate 5 (I-5) bridge over Avenida Pico in San Clemente, part of the $230 million I-5 South County Improvements Project. The project extends the carpool lane in both directions from San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano to Avenida Pico in San Clemente.
  • Concrete Dreams: Desire and Regret on the Freeways of LA. Los Angeles has been made of many things since September 1781. Despite the prevailing mythology that insists Los Angeles has no substance, that it’s a city only of dreams, Los Angeles has made itself out of real stuff, beginning with the city’s founding in dried mud. Dried mud is adobe, and adobe Los Angeles had the virtue of being made out of a sustainable and recyclable building material that’s also surprisingly durable. With a sound roof and some care, buildings made of adobe have survived nearly 200 years of Los Angeles rain and earthquakes.
  • CORONA: Grand Boulevard ramps to close. Ramps connecting Grand Boulevard to the 91 in Corona will be permanently closed next month. Drivers will be diverted to alternate ramps currently undergoing improvements as part of the 91 expansion project, said Riverside County Transportation Commission Deputy Director John Standiford.
  • Bay Lights are back! Watch the artist reprogram the lights this week. The lesser-loved Bay Area bridge is about to shine again. Artist Leo Villareal is currently testing the Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge so if you want another glimpse at his sparkling creation, head to your favorite view of the bridge this week. Villareal works from Pier 14, where he has custom software to control the lights. The project was initially meant to run for two years only, but it became so popular that Illuminate the Arts was able to raise the $4 million needed to make it a permanent fixture. Back in early October, construction workers installed over 25,000 LED lights along the bridge’s 300 cables.
  • Salvaged Bay Bridge Steel Awarded To 5 Art Proposals. Salvaged steel from the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge has been awarded to five projects for public display, with more awards on the way, Oakland Museum of California officials announced Tuesday. The chosen projects include a public sculpture near the Petaluma River, a gate for an arts center in Joshua Tree, two public installations near the bridge and an observation platform for a park in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, museum officials said.
  • Westlake’s new Lindero bridge wins acclaim. The American Public Works Association recently recognized the City of Westlake Village’s newly reconstructed Lindero Canyon Road Overpass with a 2015 APWA “Best” award in the transportation category for cities under 50,000 in population. Representatives from the city—including Mayor Pro Tem Brad Halpern, Councilmember Kelly Honig, city manager Ray Taylor and city engineer John Knipe—attended the APWA Southern California Chapter’s 16th annual awards luncheon Dec. 9 at the Lakewood Civic Center.
  • Bay Area’s 10 worst commutes. Ten worst commute corridors. The morning commute to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge regained its top ranking as the most congested highway. Recognize your daily slog on the Top 10 list compiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission?
  • Bay Bridge corrosion leads panel to reconsider plan. In an apparent about-face, the oversight panel for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge voted Thursday to consider the idea of installing a corrosion-fighting system on the main tower’s flooded foundation. The unexpected vote of the board — composed of the heads of Caltrans, the local Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the state Transportation Commission — came two months after the three rejected the same idea.
  • Zzyzx: Revisiting Doc Springer’s Boulevard of Dreams. Many iconic points of interest dot the Mojave Desert stretch of Interstate 15, the busy speedway linking Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The recent ruins of the Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark, also known as Lake Dolores, are prominent from the highway — 23 miles east of Barstow and 45 miles west of Baker. Once said to have had the world’s longest raft ride, its endless rivers have now sat dry for over a decade, slides removed, and concrete channels marvelously vandalized. For years there have been rumors of the park’s eventual reopening, but this seems less likely with each new layer of graffiti.
  • Digging Deep in the Never Ending Battle to Extend the 710. It’s one of the joys of living in Los Angeles. You can be beetling along in traffic, ruing the day gridlock was invented, and then have an epiphany smack right up against your windshield when you realize that you’re in a neighborhood you’ve never noticed before. The what-is-this-place delight is all the more heady when you’re an L.A. know-it-all. That was me as I rolled into South Pasadena 12 years ago, sunlight flickering through the thick tree canopy onto turn-of-the-century stoops and gables. Blocks of Craftsman homes led to a drowsy downtown with an old Carnegie library and a new Gold Line station. What I thought was just the nether end of Pasadena was actually a city of its own, founded in 1888 and covering three-and-a-half square miles. There were ice cream shops and small parks and, for me, the general sense of wonder at finding Brigadoon next door to the nation’s second-largest city./li>
  • Tear Down a Freeway? In Southern California? It Could Happen. A number of West Coast freeways have been decommissioned and demolished over the years — Harbor Drive in Portland in the 1970s, the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco in the 2000s. Doyle Drive in San Francisco is currently being demolished. And the long-delayed project to remove the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a raised freeway that mars downtown Seattle’s waterfront and will be replaced with a tunnel, resumed on Dec. 22 when Bertha, a giant tunnel-boring machine, finally got repaired. But in Southern California, the freeway is king. It may be impossible to build a new freeway in L.A. County, but it’s damn near unthinkable to remove one. That may be about to change.
  • $10 million grant secured for upgrade to Old Highway 40 at Donner Summit. For the first time in roughly 50 years, a historic portion of Donner Pass Road that serves as a vital link to rock climbing, biking and hiking in the Sierra is scheduled for a major overhaul. Nevada County Public Works principal civil engineer Joshua Pack said he had been waiting to hear about a $6.6 million grant application under California’s Federal Lands Access Program. .
  • A toll crossing between the U.S. and Mexico is slowly taking shape. At a time when border waits can stretch for hours, the plan seems almost too good to be true: a major new international crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, where trucks and passenger vehicles would wait no more than 20 minutes to reach the border. Planners in the United States and Mexico are thinking big as they envision Otay Mesa East, a future port of entry that would serve both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. Otay Mesa East would be California’s first tolled vehicle border crossing, incorporating binational lane management and toll collection. It would be privately financed through bonds in a plan where San Diego Assn. of Governments, or SANDAG, would play the central role
  • Tony Bizjak: Caltrans plans to widen Capital City Freeway – but when?. It’s the Sacramento region’s worst freeway bottleneck, by far. Every day, traffic comes to a standstill on the Capital City Freeway near the American River. The snarls are even worse some Saturdays. Now, after years of debating what to do, state and local leaders say they’ve reached a resolution: It’s time to drop the small-town mindset and go for a big fix. Caltrans has begun laying the groundwork for a $700 million freeway widening from midtown to the junction with Interstate 80. That includes widening the American River bridge to add a new multi-use lane in each direction, as well as building wider shoulders for stalled cars to pull over, a separate lane on the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, and other improvements. The proposed project area is 8 miles long.
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California Highway Headlines for November 2015

