California Highway Headlines for March 2017

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

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

  • Small bumps won’t delay Richmond Bridge project. Assemblyman Marc Levine still views the project as “bureaucratic ineptitude,” but admitted last week that commuters are seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel” as far as opening a third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
  • California’s roads are some of the poorest in the nation and rapidly getting worse. Last week the governor’s office said damage to roads in the first two months of 2017 will cost $595 million to repair. That is a small portion of the more than $137 billion the state needs to repair its crumbling transportation infrastructure.
  • Bikes, cars struggle to share Coast Highway. A growing movement in North County to transform Coast Highway 101 into a more bicycle-friendly thoroughfare hasn’t been without its rough spots as commuters on two and four wheels struggle to share the road. From Del Mar to Oceanside, cities are looking to slow traffic, widen bike lanes and implement other changes that encourage people to get out of their cars and use alternate forms of transportation. The reaction isn’t always pretty.
  • Roundabout apostle comes full circle, revisits Bird Rock. With his white hair and bushy handlebar mustache, Dan Burden looks like a lanky cousin of Mark Twain or Albert Einstein. In fact, he’s the artist who as a young man went on the road and wound up redesigning the road.
  • March 2017 Mile Marker Posted. In This Issue: (*) Director’s Message (*) Caltrans Mile Markers (*) Proposition 1B: A Decade of Progress (*) New Funds for Active Transportation (*) A Big Push for Walking and Biking (*) Crumb Rubber Use Really Rolling (*) Clearing Out the Deadwoods (*) Winter Operations Keep ‘Em Moving (*) Planes Need Safe Pavement, Too (*) Documents Keep Costs Real (*) High-Risk Railroad Crossings Graded (*) Willits Bypass: The Wait is Over (*) From the Archives
  • Last Chance Grade partial collapse prompts response from legislators. After a 10-foot section of U.S. Highway 101 just south of Crescent City known as Last Chance Grade collapsed Monday because of the area’s notorious landslide activity, local legislators called for increased pressure for the construction of an alternate route. California 2nd District Congressman Jared Huffman, who has been a longtime advocate for creating a new bypass, reached out to Caltrans and the Federal Highways Administration office Tuesday after learning of the incident.
  • How to get around that buckling bridge in Big Sur (hint: it won’t be easy). This is the span that connects us to Big Sur — or used to. The sinking Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1 has left locals and one of the most beloved places on the coast cut off from the rest of us after heavy winter rains pounded the area in mid-February. The gap in California’s coastal route is likely to persist for at least a year until the bridge is replaced.
  • After years of construction, 91 Freeway is getting ready to fully open. After three years of closures and construction, commuters on the 91 Freeway in Corona will finally see some relief. The new toll lanes and general lanes are opening Monday, March 20.
  • Newport Beach residents express uproar over Mariners’ Mile Master Plan. Newport Beach residents expressed their discontent to city officials at a recent public workshop regarding proposed changes to Mariners’ Mile, a 1.3-mile zone of Coast Highway. The current plan outlines strategies to alleviate automotive congestion and encourage pedestrian movement for the area but eliminated the idea of any particular theme.
  • Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur to be demolished Monday. The cracked and collapsing Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge will be demolished Monday morning, Caltrans officials said Friday. Crews will take a 23-foot-wide crane — already on-site — and drop a 6,000-pound wrecking ball onto the bridge at 7 a.m. Monday, Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz said.
  • Update on State Route 58 Hinkley Expressway Project. The $201 million State Route 58 Hinkley Expressway Project isn’t expected to be finished until the summer, but Caltrans announced a major traffic change will begin late Monday afternoon. Caltrans and its contractor Skanska will shift eastbound SR-58 traffic from the existing highway to the new alignment on the SR-58 Hinkley Expressway on Monday. In anticipation of this change, Skanska will be installing striping and signage so motorists are alerted to the new traffic configuration, Caltrans said.
  • Bay Bridge bike path expected to open for weekday use this summer. The long-anticipated weekday opening of the Bay Bridge bike and pedestrian path probably won’t happen until this summer, but cyclists and walkers will gain a few extra hours of weekend access to the transbay trail starting Sunday. Tied to the beginning of daylight-saving time this weekend, the path will open on Saturdays and Sundays and holidays an hour earlier, at 6 a.m., and close two hours later, at 8 p.m. Starting May 25, the evening hours will be extended to 9 p.m. as daylight hours increase.
