Here are the highway headlines for April 2015. Yes, I know I’m behind on updating the California Highways site. Weekends get busy, and the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival will not help.
- Fremont: Citizen groups blast Caltrans’ Niles Canyon bridge replacement. The yearslong debate over widening the highway through Niles Canyon has continued, as environmental groups this month blasted Caltrans’ Alameda Creek Bridge project. Caltrans says that replacing the 87-year-old bridge would improve safety for drivers and bicyclists on a half-mile stretch of Niles Canyon Road, a winding highway that connects Fremont to Interstate 680 near Sunol.
- From Mammoths to Jefferson: How the Los Angeles Street System Ended Up So Weird. In some places, Los Angeles’s street grid is neat and orderly, pointing to the four cardinal directions. In other places, it’s neat and orderly, with a 45 degree tilt. Other places, it’s doing god knows what. In his LAtitudes essay “Gridding the City,” Nathan Masters travels the length of Wilshire Boulevard, from Downtown to Santa Monica, and through the history of Los Angeles’s many layouts. Approaches changed as the city sprawled west from Downtown, giving Wilshire its unpredictable course through the basin, and meanwhile dividing up the wild land and turning it into private property.
- After long fight, Orange County transportation officials agree to toll lanes on I-405. After fighting toll lanes for years, Orange County transportation officials on Monday said they couldn’t fight the state any longer and gave in, allowing toll lanes as part of a $1.7 billion expansion project of Interstate 405.
- Planning for San Bernardino County’s future by improving the 10, 15 freeways: L. Dennis Michael. Fifteen minutes? Thirty minutes? An hour? Every time we get in our car, we consider how long it will take us to get to our destination. This varies dramatically depending on when and where we are traveling. Traffic, both expected and unexpected, can impact the length and quality of that trip. At San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), the regional transportation planning agency for San Bernardino County made up of elected officials representing each of our 24 cities and the county, it is important we look ahead to plan for how we are going to get around 10, 20, and even 40 years from now. The 10 and 15 are two of the most heavily congested freeways in our county. In thinking about our future, we are currently studying the best ways to handle the growing traffic in these corridors.
- SR-710 Draft EIR Community Meeting. Caltrans and Metro are under a mandate from two million Los Angeles County voters that passed Measure R in 2008 to study a 100 square mile region affected by congestion and pollution caused by incomplete transportation infrastructure between the end of the I-710 freeway in El Sereno and the I- 210 Freeway in Pasadena.
- OCTA to take charge of 405 toll-lane project. The Orange County Transportation Authority is taking the reins on a highly debated proposal to put toll lanes on the 405 Freeway through part of the northern county. The OCTA board of directors voted 12 to 4 on Monday to approve terms with the California Department of Transportation, spelling out that OCTA would fund, finance, construct and operate the toll lanes. The agency also would be in charge of widening 14 freeway bridges as well as adding general-purpose lanes along the 14-mile stretch of the 405 between the 605 Freeway in Seal Beach and the 73 Freeway in Costa Mesa.
- 405 expansion could start in 2018. Motorists can expect years of freeway construction on a busy stretch of the I-405, with the aim of eventually easing gridlock, under a deal with Caltrans approved Monday by the Orange County Transportation Authority board. Construction is expected to begin in early 2018 on a combination HOV-toll lane between the 73 and I-605 and a free lane between Euclid Street to I-605. The new lanes would run in both directions.
- Will the Fight Over the 710 Gap in L.A. Be a Battle to the Death (of Freeways)?. When residents of South Pasadena, California, hear “mind the gap,” they think of anything but the Jubilee, Hammersmith or Piccadilly. For them, the gap in question refers not to a subway but to a freeway — or lack thereof. The 710 runs 23 miles north-south through the heart of the Los Angeles Basin, roughly paralleling the path of the Los Angeles River, from the port city of Long Beach to the inner suburb of Alhambra. There, the freeway abruptly stops, just past its interchange with the 10 Freeway, as if swallowed by a tar pit. Four-and-a-half miles to the north, the 210 freeway runs perpendicular to the 710’s logical route, and heads eastward to connect Los Angeles County to the Inland Empire.
- Interchange project marks major milestone. Overhead work recently completed on the Interstate 80/Interstate 680/Highway 12 interchange project marks a major milestone in the first phase of construction, the California Department of Transportation announced this week. Preliminary overhead structures were installed earlier this month for the new Green Valley Road overcrossing over I-80, requiring overnight closures of the freeway.