userpic=roadgeekingAnother month has come and gone, and we’re one month closer to the end of 2015. Here are the highway headlines for November:

  • The 5, the 101, the 405: Why Southern Californians Love Saying ‘the’ Before Freeway Numbers. Southern Californians have a distinctive — “Saturday Night Live’s” Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig might say funny — way of giving directions. To get from Santa Monica to Hollywood, take the 10 to the 110 to the 101. Burbank to San Diego? The 134 to the 5. And, if you can, always avoid the 405. Why the definite articles? After all, a resident of the Bay Area enjoys coastal drives along “101” or takes “80 east” to Sacramento. Most of North America, in fact, omits the “the” before route numbers.
  • How We Got Into This Mess: A History of Bay Area Transportation. “Growing congestion due to a booming economy.” / “An influx of new people into already crowded cities.” / “Rising real estate prices.” / Sounds like the San Francisco Bay Area today, no? But actually, these are clips from newspapers stories in the 1950s, when San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose saw rapid population growth due to soldiers returning from World War II and the first phase of the baby boom. That is when the region embarked on a plan to build what was then the largest public works project in American history — the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, now known as BART — which opened in 1972 and is, today, a vital pipeline for the region, carrying more than 400,000 people each workday.
  • Demolition begins on 91 Freeway bridge in Corona after collapse.
    Crews have begun demolition on the 91 Freeway bridge that partially collapsed and injured several construction workers in Corona last month. At least nine workers were injured when the bridge that spans E. Grand Boulevard gave way on Oct. 9. The workers were lowering an on-ramp bridge into place when the jacking operation failed, causing the bridge deck to drop about 16 inches and hit the wooden support beams. The wooden support beams then hit the workers, the commission said in a press release.
  • At 100, ‘Mr. Freeway’ looks back at his concrete creations. If Jacob Dekema ’37 was an artist, his signature would be on the world’s largest art installation — 480 miles long — a sculpture with bending and twisting arteries of concrete, swirling through canyons, over hills, through valleys, intersecting in spectacular loops and bridges and all built on a monumental scale with the ultimate in concrete and tensile technology. Once he was hanged in effigy for putting a highway through a town. Some condemned him for building too many freeways. Others criticized him for not building enough. Officials gave him keys to their cities, and business leaders who appreciated the economic blessings of a good highway praised him.
  • PERRIS: I-215 construction opens road to progress. The expansion of I-215 through the middle of Riverside County was one infrastructure project that hit close to home for Daryl Busch. Not only is he the mayor of Perris, he also is the chairman of the Riverside County Transportation Commission. And the I-215 Central Project called for the Perris Boulevard Bridge, which runs between the Busch residence and City Hall, to be rebuilt.
  • NB 101 Freeway Lankershim off-ramp to close Nov. 30 – Dec. 9 for pedestrian bridge construction. Construction for the Universal Pedestrian Bridge that crosses Lankershim Boulevard continues with steel sections of the bridge arriving for installation. This will require a closure of the Northbound 101 Lankershim off-ramp, which will take place during late night hours from Nov. 23 through Dec. 9. Signage will be in place directing both foot and vehicular traffic around the construction zone. Temporary lane closures will be on Universal Hollywood Drive, Lankershim Blvd. and at Campo de Cahuenga. Access to Universal Studios, hotels and City Walk will be maintained via detour. Emergency vehicle access will be maintained at all times.
  • MID-COUNTY PARKWAY: Riverside wants county to build route as promised. About 10 years ago, a 32-mile freeway linking the San Jacinto Valley to Interstate 15 took shape as a way to improve east-west traffic flow in Riverside County’s growing midsection and provide an alternative to going through Riverside en route to Highway 91. Today, the Mid-County Parkway has been cut in half and won’t reach I-15, if it’s built at all. And Riverside city officials worry about the future of efforts to ease congestion that snarls the 91 and clogs city streets.
  • The 10 deadliest interstates in America, mapped. Car accidents killed 32,719 people in 2013, about 90 people each day. And there are some stretches of American road that prove much deadlier than others. I used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to examine where fatal traffic accidents are most likely to occur, and whether there are certain stretches of highway that seem to have a disproportionate number of collisions given their size. I pulled the 2,867 fatal accidents on major American interstates in 2013 into the map below.
  • Study: 405 Freeway Expansion Not Easing Traffic Congestion. Angelenos who commute through the Sepulveda Pass on the 405 Freeway are all too familiar with the heavy traffic that frequently chokes the main Westside to San Fernando Valley artery. A 5-year, $1.1 billion project to add a carpool lane, along with new on-ramps and off-ramps, was supposed to help ease some of that congestion. That project is perhaps best remembered for “Carmaggedon,” which closed parts of the freeway for a weekend in 2011 for construction work.
  • Largest support pier of old San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge demolished. The largest of more than 20 in-water piers that supported the old eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was demolished Saturday morning during a six-second underwater implosion. Sprays of water shot into the air as workers set off 600 charges that had been placed in pre-drilled holes in Pier E-3, a hollow, reinforced concrete structure that stretched from the waterline to 175 feet beneath the bay floor.
  • California’s DOT Admits That More Roads Mean More Traffic. Whenever a road project gets announced, the first thing officials talk about is how it’s going to reduce traffic. Just last month, for instance, the Connecticut DOT reported that it would be widening Interstates 95 and 84, a project that would result in major economic benefits from “easing congestion”: The analysis found that adding a lane in each direction border-to-border will save I-95 travelers well over 14 million hours of delays by the year 2040. Likewise, the widening of I-84 will save travelers over 4.7 million hours of delays during the same period.
  • 34 neighbors want to remove highway 980, which segregates W Oakland and downtown between 580 and 880 in Oakland.. 980 is the lowest traffic segment of urban freeway in Oakland, and the most valuable land (whether from a community or commercial perspective) taken up by a freeway. Reunite historic West and downtown Oakland, recover about 29 core city blocks!
  • Here’s the Bonkers, $700-Billion Libertarian Plan to Fix Los Angeles Traffic. The future of transportation in Los Angeles is getting a lot of much-deserved attention lately, as the sustainability of the city’s model has city planners looking at major changes in the way LA gets around town. Mobility Plan 2035, the city’s long-term transportation plan seeks to finally get many Angelenos out of their cars with workable public transportation and an improved network of bike lanes. Not everyone agrees that that’s the way to go, though. The Libertarian Reason Foundation says bikes and buses are not the solution to traffic congestion—making more room for cars is. They have proposed a $700-billion plan to build an extensive network of new tunnels and expressways that they say would help free up some of the city’s most congested areas of traffic.