  • Caltrans District 11 Mile Marker 11.0 2017. Articles on I-5 North Coast Corridor and Freeway Innovations
  • A year later, I-580 pay-to-use lanes are a success, report says. The Bay Area’s newest express lanes — on Interstate 580 through the Tri-Valley region of Alameda County — are just a year old, but drivers are already pouring into them, eager to pay for a quicker commute. More drivers will get that option in the next few years as the lanes spread across the Bay Area at an accelerated pace.
  • Why California labor unions are against a bill meant to end 710 Freeway tunnel plan. When Assemblyman Chris Holden introduced a bill in February that would kill the option of drilling a tunnel to close the 710 Freeway gap, he angered several local politicians in cities generally seen as favoring the tunnel over any other option. Now, the bill can count labor unions among its opponents, too.
  • Caltrans Trades Box Beam for Steel at Rain-Damaged Bridge. Caltrans engineers are scrambling to replace Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, a 317-ft-long, concrete continuous box-beam bridge on a key coastal highway after mudslides moved one of the support columns more than a foot, causing the span to crack and bow. Caltrans closed Highway 1 in Big Sur on Feb. 15 and determined that it would have to be replaced after a wet winter undermined the foundation on the steep hillside. The closure left some residents stranded, as other routes were blocked by mudslides in the area.
  • San Pablo: New westbound I-80/El Portal on-ramp set to open. A new El Portal on-ramp to westbound Interstate 80 will open March 20, the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority announced this week. The new on-ramp is located to the north of El Portal Drive and is expected to open about 9 a.m., according to the CCTA. When that happens, the old on-ramp at El Portal Drive will close permanently.
  • Brentwood to get Mokelumne Trail pedestrian overpass. Pedestrians and bicyclists celebrated on Tuesday night after the City Council supported the construction of a pedestrian and bike bridge over State Route 4, finally connecting Mokelumne Trail’s two sides. The resolution supported the findings in eBART’s Next Segment Study, which outlined multiple options for transit stations past the new Hillcrest Station in Antioch, but argued for the next station’s location to be at Mokelumne Trail and State Route 4.
  • Traffic Census Program. TRAFFIC COUNTS (a.k.a. Traffic Volumes) are for the State Highway System only (in various formats). Highways are signed as Interstate, California State Route, or United States Route. See examples below. Traffic count information for city and county streets may be found at the following links.
  • Napa officials talk about scrapping Highway 29 widening in American Canyon. Napa County transportation leaders are weighing whether adding Highway 29 lanes in the south county is a congestion-easing solution or an expensive way of running in place. That made for a lively discussion at Wednesday’s Napa Valley Transportation Authority retreat. The agency with representatives from the county and its five cities looks at regional transportation issues. The NVTA in 2014 approved a $349 million vision for Highway 29 in American Canyon and Napa. Among other things, this plan calls for someday widening the highway through American Canyon to the Highway 12/Jameson Canyon entrance from four lanes to six lanes, if the money can be found.
  • $217 Million Allocated To Fix California Highways, Bridges, Rail Systems. State transit authorities announced Friday that $217 million will be allocated to projects intended to upgrade roadways, bridges, and rail systems across California. The California Transportation Commission allocated the money for 72 transit projects and are encouraging the use of alternative forms of transportation, including biking and walking.
  • Questions, answers regarding the 91 Freeway’s new lanes opening soon. The $1.4 billion 91 Express Lanes in Corona will open Monday morning, March 20 after three years of construction with transportation officials promising improved traffic flow on the often-congested route. Here are some answers to some questions about what to expect on State Route 91.
  • Section of Deschutes Road near Junction School to be reduced to enhance crossing safety. The California Transportation Commission (CTC) has allocated more than $217 million to 72 projects, to support needed upkeep on California’s aging roads and bridges, make upgrades to transit and rail systems and encourage use of alternative forms of transportation, including biking and walking. “Caltrans is working to ensure every dollar counts when it comes to California’s transportation infrastructure,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “These investments will benefit Californians by improving the economy and the environment.”