- History dotted with proposals for large-scale freeways in Malibu. The official website for the California Incline replacement project invites the public to “Be Excited, Be Prepared,” but for many Malibu commuters the prevalent emotion is trepidation, not excitement. The closure of the 100-year-old landmark, added to the ongoing sewer interceptor replacement project, threatens to further complicate the commute along a stretch of road that sometimes feels more like an obstacle course than a highway. However, local activists fought for more than a decade in the 1960s and ’70s to keep the coastal route from becoming a genuine highway.
- California Assembly OKs bill to name tunnel north of Golden Gate Bridge after Robin Williams . A bill to name a tunnel connecting the Golden Gate Bridge to the North Bay after the late comedian Robin Williams blasted out of the state Assembly Thursday on a 77-0 vote. The proposed legislation, authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, now heads to the Senate’s Transportation Committee.
- STA OKs pact for I-80 express lane project. The Solano Transportation Authority on Wednesday approved an agreement for preliminary engineering and final design work on an Interstate 80 express lane project from Red Top Road to Interstate 505. The authority’s board, by a unanimous vote, directed staff to enter into an agreement with AECOM Technical Services Inc. for the services, which are not to exceed $12.5 million.
It’s March. March was a month where we skip the pointless introductions, because it can’t decide if it is officially spring or summer. Here are the headlines:
- How Montague Expressway got its name. Dan-the-County-Roads-Man does and says “thanks for the history question! I love those.” Expressways were most often named for the older roads they were built over…
- Caltrans and San Mateo address dangerous merge: State Route 92 and El Camino Real interchange project moves ahead . Plans to alleviate the dangers of one of the Bay Area’s most hazardous highway intersections are well underway as the city of San Mateo and Caltrans work to remodel the State Route 92 and El Camino Real interchange. The current full cloverleaf layout was designed more than 50 years ago and provides short weaving distances where drivers must compete to exit and enter the freeway. The configuration also forces drivers to merge onto El Camino Real with wait times frequently causing cars to back up the length of the ramp and spill over onto State Route 92.
- 118, Somis Road construction gets start date . For those who commute along a dangerous and outdated portion of Highway 118 that cuts through Somis, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Although the drive will get worse before it gets better, the intersection of the 118 and Somis Road is scheduled for an overhaul in May to improve the traffic flow and create a fourway stop. Construction at the intersection is expected to take eight months, at a cost of about $2.5 million.
- $1.1 Billion and Five Years Later, the 405 Congestion Relief Project Is a Fail. This past May the project known as the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project came to official completion, with resulting new on-ramps and off-ramps, bridges and a northbound 405 carpool lane stretching 10 miles between the 10 and 101 Freeways. The four-turned–five-year, $1.1 billion project became a long-running nightmare of sudden ramp closures, poorly advertised by Metro and made all the worse by baffling detours that led drivers into the unfamiliar Bel Air Hills and Sherman Oaks hills, dead ends and unlit canyons.
- Report: Closing the 710 Freeway gap would take years and cost billions. Any major modifications to the unfinished 710 Freeway, one of Los Angeles County’s most persistent transportation controversies, would cost billions of dollars and take years to complete, according to environmental documents released Friday. In a 2,260-page draft environmental report, the California Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority examined four construction options they say could address the congestion and health issues that stem from the 710’s abrupt ending on a surface street in Alhambra. The freeway is a favored route for truckers shuttling between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and distribution centers in central Los Angeles County.
- $200-million Orange County tollway project stalls . A $200-million tollway project in Orange County suffered another defeat this week as water quality regulators refused to issue a waste discharge permit that was needed before construction can begin on the controversial project. In a unanimous vote, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board on Monday declined to issue the permit to the Transportation Corridor Agencies, the operator of 51 miles of toll roads in Orange County.
- VTA: Plans in works to extend express lanes on 237. The Valley Transportation Authority is finalizing its plan to add express lanes on State Route 237 from North First Street in San Jose to Mathilda Avenue in Sunnyvale. VTA held a public meeting March 3 to inform residents about phase 2 of the plan, which is set to be completed in late 2016.
- State Route 282 Relinquishment Under Consideration by Caltrans. TAF was informed on March 19, 2015, that “Caltrans is preparing a feasibility report to assess the potential to relinquish State Route 282 (SR-282) to the city of Coronado.” SR-282 is the portion of Third and Fourth Streets that runs from Orange Avenue to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI). This includes the portion of Alameda Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets. This is the Avenue of Heroes neighborhood loop. The process of “relinquishment is the removal of a State highway, either in whole or in part from the State Highway System (SHS),” and a contractual turning it over to another jurisdiction. In the case of SR-282 this would be the city of Coronado. (1)
- Historic Point Reyes bridge to be replaced, Caltrans says. The 86-year-old bridge that leading to Point Reyes Station will be demolished and replaced in what will be at least a seven-year process involving public input, lengthy environmental review and years of construction that will necessitate a temporary one-lane bridge across Lagunitas Creek. Public scoping for a replacement kicked off last Thursday at a poster-filled open house, hosted by the local district of the California Department of Transportation at West Marin School. Comments will be accepted through April 20.