  • Four Design-Build Teams Short-Listed for I-405 Improvement Project. The OCTA Board approved the short-listing of four design-build teams for the design and construction of the Interstate 405 (I-405) Improvement Project. OC 405 Partners, Orange County Corridor Constructors, Shimmick/Tutor-Perini, and Skanska-Flatiron will be invited to participate in the industry review process and submit proposals in response to the final request for proposals for the project.
  • A Freeway-Free San Francisco. Of all North American cities, San Francisco is the most commonly cited example of how urban freeways can be removed successfully. The City by the Bay has earned high marks in using surface streets and transit in place of freeways to better move people, goods, and services, and improve the vitality of neighborhoods. A Freeway-Free San Francisco explores the following question: If the Embarcadero and Central Freeway demolitions achieved success, could the same benefits result from replacing other urban freeways? If San Francisco were to remove more freeways, what strategies will generate the most success—and which stretches of road might be removed first? Building on the experiences of both cities, A Freeway-Free San Francisco outlines practical steps for replacing freeways with surface streets and how those steps could help San Francisco, and, by example, other cities.
  • Roadshow: How would you fix Highway 17?. Q The problem with Highway 17 is simple: It is too narrow. Santa Cruz County doesn’t want to widen and straighten 17 because they want it to be a barrier to more people commuting from Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley. I understand people wanting to complain about it, but the focus of their complaints should be in Santa Cruz government halls.
  • The 12 Worst Bottlenecks on Los Angeles’s Freeways. Thanksgiving traffic is nearly upon us, but for those who drive year-round, the hellish crawl of holiday gridlock is not quite as soul-crushing as dealing with some of the worst congestion points in the nation as part of everyday life. A new study shows that the Los Angeles area “had far more bottlenecks than any other metropolitan area, claiming the second through seventh worst spots, as well as the 11th, 13th, 14th, 29th, 30th and 40th,” says City News Service. The award for second most terrible bottleneck in the whole country, and the worst in the LA region, goes to (drumroll please): the 405 Freeway between the 605 Freeway and Route 22.
  • In L.A., One Way to Beat Traffic Runs Into Backlash . The music can start blaring at the crack of dawn. That is often followed by loud cellphone conversation, and before too long Melissa Menard, clad in a bathrobe and holding a cup of coffee, confronts the offenders: the caravan of morning commuters driving by her house. “Everybody loves Beyoncé, but not at 7 a.m.,” she said. Ms. Menard’s suburban Los Angeles street of ranch houses, Cody Road, has turned into a thoroughfare with enough gridlock to make Times Square at rush hour feel tranquil. On early mornings when headlights are still needed, it resembles one long funeral procession.
  • Caltrans finishes Upvalley bridge work a year ahead of schedule. Caltrans has completed construction of the new Highway 29-Troutdale Creek Bridge one year ahead of its late 2016 schedule. It opened to two-way traffic Friday. The bridge is in northwest Napa County between Calistoga and Middletown. Motorists on Highway 29 should drive with caution as crews switch traffic lanes and remove temporary traffic signal lights approaching the new bridge.
  • Study: San Francisco, Oakland among worst traffic bottlenecks in US. A new study shows that the San Francisco-Oakland area has two of the top 50 trouble spots in the country. The report says this proves America is stuck in traffic, costing billions in lost productivity and fuel. The stretch of Interstate 80 between Highway 101 and the Bay Bridge is nationally recognized, but it’s nothing to be proud of. That section has landed on the list of America’s Worst 50 Traffic Bottlenecks.
  • In the Inland Empire, Freeway Overpasses Can Win Urban Planning Awards . The American Planning Association advocates for excellence in planning. But to judge from the awards given by its Inland Empire chapter, sometimes the notion of “excellence” is in the eye of the local beholder. The chapter gave its 2015 Urban Design Award to a sprawling freeway interchange where Van Buren Boulevard crosses over I-215 in Riverside. As Jason Arango points out on GJEL’s blog, there are a lot absurdities about this award.
  • TIGER helping fix worst freeway interchange in California . In Los Angeles County, a 2014 TIGER grant is going toward improvements on a 2-mile stretch of highway where the congested 57/60 freeways converge. If you drive in the County, you probably know the 57/60 Confluence all too well…and for all of the wrong reasons.
  • Highway 227 traffic problems to be studied by SLO agency . During rush hour on Highway 227, some residents in the Rolling Hills neighborhood just south of San Luis Obispo purposefully avoid leaving their homes. “We don’t go out for dinner,” said Carolyn Park, who has lived off Highway 227 for 40 years. “We schedule doctor’s appointments past 9 or 9:30 a.m. I’ve heard this from other people, too. Many people said we adjust our lives now, so we don’t have to go out during those times.” Numerous Rolling Hills residents said they had seen traffic steadily increase, then become much worse in the past few years, in part because of new developments near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. Some of the additional traffic also comes from drivers trying to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic on southbound Highway 101 during rush hour.
  • The 710 Long Beach Freeway: A History of America’s Most Important Freeway. From the corporate investment of Jamestown to the Wolf of Wall Street era, economic interests have superseded many other American values. The I-710 Long Beach Freeway, meanwhile, has become the country’s most important — although clogged — economic artery, in the vascular system of American capitalism. The business of America is business. Yet, the 710 Freeway’s primary function has aided in the largest trade deficit in world history, facilitating the exporting of U.S. manufacturing jobs, while Pocahontas pajamas, children toys, and a litany of consumer goods are imported onto thousands of diesel powered trucks.
  • Agency studies 101 toll lanes: Millions sought for early phases of bringing carpool/toll lanes to well-used highway . With commute times on Highway 101 getting worse, the City/County Association of Governments is moving forward with studying whether carpool and toll lanes can solve the problem. The C/CAG board is seeking $9.4 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to conduct the preliminary environmental and design work needed before any potential construction can actually take place on the corridor. C/CAG has also requested another $8.5 million from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for the environmental phase of the project.
  • Analysis of Bay Bridge pier implosion shows minimal effect on water, wildlife. Initial analysis of the implosion of the largest pier of the old Bay Bridge eastern span shows that there was minimal impact to wildlife and water quality, Caltrans officials said Tuesday. Given the success of the Nov. 14 implosion of Pier E3, Caltrans will likely seek to use explosives to demolish the remaining 21 piers of the defunct span.