- 2 options considered for reconstructing part of congested 710 Freeway. During most workdays, trucks hauling cargo containers dominate the two right lanes in each direction of the 710 Freeway, a vital trade corridor for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest combined harbor in the United States. The worst congestion occurs at rush hour when big rigs line up nose to tail, forming a wall of vehicles that extends for miles in each direction. Traffic in all lanes slows to a crawl, and motorists back up at the short offramps built in the 1950s.
- The torture that is the I-680 evening commute. I’ve noticed that small wooden stakes with spray-paint markings have been pounded into the dirt on the right shoulder of northbound Interstate 680 in the Fremont area. Could that have anything to do with widening 680 and adding more lanes? It would be an answer to my prayers! The afternoon commute out of Silicon Valley is horrible, which is why I have such a vested interest in seeing those little stakes in the ground.
- Major I-215/Newport Road project about to begin. Menifee residents are approaching the impending construction of the I-215/Newport Road intersection with equal measures of anticipation and dread. Anticipation for a remedy to the gridlock and frustration drivers experience getting on and off the freeway there. Dread because it will require more gridlock and frustration over the next 18 to 24 months.
- New Lost Hills bridge a ‘safe’ alternative. When it’s completed in about two years, the new Lost Hills bridge will have five traffic lanes, two bike paths and a sidewalk, making the passage across the 101 Freeway safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. The Lost Hills interchange is a main access point for drivers traveling to western Calabasas and Malibu. The bridge carries almost 30,000 vehicles each day and is considered too small for the high demand.
- Freeway ramp facelift delayed . Beautification plans for the First Street interchange have been pushed back at the request of the Simi Valley City Council. The proposed $822,500 interchange facelift includes planting low-maintenance, drought tolerant plants and trees on the site, said Ron Fuchiwaki, Simi Valley’s director of public works. The proposal also includes an additional $252,000 worth of maintenance and upkeep for the next seven years.
- Somis Road intersection to be redesigned. Ventura County Public Works Agency’s Department of Transportation will move forward as early as May to construct a realignment of the Donlon Road and Highway 118 intersection to line up with Somis Road (Highway 34). The purpose of the project is to improve safety at the intersection by eliminating the offset between Donlon and Somis roads. Construction will take about eight months. Shoulder widening along Highway 118 will occur at night to minimize disruption to traffic.
- The Panhandle Freeway and the Revolt That Saved the Park. Early this year, fresh talk of building a second BART tube to connect northwest San Francisco with the rest of the system garnered attention. But you can find other grand transit visions going back a century or more, many of which could have drastically changed the landscape of the city. From the 1910s through the 1960s, the thinking mostly involved building highways and freeways for cars, such as the “Divisional Highway” plan of the 1920s that would have gone through the Castro and up Divisadero to the Golden Gate.
- MTA’s toll-lane project may be a victim of its own success. The conversion of the 110 Freeway’s carpool lanes into toll lanes was not without bumps: Some Angelenos feared that adding tolls to the Los Angeles County freeway network would further divide rich and poor commuters. Others groused that freeways should be free. But two years later, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority project is on the cusp of becoming a victim of its own success: So many drivers now steer into the Harbor Freeway’s northbound toll lanes to escape morning traffic jams that the paid route is slowing down too. Over the course of a year, even as the per-mile toll crept toward the maximum, traffic in the paid lanes increased by almost 20% and speeds began to slow, officials say.
Theatre and highways: a lovely pair. From the Road Theatre Company in North Hollywood to the Route 66 Theatre in Chicago; from classic stories about the road such as “The Grapes of Wrath” (which takes place along Route 66 and off Route 99) to more modern parodies such as “CHiP: The Musical” (which played the Falcon — itself near Route 134 — a few years ago). Here in Los Angeles there are loads of small theatres directly on or near streets that used to be state highways: From REP East, on former Route 126; the large cluster of theatres along Lankersheim Blvd (the former state route that became Route 170); the Odyssey Theatre complex along former Route 7 (what become I-405) in West LA; to the theatre district along Santa Monica Blvd (former Route 2 and US 66) in Hollywood. These are all 99 seat and under theatres, and they are theatres whose existence is threatened by a proposal from AEA. This proposal would require these theatres to pay their actors minimum wage for rehearsals and performances, raising their costs overnight at least 10 fold — or more, depending on the number of AEA actors. On the surface, the union is doing this to protect “the dignity of actors” (even though the actors in Los Angeles do not want it, and being paid minimum wage when other venues pay much more is an odd definition of “dignity”); underneath, the real reason may be buried in the small print: if the theatre treats the actor as employee and there is an AEA contract, the AEA gets paid its fees first (whereas it gets little now). The larger community — from actors to producers to stage managers to creatives to audiences are saying, collectively, “Change is needed, but not this change.” We want to rework how intimate theatre is done, but not with this heavy handed solution forced from non-Californians. Learn more about the controversy at the I Love 99 website, and follow their Facebook group and Twitter feed. If you are an AEA member, vote “No” (and tell your friends). If you are not, spread the word.