 

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This is the city, Los Angeles, California. I work here.

userpic=los-angelesToday’s news chum post brings a collection of stories about Los Angeles, and all things Los Angeles:

  • The Feud. KCET has an interesting article on “the feud” — that is, the supposed ongoing rivalry between Southern and Northern California. KCET’s attitude: “get over it”. I would tend to agree. I’ve seen numerous people from Northern California who are disdainful of Southern California, making fun of all sorts of supposed and real attributes of Southern California folks. Southern California folks, however, don’t seem to have the same dislike of the area, finding it a very nice place to visit. There are dichotomies in California, but neither the Tehachapis or the SLO/KER/SBD northern county lines are not one of them.
  • The Triforium. In a downtown mall that really isn’t a mall but a lunch hideaway for jurors, there exists a sculpture that doesn’t work. The Triforium, originally designed as a “‘polyphonoptic’ sculpture,” was intended by mosaic artist and sculptor Joseph Young to have its nearly 1,500 glass bulbs on the six-story structure light up “in synchrony to music from a 79-note glass bell carillon.” But it was ahead of its times, and never quite worked right. It became more of a mockery than an attraction. But that may be changing. A Triforium Refurbishment is in the works. United behind the present Triforium restoration project is a group including noted LA booster/explorer Tom Carroll from the Tom Explores Los Angeles web series, the group YACHT of the 5 Every Day app, the executive director of the Downtown LA Art Walk, and Councilmember Jose Huizar. According to their website for the undertaking, the group is hoping to refurbish the piece, updating its computer technology to something more modern—”a nimble and inexpensive computer system that can achieve Young’s original goals”—and replacing the bulbs with efficient LEDs. They’re also planning to create an app that would allow anyone to compose their own “polyphonoptic” music and send it to the Triforium to be played out of those ladybug-like speakers, offering a whole new opportunity for engagement with the sculpture. Would you like to help? Here’s more information.
  • The Times. Los Angeles used to have a great paper: The Los Angeles Times. Local, with bureaus all over the world, it rivals the NY Times. Nowadays, it is a shadow of its formal self. Page count has dropped. Ad revenue has dropped. To compound matters, the Times has been saving money by downsizing, which makes the product worse, so revenue drops more, so they downsized more. The LA Times just completed another series of buyouts, and the people left Wednesday,  and the draw-down of talent is significant. It’s got me questioning whether I still want to subscribe, but the other local papers face equally whittled staff and equally bleak prognoses. I’d consider the NY Times (where real journalism still exists), but (a) it’s New York, and (b) it exhibits such a paternalistic “look down the nose” attitude towards LA. SCPR/KPCC had an interesting take on the downsizing, as it looked at the changes in the Food section over the years. When one of the food editors who is leading started, “We needed a huge staff because, typically, the Food section was 70 to 80 pages every week, and during the holiday season we would publish two sections a week and sometimes those would be hundred-page sections.” These days, it is a lot smaller.
  • The Traffic. Everyone talks about the traffic in LA. It is one of my fears for conference attendees in just over a week. We have horrible bottlenecks on our freeways. The problem is induced traffic. A freeway gets widened with a new mixed-use or HOV lane, and it speeds up. As a result, more people take the freeway (either through new jobs, or a return to solo driving)… and the traffic ends up worse. I’ve seen this firsthand: right after the 405 construction process ended, traffic was better. Now it’s worse: our drive home is more often over 100 minutes, as opposed to the previous 85. It’s just that the traffic is in a different place. So how do people get around it? Waze. But Waze is creating another raft of problems, because traffic, like water, will find a way. Waze is moving traffic to tiny city streets, many of which were not designed for that traffic load. Again, I see that everyday. I theorize that is why the left from Chatsworth onto Wilbur, which used to take 1-2 lights, now regularly takes 4-5 lights.
  • The Airport. It is Thanksgiving weekend; one of the busiest traffic weekend. This drew out a number of articles on the historical LA Airport. We have an LA Magazine article on the origins as Mines Field, including a really neat map. Next we have a photo archive of the LA airport from the Mines Field days to the reconstruction in the 80s. Lastly, we have a history of the LA Airport Theme Building. I have this odd connection to the airport. I grew up near the airport, and had friends who lost their houses in the airport expansion to jet traffic in the mid-to-late 1960s. I attended synagogue on Airport Blvd, and never knew why that was the name — learning later that it was the main route into the “interim” terminal that was at Airport and Century. This was the terminal that was used after the Mines Field days, but before construction of the new LAX in the late 1950s.  Here are more images. PS: While writing this, I discovered that the Hyatt hotel at Sepulveda and Century was the first Hyatt hotel.

 

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Looking everywhere, going nowhere

userpic=travelToday’s news chum post continues the trend of using a song lyric in the title. Does anyone recognize the song? If you figure it out (or cheat), I’ll note that even thought the line fits the post, the overall song doesn’t really. In any case, today’s post — focused on going nowhere — is about transportation in the news. Transportation, in fact, that may get us nowhere fast. Here are a few transportation articles I’ve corrected, while I eat my lunch…

 

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California Highway Headlines for September 2015

userpic=roadgeekingWhew. Another busy month has come and gone. This one was extra busy, with vacation, the end of the government fiscal year craziness, and all sorts of stuff going on. Here are the collected headlines:

  • Creating the Santa Monica Freeway. Today, the Santa Monica (I-10) Freeway is an indelible marker across the Los Angeles landscape, a mini-equator that delineates boundaries between cultural and historical hemispheres of the city. Southern Californians depend on the freeway as a vital link between the Westside and downtown Los Angeles and as a transcontinental connection to points east. But in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, the I-10 was part of a massive public works project to bind the nation with concrete superhighways, then perceived as a threat that united local communities and later — according to one admirer — as a work of art.
  • Caltrans proposes wildlife overpass on 101 Freeway . Mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife would have less chance of becoming roadkill if the state adopts a plan to build a landscaped bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, supporters of the proposal said Wednesday. State agencies, elected officials and wildlife advocates urged the state to provide the much-needed link in an area where rampant development and highways have fragmented once-continuous habitat. The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long overpass near Liberty Canyon Road would connect the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.
  • New road-repair plan from Gov. Jerry Brown includes higher gas taxes, vehicle fees. Gov. Jerry Brown has ramped up his efforts to reach a deal on funding road repairs, dispatching a top administration official to present a new proposal to Republican leaders on Thursday morning. The proposal would provide $3.6 billion annually for transportation and includes a new $65 fee for vehicle owners, an 11-cent increase in the diesel tax and a 6-cent hike to the gas tax.
  • L.A.-area carpool lanes may be opened to everyone during off-peak hours. The state Senate sent the governor separate bills on Thursday — one that would allow all motorists to use carpool lanes on some Los Angeles County freeways during off-peak hours, and another that would increase penalties for sex offenders who remove court-ordered GPS tracking devices. The carpool lane measure was proposed as a way to reduce the frustrating congestion that plagues L.A. freeways even after the daily commutes.
  • Fixing the Most Dangerous Road in L.A. is Even Tougher Than You Think. It’s practically cliché to complain about traffic in Los Angeles. But one on- and off-ramp in East Los Angeles has become particularly notorious: the Avenue 43 exit on the Arroyo Seco Parkway. The first freeway in America, this thoroughfare was once considered a modern marvel. But more than 70 years later, the road’s sudden, sharp turns directly into speeding cars have led to countless accidents. Nearby residents are anxious for a solution.
  • Ortega Highway Interchange construction ends after two years of traffic-snarling construction. Long-anticipated upgrades to San Juan Capistrano’s Ortega Highway Interchange came to an end last weekend after more than two years of traffic-snarling construction. The California Department of Transportation and the Orange County Transportation Authority began improvements on the intersection of Ortega Highway and I-5 in February 2013 to relieve traffic congestion around San Juan Capistrano’s primary connection to the freeway. The $81 million project was finished Friday with improved traffic flow and freeway access.
  • People living near 60 Freeway in Ontario breathe the worst air in the Southland. With its sprawl of tract homes, apartment complexes, shopping centers and warehouses, Ontario looks like many other communities in the Inland Empire and shares the same environmental woes, including heavy truck traffic and air pollution. But people in one neighborhood near the 60 Freeway have a dubious new distinction: They are breathing the dirtiest air in Southern California, according to new measurements by pollution regulators.
  • Highway 4 widening completion pushed back to summer 2016. Commuters weary of Highway 4’s daily gridlock will have to wait a while longer than expected for the highly anticipated widening project to be completed, and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority says hot and windy weather is to blame. Officials now say that the Highway 4 widening project should be finished by midsummer of 2016, an extension of at least six to eight months beyond the agency’s original estimate that the project would be completed by the end of this year. Construction supervisors say East Contra Costa’s notorious heat, coupled with high winds in the area, have forced workers to postpone concrete pours time and time again, delaying the project.
  • Roadshow: New 101-880 interchange could cost $1 billion. Q I know you have probably answered this at least once a week for the last 30 years, but I missed each one. If I were in charge of Caltrans, upgrading the 880/101 interchange would have been on my to-do list in 1962 and would have been completed by 1964. Any chance of building a flyover in each direction before I die?
  • Highway 37 improvement plan eyed by Marin, other North Bay counties. Marin and other North Bay counties are looking to develop a plan and financing to improve the utilitarian and sometimes aggravating Highway 37 between Novato and Vallejo. Increasing traffic and sea-level rise are among the challenges facing the state highway, which existed in its current footprint since the 1930s.