If you’re reading this post, one of two thoughts are going through your mind. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute‽ I thought this was a blog about theatre.” If that’s you, calm down. I talk about many things in the blog — not just theatre — but I’m going add something just for you at the end. Alternatively, you might be thinking “About damn time. This is a site about highways, and we’ve had precious little highway stuff.” To you, I would agree. A lot of that is due to the changing budgets — we’re seeing less funds for roads, and the nature of work funded today tends not to be the work that reaches the threshhold for the highway pages. February has been a quiet month. So let’s go through what few headlines I have, and then I want to alert you to an issue of interest to everyone — and I’ll connect both highways and theatres! I promise!
- Caltrans Making Case To Implode Part Of Old Bay Bridge. Part of the old Bay Bridge may be brought down with explosives. Caltrans says the explosives would be used to remove a large concrete pillar from the old eastern span.
- Richmond-San Rafael Bridge closer to getting new lane, bike path. An extra lane of traffic and a new bike path are a vote, and about three years, away from coming to an increasingly congested bay crossing — the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. A committee of the Bay Area Toll Authority approved $4.65 million in funding Wednesday to complete the design of a new eastbound lane and a bike and pedestrian lane in both directions. The full board is expected to approve the plan when it meets Feb. 25.
- Say Goodbye to Those Pretty Lights on the Bay Bridge . If you notice a pall cast over San Francisco next month, it’s because it will be literally darker here after the famous Bay Lights are turned off — for now. Known for its luminosity and picture-perfect profile, the brilliant display, which consists of 25,000 LED white lights running 1.8 miles across the western span of the Bay Bridge, was installed in 2013, making it the world’s largest LED light sculpture.
- The Story of the Cahuenga Pass. The story of Cahuenga Pass is featured on the cover of this 1949 issue of California Highways.
Theatre and highways: a lovely pair. From the Road Theatre Company in North Hollywood to the Route 66 Theatre in Chicago; from classic stories about the road such as “The Grapes of Wrath” (which takes place along Route 66 and off Route 99) to more modern parodies such as “CHiP: The Musical” (which played the Falcon — itself near Route 134 — a few years ago). Here in Los Angeles there are loads of small theatres directly on or near streets that used to be state highways: From REP East, on former Route 126; the large cluster of theatres along Lankersheim Blvd (the former state route that became Route 170); the Odyssey Theatre complex along former Route 7 (what become I-405) in West LA; to the theatre district along Santa Monica Blvd (former Route 2 and US 66) in Hollywood. These are all 99 seat and under theatres, and they are theatres whose existence is threatened by a proposal from AEA. This proposal would require these theatres to pay their actors minimum wage for rehearsals and performances, raising their costs overnight at least 10 fold — or more, depending on the number of AEA actors. On the surface, the union is doing this to protect “the dignity of actors” (even though the actors in Los Angeles do not want it); underneath, the real reason may be buried in the small print: if the theatre treats the actor as employee and there is an AEA contract, the AEA gets paid its fees first (whereas it gets little now). The larger community — from actors to producers to stage managers to creatives to audiences are saying, collectively, “Change is needed, but not this change.” We want to rework how intimate theatre is done, but not with this heavy handed solution forced from non-Californians. Learn more about the controversy at the I Love 99 website, and follow their Facebook group and Twitter feed. If you are an AEA member, vote “No” (and tell your friends). If you are not, spread the word.
A new year. Let’s start it off with a bunch of new highway headlines:
- Arroyo Seco Parkway At 70: The Unusual History Of The “Pasadena Freeway,” California Cycleway & Rare Traffic Plan Images . This Winter marks the 70th anniversary of the oldest freeway in the United States: The Arroyo Seco Parkway opened on December 30, 1940. Built during the Great Depression, construction of the parkway put a lot of people to work.