  • Construction Moves Forward on the Avenido Pico Interchange. Pile driving is scheduled to begin in late October for the new portion of the Avenida Pico bridge on the southbound side of Interstate 5 (I-5) in San Clemente. Reconstruction of the Avenida Pico interchange is part of the $230 million I-5 South County Improvement Project, which also extends the carpool lane from San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano to Avenida Pico in San Clemente.
  • I-580 toll lanes opening delayed; I-680 projects on the way. With jam-packed freeways an all-too-common roadblock for many drivers in the area, Pleasanton is on track to soon find itself nearly surrounded by one of regional traffic officials’ go-to strategies for congestion relief. Toll express lanes, an alternative to traditional carpool lanes, continue to be built along both directions of Interstate 580 through Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore
  • Toll payers will dig deep: Bay Bridge fix could top $15 million. A long-term fix for the waterlogged steel rods at the base of the new Bay Bridge eastern span’s tower will cost at least $15 million, much of which could come from toll payers, Caltrans officials said Wednesday. The risk of corrosion to the high-strength, 25-foot-long rods has led to months of study and delays in putting the finishing touches on the eastern span, which opened to traffic in September 2013.
  • Ridge Route, pioneering LA-to-Bakersfield highway, hits 100. If the Grapevine is California’s hardworking mother road, the Ridge Route is the state’s demanding, surprising grandmother. And when grandma marks 100 — as the Ridge Route does next Saturday — you bring the party to her. Next Saturday’s centennial celebration will feature an antique car show, lectures and a tour of wind-whipped Dead Man’s Curve — but what supporters really want for the Ridge Route’s birthday is to reopen all of the historic highway.
  • Highway 101 toll lanes possible for Marin. A plan for toll lanes on Highway 101 in Marin to move drivers along faster — for a price — is still a possibility for the county. The toll lane — also known as “express lane” — concept is straightforward: Solo drivers could pay to use carpool lanes. That money could be used to finance local transportation projects.
  • Highway 101 projects get OK: San Mateo County Transportation Authority allocates $108M in local sales tax money . With congestion along Highway 101 tightening alongside the burgeoning Bay Area economy, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority is allocating $108 million in local sales tax dollars toward projects aimed at alleviating commuters’ woes. The authority is responsible for overseeing revenue from Measure A, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax originally passed in 1988 and reaffirmed in 2004; now it has about $125 million to improve conditions near Highway 101. While this recent allocation will not exhaust its entire highway grant fund, the leftover money can be rolled over to future years’ funding cycles and officials with the TA are hopeful the stream of sales tax revenue will support new projects.
  • Gov. Brown vetoes off-hours use of L.A. County carpool lanes. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure Monday that would have allowed, during off-peak hours, all motorists to use carpool lanes on the 134 Freeway from North Hollywood to Pasadena, and on the 210 Freeway from Pasadena to Glendora. The measure would also have allowed the state Department of Transportation to study whether similar openings should be used on other freeways in the county.
  • I-80 onramp meters in Solano County to be switched on. The switch will be flipped by the California Department of Transportation on some 32 traffic meters throughout Solano County starting Monday. Vacaville will see 16 meters given the green light. The second stage of ramp meter activation in Solano County includes on-ramp locations on eastbound and westbound Interstate 80 between Redwood Street in Vallejo and Interstate 505 in Vacaville. “Traffic is only going to increase in these areas, so this is an effort to get out in front of it,” said Vince Jacala, Caltrans public information officer for Napa and Solano counties. “This is a tool that helps with the flow of traffic.”
  • Marin IJ Editorial: Highway 101/580 connector needs to be a Marin priority. Local officials have compiled a list of proposed traffic problems, all aimed at helping solve local problems. This countywide grouping, which will eventually have to be culled to $480 million, is laundry list on plans, promises and wishes. The Transportation Authority of Marin should make sure it is topped by a plan to address one of Marin’s worst traffic problems, solving the nightly jam of Highway 101 traffic getting onto Interstate 580.
  • Caltrans gets go-ahead to implode pier on old Bay Bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given Caltrans final permission to carry out a $160 million implosion of the largest concrete pier of the old Bay Bridge eastern span next month, the state agency said Thursday. Caltrans said in the spring that it intended to implode the five-story underwater structure to speed demolition of the old bridge. Various agencies raised concerns over the potential harm to an endangered fish, the longfin smelt, a 5-inch-long species whose numbers have plummeted in the drought.
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Changes to California Highways – May through September