- Lawsuit says NBCUniversal, Caltrans broke law in offramp closure. NBCUniversal and Caltrans broke state law by inadequately studying the environmental effect of a plan to close a major 101 Freeway offramp, according to a new lawsuit filed by residents. The southbound Barham Boulevard exit ramp is set to permanently close, probably in the coming year, as part of NBCUniversal’s $1.6-billion Evolution plan to expand its Universal Studios theme park.
- More commuters look to Metro van pools as alternative to solo driving . Driving solo to work continues to define L.A.’s entrenched car culture. But commuters across the county are increasingly turning to alternatives such as the van pool, a venerable ride-sharing option that can reduce air pollution, travel times and transportation costs. At Metro, which administers the largest public van pool operation in North America, participation has more than doubled in the last six years, with a total of 1,375 van groups operating today. Officials expect that figure to grow by at least 8% in 2015.
- Cajon Pass Commuter: Caltrans will widen, realign parts of 138. Next summer, Caltrans will be seeking bids on a $31 million project to widen and realign the two-lane highway, according to Caltrans Public Information Officer Tyeisha Prunty. Although it’s a widening project, it’s not exactly the type of widening you or I would probably wish for. I say if you’re going to do it, make it a four-lane road all the way from Lake Arrowhead Road to Interstate 15, figuring that as soon as the Tapestry Project in Summit Valley gets going we’re going to need additional lanes to support all the commuters who move into that area. Remember, that development is projected to add 19,000 housing units, so at least 50,000 — and probably many more — residents will be making the Summit Valley their home when the project is completed.
- A Plan to Make Los Angeles’s Oldest Freeway Less Terrifying. The hairpin exits and abrupt onramps of the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway, that part of the 110 Freeway that runs north of Downtown, are collectively one of the scariest things about driving in Los Angeles. The 1940 freeway was the first in the western US and built for 27,000 cars a day moving at 1940 speeds; today it sees 122,000 cars a day (traveling at 2015 speeds). Rather than just accepting this fate, residents who live in areas adjacent to the freeway and the offending ramps have banded together to try and gather support for an idea (previously introduced by Caltrans) that would reserve the right lanes on both sides of the freeway just for drivers exiting or entering the parkway, says Eastsider LA. Here’s another article on the same subject.
- Caltrans seeks public input on Last Chance Grade ideas. Caltrans is sharing ideas for potential ways to reroute U.S. Highway 101 with the public for the first time through a series of workshops. The workshops will be an opportunity for the public to provide input on a feasibility study that Caltrans is conducting in an attempt to find a long-term solution for the Last Chance Grade — a stretch of U.S. Highway 101 about 12 miles south of Crescent City that has been continually shifting throughout the years, causing catastrophically dangerous and expensive landslides.
It’s time for the final highway page update of 2014. I know they have been few and infrequent this year, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Let’s dig in:
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(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Russ Berckmoes(2), Michael Carrillo(3), Patrick Chandler(4)]: I-5(1,2), Route 12(1), Route 17(1), Route 29(1), Route 33(3), Route I-80(1), Route 84(1), Route 85(1), US 101(1), Route 103(1), I-110(4), Route I-215(1), Route 258(1), I-280(1), I-580(1), I-710/Route 710(1), I-880(1). I also added information on the origin of the County Route Marker program brought to my attention by the folks handling AAroads over of Facebook, which also updated Lassen County Route A1.
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 passage of the following items:
The end of the year, at last. I’m posting this during “shutdown” week — that period between Christmas and New Years when aerospace companies typically go on vacation for the week (and so I can take some time on the highway pages). Hopefully, you had a great 2014 with lots of safe travels and explorations of California’s highways. Here are some headlines from December related to those highways:
- Willits bypass overrun at $64 million: Caltrans. Caltrans is seeking an additional $64 million to complete construction on a highway bypass around Willits, a project that has been beset by numerous delays and legal challenges from opponents who think the road is unnecessary and too environmentally damaging.
- City Staff Selects Design Team for SoCal’s First Freeway Removal Project. It’s been named one of the top “Freeways Without Futures” in the nation and described as a “perfect example of obsolete infrastructure.” Its removal has been fought for by City Fabrick founder Brian Ulaszewski since 2010, long before the existence of Fabrick itself. It has been a blight on a neighborhood that sees some of the least amount of park space in the entire city. Nearly half a decade later, the project to remove a large portion of the Terminal Island (TI) Freeway in West Long Beach, after having gone out to bid in an RFP with an estimated bid value of $225K, has a team to take the project on: Meléndrez, y’know, the crew leading that tiny project known as the MyFigueroa project in LA and the Bixby Park re-design.
- ‘Jackass’ star Steve-O cited for anti-SeaWorld stunt. “Jackass” star Steve-O has been charged with a traffic infraction for an anti-SeaWorld stunt in which he defaced a freeway sign in San Diego. The Los Angeles-based entertainer, whose full name is Stephen Gilchrist Glover, posted a YouTube video in August showing him climbing up the freeway sign to attach the word “sucks” after the words “Sea World.”
- 5 Freeway widening project still has 4 more years to go. It’s been a tough three years for those relying on the 5 Freeway between the Orange County border and the 605 Freeway or for those living or doing business in the area. And there’s still an estimated four years to go, Caltrans officials predict.
- Caltrans holds ribbon cutting for new I-5 truck lane and freeway widening in Santa Clarita. Hundreds of thousands of motorists will now enjoy reduced congestion and enhanced safety on a segment of Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita thanks to the completion of a $67 million project by Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) that has extended the southbound I-5 truck lane and added mixed-flow lanes in both directions in this heavily traveled corridor.
- “Bay Lights” gets offer of permanence from bridge officials. Amid the gloom of gathering storm clouds Wednesday, some good news shone through for aficionados of the “Bay Lights,” the ever-changing art installation on the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge. The bridge’s official overseers, the Bay Area Toll Authority, gave its blessing to a proposal to reinstall the lights — in time for the January 2016 Super Bowl — as a permanent fixture on the four-tower suspension span.
- New Lane Opens on State Route 57; Completion Event on Dec. 22. In late November, commuters began to enjoy a more efficient commute on State Route 57 (SR-57) when a new 3-mile northbound general-purpose lane opened between Katella and Lincoln Avenues in Anaheim. The $41 million project is the final segment of the SR-57 Northbound Widening Project, and improves a vital north-south link in Orange County
- Bay Bridge light show will go on. There will be permanent, artistic lights at the end of the tunnel — the westbound tunnel of the Bay Bridge leading into San Francisco, that is — come 2016. After a two-month campaign, the nonprofit Illuminate the Arts announced Wednesday that it had raised the needed $4 million to reinstall the “Bay Lights” as a permanent fixture on the western end of the bridge. Billed as the world’s largest light sculpture, the display of 25,000 LED lights turns the 1.8-mile San Francisco portion of the span into a nightly show of constantly changing abstract images.
- Bay Bridge light sculpture hits fundraising goal to shine on. The world’s largest LED light sculpture is destined to be on permanent display on the Bay Bridge after a fundraising campaign hit its $4 million goal. Illuminate the Arts, a nonprofit group, announced Wednesday it has raised the needed amount for new equipment and reinstallation of the 25,000 LED lights on the western span of the Bay Bridge. The largest chunk of money — $2 million — came from Peninsula philanthropist Tad Taube. Starting in early March, the lights must be removed so Caltrans can maintain and paint bridge cables. The lights will be put back up in time for Superbowl 50 on Feb 7, 2016, and given to the state.
- Hollywood Hills residents angered by plan to close 101 offramp. A plan to permanently close a major offramp from the Hollywood Freeway to make way for an expansion of Universal Studios is fueling outrage from residents who say it will cut off their community. The southbound Barham Boulevard exit ramp near Universal City will be shut down — probably in the coming year — as part of NBCUniversal’s $1.6-billion project that includes the building of a Harry Potter-themed attraction.
- NBCUniversal Permanently Closing 101 Freeway Offramp and the Neighbors Are Pissed. One of the less-discussed features of the massive NBCUniversal Evolution project, which will bring huge changes to Universal City and the surrounding area (including a giant Harry-Potter-themed attraction and hotels) is the permanent closure of the 101 South offramp at Barham Boulevard. A new southbound onramp will be built on Universal Studios Boulevard, which will send Universal Citywalkers right onto the freeway instead of routing them through the surrounding neighborhood, says the LA Times. So there will be less traffic in the area, but residents will have to get off the freeway one stop before or after the Barham exit, which sounds like it could be a little inconvenient. And since this is LA, naturally, there are residents who are proclaiming the closure “an abomination.”
- Plans for problematic highway intersection call for roundabout or traffic signal . Drivers dread it, but some can’t avoid it. The intersection at Highways 121 and 116 in Schellville has been a traffic congestion nightmare for both visitors and residents of Sonoma and Napa. However, motorists have few alternatives when trying to pass through that part of Wine Country.
- San Fernando Valley Prioritizes Freeways, Then Bemoans Lack of Transit . This seems to be the week that the news is that nothing happened in the San Fernando Valley. Last Thursday, SBLA reported that Metro Orange Line speed improvements are not happening yet. On Sunday, the Daily News ran a piece by Dakota Smith entitled, Lack of new San Fernando Valley rail lines draws complaints.