userpic=roadgeekingSeptember has rolled around. Before we “fall” into Fall, it is time for another round of highway page updates… just in time for the new year!

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, but as usual it contained no additional information beyond what I gleaned on my own. I’ve given up on misc.transport.road. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(✍), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Bob Flaminio(1), Lee Ivy(2), Steve Riner (3), Steve Sobol(4), Rochelle Stockman(5), Lewis Yee(6) ]: Route 1(✍), I-5(✍), Pre-1964 Route I-15(4), Route 25(✍), Route 29(✍),, Route 37(✍), Route I-80(✍,5), Route 85(✍), Route 91(✍),, Route 99(✍), US I-405(✍), I-580(✍), I-605(✍), I-680(✍), Route 710(✍).

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. Noted the passage of the following bills and resolutions: Read More …

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California Highway Headlines for August 2015

userpic=roadgeekingAugust. The dog days of summer. A time when you’re either out driving in the heat or hiding from it. I’m on the beach in Hawaii m’self, but I did collect these headlines for you:

  • State Agency Cites Caltrans, Contractors for ‘Serious Violations’ Leading to Willits Bypass Collapse. A state investigation has determined the falsework that collapsed on the Willits bypass on January 22 “was not properly designed, was not erected as per the design plans, was missing components, [and] deficiencies were not identified when inspected and signed off by the project engineer for the company erecting it.”
  • On 91 Freeway, a $2-billion effort to keep up with increasing traffic . The 91 Freeway between Fullerton and Corona is one of the most congested stretches of highway in California — an often frustrating bog of idling engines, squeaking brakes and commuter angst. The rush hour traffic results from an abundance of jobs in Orange County and more affordable housing in the Inland Empire. But for almost a decade, Caltrans and local transportation agencies were prevented from improving the heavily congested portal.
  • I-680 toll express lanes construction set to start. The project to bring toll express lanes to Interstate 680 through the San Ramon Valley is expected to start construction this month, with completion estimated for late next year. “The beginning of work on the 680 express lanes between San Ramon and Walnut Creek is an important milestone,” John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) said Tuesday.
  • 1963 Orange County Freeways Master Plan. It’s just a map, but what a map.
  • Contra Costa driver tolls on the I-680 horizon. Express lanes — toll roads for solo drivers willing to pay for speedier commutes — are about to bring Contra Costa County drivers into the world of high-tech traffic controls. Work was to begin Wednesday night on the first of three express-lane segments that in time will extend from the Benicia Bridge to the county border at Alcosta Boulevard in San Ramon. The first segment is on both directions of Interstate-680 from Walnut Creek to San Ramon.
  • San Antonio Road Bridge replacement plan in works. Plans to replace the San Antonio Road Bridge near the Marin-Sonoma border are in the works at the Civic Center. The bridge, built in 1917, will remain standing for pedestrian and bicycle use as a new $5.5 million span is constructed. The project, financed by federal grants, is part of the Marin-Sonoma Narrows freeway widening program. It involves realignment of San Antonio Road between Novato and Petaluma, including the span over San Antonio Creek.
  • Caltrans Talks About Replacing PCH’s Alamitos Bay Bridge. California’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is beginning a process to replace or repair the Alamitos Bay Bridge on Pacific Coast Highway. The bridge was built in 1959 over the river channel between Second Street and Loynes Drive. It was widened eight years later, but now has been deemed seismically deficient (in danger of collapse in an earthquake).
  • Caltrans: Grass Valley public meeting on Hwy. 49 widening . To get local feedback on the State Route 49 highway widening project, the California Department of Transportation will host an open house from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday in the Hullender Room at the Grass Valley City Hall. In an attempt to improve traffic operations and safety, the project proposes to widen Highway 49 to a four-lane highway, with 10-foot shoulder upgrades, from Nevada County’s section of the highway from miles 11.1 to mile 13.3.
  • New Life for Old East Span Steel. The Bay Bridge Steel Program, being administered by Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), was created in response to significant public interest from Bay Area artists and creative communities in making steel from the original 1936 East Span of the Bay Bridge available for repurposing and reuse. The steel that will be made available through this program will be drawn from the second phase of bridge demolition that began this summer. Noted photographer Sam Burbank, who also documented the dismantling of the Carquinez Bridge, has graciously provided the amazing photos on this two-page spread to give our readers an idea of the raw materials that will eventually become public art.
  • Why the time is right to re-examine the L.A. freeway. In 1981, a young writer named David Brodsly described the Los Angeles freeway as one of the city’s indispensible metaphors, “one of the few parts capable of standing for the whole.” He argued that the freeway had expanded “the realm of the accessible” for drivers in Southern California — that it was a powerfully democratic force, in essence — and lent “a new clarity” to a vast metropolitan region that newcomers had long found illegible and tough to grasp.