It’s the end of November. We’ve just had Thanksgiving, and I — for one — am thankful for the great highways we have in the state of California, and for all the dedicated professionals who helped design, build, and maintain them. Here are some headlines that caught my eye in November:
- Map of Proposed Beverly Hills Freeway. Some links to maps of the proposed freeway
- VTA board to decide on Highway 85 express lanes on Nov. 6. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority board of directors is set to make a decision on how to best proceed on a major toll lane project that could bring congestion relief to Highway 85. On Nov. 6, VTA staff will ask the board to support a plan that would convert carpool lanes on each side of the approximately 24-mile route into toll lanes open to other motorists. The project proposes to convert the existing high-occupancy vehicle lanes on State Route 85 from U.S. 101 in South San Jose to U.S. 101 in Mountain View to allow single-occupancy vehicles to pay a fee during rush hour to join carpool, clean-air vehicles, motorcyclists and transit buses in the relatively faster lane. Today, SR 85 has six lanes, including a carpool lane in each direction.
- VTA May Convert Carpool Lane Into Toll Lanes Along Highway 85. The Valley Transportation Authority is looking to convert miles of a carpool lane into toll lanes for solo drivers along Highway 85. The stretch on the freeway is among the South Bay’s slowest commutes and VTA officials think some drivers are willing to pay to speed things up.
- Funds Diverted From Other Caltrans Projects To Make Up For New Bay Bridge Span Deficit. The new Bay Bridge eastern span will likely end up at least $35 million in the red, and officials are shifting money from other completed Caltrans bridge projects to make up the difference. Until recently, bridge officials were hopeful the span would cost less than the budgeted $6.4 billion. But there’s still as much as $110 million worth of unbudgeted work to be done on the span, according to Caltrans estimates to be presented to a bridge oversight panel on Tuesday.
- Bay Bridge rod problem worse than previously thought. A problem with grout missing from protective shields around big steel rods in the $6.4 billion new Bay Bridge is more widespread than known a month ago, Caltrans officials said Wednesday. More testing has found that at least five rods — and possibly up to 35 more rods — are missing nearly all the grout that was supposed to fill a metal sleeve to block out potentially corrosive water. All in all, some grout is missing from 135 of the 423 rods, and several of the rods were exposed to water, Caltrans said.
- Tribes Say CalTrans Illegally Destroying Historical Sites for Bypass . In the fall of 2012, Mike Fitzgerral was driving outside of Willits in Northern California, on Highway 101, the famous coastal roadway that wends through the awe-inspiring Redwood Forest, and he noticed construction workers had started erecting orange mesh fencing and cutting down oak trees. Fitzgerral, Chairman of the Sherwood Valley Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, knew the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) had been investigating constructing a 5.9-mile bypass around Willits that would likely cut through the heart of Little Lake Valley, the lush wetlands and ancestral home of many Pomo tribal members in the area.
- Freeway Cap Could Sew East LA’s Biggest Park Back Together. Freeway cap park fever has spread from Santa Monica to Hollywood to Downtown and now to East LA, where the LA County Department of Regional Planning has started to dream about putting a cap park on top of the 60 Freeway in East LA, once again joining the two halves of Belvedere Park, which have been separated since the freeway cut through more than 50 years ago. The 31-acre park is the largest in East LA proper and already has an Olympic-sized pool, an amphitheater, and a skate park, says Eastsider LA.
- A year after Joseph Gatto slaying, LAPD again asks for public’s help. […] Also on Wednesday, part of the 10 Freeway was dedicated in Joseph Gatto’s name. The dedication ceremony was held in front of a mural of Gatto at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, which he helped found.
- Toll lane project on Hwy. 85 through Saratoga, Cupertino hits standstill, at least until January. A major toll lane project that could bring congestion relief to Highway 85 is at a standstill at least until January after the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority board of directors moved to temporarily suspend the project.
- Orange County takes continuous-access approach on carpool lanes . Freeway carpool lanes are being extended and tied together across Southern California, but one county is taking a decidedly different — and some studies suggest safer — approach to how they work. Orange County is reconfiguring its 267-mile network of HOV lanes so motorists can enter and exit anywhere, rather than just in designated areas that are often spaced far apart.
- Exit sign on 710 Freeway misspells Olympic Boulevard as ‘Olimpic’. Even in this era of automatic spell check, we all still make typos. But rarely are they as big as what appeared this month on the northbound 710 Freeway.
lRelated L.A. traffic the day before Thanksgiving will be the worst in U.S. On Nov. 6, a subcontractor installed a new sign for the Olympic Boulevard exit. It read “Olimpic.” A construction crew with the California Department of Transportation spotted the mistake the next morning, but it was too late.
- Tall freeway spans will be relatively safe in quakes, Caltrans says. The sweeping, graceful arches of Southern California’s towering interchanges form some of the most iconic features of the world’s most famous freeway network. But in a region crisscrossed by fault lines, the ramps that soar hundreds of feet above traffic, and the lanes that run beneath them, can be disconcerting territory for drivers hyper-aware of earthquake risks.
- Tunnels North Of Golden Gate Bridge May Finally Get Named After Robin Williams. State Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) has formally proposed legislation that would name the highway tunnels near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge after Robin Williams.
- Muting the Freeway: How roadside noise barriers are designed to absorb sound and evade attention. The freeway sound wall may be as overlooked as it is ubiquitous. Lining interstates and highways and freeways across the United States, these concrete and cinderblock structures are a blur in the peripheral vision of our automotive world.
- Metro will study adding more pay lanes to Southern California freeways. An overflow of commuters signing up for access to pay-to-ride carpool lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways prompted the county’s transit agency to launch a study Thursday on how to convert more free lanes into pay lanes. Future freeways being studied for toll lanes include the 405, 5, 210 and even extensions of the 110 and 10 pay lanes, according to Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member and Duarte City Councilman John Fasana.
- New Bay Bridge demolition plans could preserve piers. Bay Area transportation officials are contemplating a plan to leave parts of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge in place, a proposal that could preserve history and bring down the price of demolition by millions of dollars. Month by month, the skyline over the Bay changes as the old eastern span of the bridge is demolished. But the new plan proposes the questions: should crews leave some of it behind?
- When the flow of traffic was all aboard the ferries. From 1850 to the early 1940s, ferryboats were the most important form of transportation in the Bay Area. They were also uniquely beloved — thanks to their leisurely pace, the on-deck friendships they fostered and, above all, the fact that they gave countless people an intimate daily connection with the San Francisco Bay.
October has been a quiet month. Major products (such as the Bay Bridge and the I-405 Sepulveda Pass project) are winding down, and money is moving more to transit, bikeways, and repairs as opposed to new roads or major route changes. Here’s what caught my eye during the month:
- Plan proposes $349 million in Highway 29 improvements. A new $349 million plan to improve Highway 29 in south Napa County includes having six lanes in American Canyon, building a Soscol flyover at Highway 221 and reconfiguring lanes at the Sonoma County turnoff. The plan also calls for giving Highway 29 a look and character in keeping with the areas it passes through, be it rural or city.
- Can a $5.4-billion tunnel plan fix the notorious 710 gap?. Officials have long blamed the unfinished 710 Freeway for congestion on nearby freeways and local streets. Opposition from cities led by South Pasadena has always quashed finishing the 710, but now, authorities are considering extending it with 4.9-mile-long twin tunnels. Light rail, enhanced bus service and wider streets are also being explored. Opponents who have sued to block construction before call the tunnel idea “public works boondoggle.”
- Mayors, regional leaders celebrate completion of 1st phase of widened Highway 84. Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne joined other city, civic and regional leaders this week in officially marking the completion of the first phase of widening State Route 84 between the I-580 and I-680 freeways. With this widening project, the Isabel Avenue segment of Hwy. 84 is completed as a four-and six-lane throughway from I-580 to Stanley Boulevard.
- Without more funding, Bay Lights may go dark. A local landmark may go dark if millions of dollars in donations don’t come soon. The Bay Lights on the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge offer a stunning, computer-generated display each night. It’s created by 25,000 twinkling, energy-efficient LED lights, its said to be the largest LED light sculpture in the world. And it could soon be blinking out for good, according to Illuminate The Arts founder Ben Davis.
- L.A. area has many freeways that stayed on the drawing board . When suburbs began spreading out across Southern California after World War II, officials envisioned a sprawling freeway system to get people around. But big chunks of that system were never built, and that’s one cause for the clogged commutes many face. [Note: I disagree with one of their maps — I have seen no evidence that the Whitnall Freeway (Route 64) was intended to connect to the Industrial Freeway down Normandie. That would have made an interesting loop around Los Angeles, as Route 64 also would have gone across Malibu Canyon]
- Gilman Street, I-80 interchange roundabouts receive Caltrans approval. A traffic infrastructure renovation at the intersection of Gilman Street and Interstate 80 has moved closer to realization after Caltrans approved a proposed double-roundabout design to address chronic traffic problems and a high number of accidents and complaints. The proposal includes two roundabouts, circular intersections in which incoming traffic yields to traffic traveling around the juncture. This design reduces fatal traffic accidents by as much as 90 percent, increases traffic flow — leading to reductions in emissions and fuel consumption — and promotes safer pedestrian access, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.