  • ‘The prettiest park in Los Angeles’ and why a freeway runs through it. Freeways are brutal structures. And they have been dropped into many communities — especially poor ones — in often indiscriminate ways. Exits from the 101 spill out onto quiet residential streets in Silver Lake. The monumental stacks of the 105 and the 110 lord over single-family homes in South L.A. And all over town you find homes and businesses tucked into the noisy, inhospitable curves of a freeway access ramp. There is Offramp Gallery, a contemporary art space in Pasadena, which lies within the roar of the 210, and the Psychic Center of Los Angeles, sandwiched between a towering freeway wall and an onramp on the southbound 5. (Freeway noise aside, they do excellent readings.)
  • AQMD: 710 Freeway tunnel would raise cancer risk to unacceptable levels. In a detailed critique, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said the draft environmental impact report for the proposed 710 Freeway extension failed to estimate emissions of carbon monoxide and airborne particulates and that the tunnel project would raise the cancer risk to unacceptable levels. The eight-page letter from Ian MacMillan, the anti-smog district’s planning and rules manager, says the lack of basic air quality analysis renders the draft EIR useless to the agency or those deciding on a tunnel or other transit options.
  • Work continues on freeway interchange project. Work on the Interstate 80/Interstate 680/Highway 12 interchange project is continuing with bridge deck installation work related to the new Green Valley Road overcrossing. Crews installed five giant girders at the interchange earlier this week, the California Department of Transportation confirmed in a press release Thursday.
  • Caltrans, San Diego reviewing improvements to congested SR-56 in Carmel Valley. The city of San Diego and Caltrans are working together to find solutions for commuters who struggle daily with the heavily congested SR-56. At peak hours, the 56 can resemble a parking lot, with cars at a standstill. And with all the development occurring along the corridor, traffic is only expected to increase.
  • Caltrans seeking permit to bring down Bay Bridge support pier with explosives. Caltrans is seeking permits to demolish the largest pier of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge with explosives, a procedure that could be dangerous to native marine mammals, but Caltrans officials say it would have the least impact on bay wildlife. Federal agencies are still taking public comment on the planned implosion, which if approved would take place in November.
  • Levine wants third lane open on Richmond-San Rafael Bridge by September. A third eastbound lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge should be opened by the end of next month at the latest, not in 2017 as Caltrans has proposed, says Assemblyman Marc Levine. On Tuesday he introduced a bill — Assembly Bill 9 — in an attempt to push the agency into action, a move Levine, D-San Rafael, believes will help relieve the afternoon commute, which has created bumper-to-bumper traffic in Marin as drivers jockey to get onto the span. Some of that backup has spilled onto northbound and southbound Highway 101.
  • I-80 traffic control system in new test phase. The congestion improvement project meant to help drivers safely negotiate commute tie-ups on Interstate 80 moved into a new phase of testing this week. Overhead signs for the I-80 SMART Corridor between the Carquinez and Bay bridges are being tested during the daytime as engineers integrate the interconnected parts and their controls.
  • 1953 – Newly opened Sepulveda Blvd passing beneath LAX runway.. (photo and comments)
  • Mr. Roadshow: Route 85 Access Points in Saratoga. Q: Where will the access points to the planned Highway 85 express lanes be located? Will there be any in Saratoga?
  • Nobody Walks in LA. Kickstarter for a coffee-table art book of empty freeways in Los Angeles
  • 710 Tunnel: San Gabriel Valley cities take it off wish list for sales-tax funded projects. A group representing San Gabriel Valley cities has removed a controversial freeway tunnel proposal from its wish list of projects that might be funded by a new transportation sales tax. The decades-old idea of extending the 710 Freeway north from its Alhambra terminus near Cal State Los Angeles to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena via an underground tunnel has been divisive. Alhambra wants a tunnel, Pasadena doesn’t. Other cities have taken sides.
  • Tenants worry as Caltrans prepares to sell homes along 710 Freeway corridor. The modest cottages and majestic Craftsman homes that line a swath of quiet streets stretching though Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno are part of the long, tortured legacy of a freeway that was never built. In the 1950s and ’60s, Caltrans began buying up houses and plots of land for what was expected to be the path of the 710 Freeway extension. But in the decades that followed, the 6.2-mile project was stalled by lobbying, lawsuits and legislation. …
  • Rising seas, traffic threaten Highway 37. Highway 37 may mostly sit in Solano and Sonoma counties, but it has the potential to cause major traffic headaches for Napa County. Race days at Sonoma Raceway – such as this weekend—jam Highway 37 with traffic and prompt motorists to use south Napa County highways, jamming those roads too. During heavy winter storms, Highway 37, which sits on a low berm over marshland, can flood, diverting traffic to other routes, including Highway 12/121 in Napa County. With sea levels expected to rise, 37 faces an even more watery future.

 

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