  • Last Chance Grade partial collapse prompts response from legislators. After a 10-foot section of U.S. Highway 101 just south of Crescent City known as Last Chance Grade collapsed Monday because of the area’s notorious landslide activity, local legislators called for increased pressure for the construction of an alternate route. California 2nd District Congressman Jared Huffman, who has been a longtime advocate for creating a new bypass, reached out to Caltrans and the Federal Highways Administration office Tuesday after learning of the incident.
  • Caltrans plans to improve safety of Fresno County highways with new budget. Over $200 million in funding was awarded to 72 state highway projects from the California Transportation Commission. Just over $3.6 million was awarded to Caltrans District 6 in the Central Valley last week.
  • Caltrans: Highway 1 replacement bridge in Big Sur ready in six months. A new Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge will be ready for foot and vehicular traffic in six months according to the latest update from Caltrans. “Demolition will continue for about another week,” said Susana Cruz, Caltrans spokeswoman. “Once it’s been demolished and cleared, we’ll start construction.”
  • These are the worst freeway interchanges in Los Angeles. City of Angels! City of Stars! City of gridlocked freeway interchanges! Getting trapped on Los Angeles’ majestic, but traffic-jammed freeways, is such a routine local experience that filmmakers turned it into a rousing musical number, “Another Day of Sun,” for the Oscar-winning movie La La Land. (I lived in LA for a decade and immediately recognized the gigantic 105-to-110 interchange, which provides an inspiring view of downtown LA for travelers coming in from LAX. Interestingly, I never got stuck in traffic there.)
  • The 405 Project: Behind the Scenes. The largest project in OCTA’s history, the I-405 Improvement Project will improve 16 miles of I-405 and add one regular lane in each direction from Euclid Street to I-605. It will also construct the 405 Express Lanes from SR-73 to I-605. This is the second in a series that reports on what’s happening behind the scenes.
  • Night Closures Continue on South County’s Avenida Pico. Avenida Pico under the I-5 freeway continues to be completely closed at night Monday through Friday as crews work on falsework. The closures are expected to continue through early April. The work is part of the $230 million I-5 South County Improvements Project, which extends the carpool lane in each direction from San Juan Capistrano to San Clemente and reconstructs the Avenida Pico interchange.
  • Safety task force pushes for improvements on Hwy. 49. Members of a Highway 49 Safety Task Force, as well as the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans, will come together for a community meeting to discuss safety issues on Hwy. 49 between Auburn and Grass Valley. Community members called for the meeting following the deaths of five people in three traffic collisions since mid-December, including two Bear River High School seniors.
  • Big Sur: Rain slows completion of footpath to bypass condemned Pfeiffer Canyon bridge. Volunteers and state employees were on the verge of reconnecting the two severed parts of Big Sur with the completion of a trail that circumvents the condemned Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, which is under demolition — but then the rain returned. Martha Karstens, chief of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade, said crews were unable to get any work done Tuesday as almost 3 inches of rain fell in the area. While the team of local volunteers, members of the fire brigade, State Parks employees and California Conservation Corps members are nearing completion weeks ahead of schedule, the opening date is dependent on weather and the situation could change if this week’s storms damage the project.
  • Metro will consider tighter rules for carpool lanes. The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday voted to study ways to improve traffic flow in sluggish carpool and express lanes on Los Angeles freeways, including increasing the number of passengers required for vehicles to use the area’s carpool lanes. Right now, as solo drivers know all too well, you can use most high-occupancy vehicle lanes in the LA area if your vehicle has a minimum of two occupants. The study will investigate the potential effects of increasing that threshold to three occupants (a driver and two passengers).
  • Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project News . Project Manager Jeff Pimentel recently checked in with KHUM-FM to provide an update on the Eureka/Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project. In the interview Pimentel provides insight on the progress of the Caltrans safety project including details on the proposed interchange at the Indianola Cutoff, a half signal at Airport Road, median closures, acceleration and deceleration lane lengthening, barrier improvements, bridge replacements, rail replacements, and more. Construction is currently anticipated to begin in 2021.
  • Lamb Canyon state Route 79 Caltrans delays seen. Median crossovers for traffic control on state Route 79 from Beaumont to San Jacinto have begun as the California Department of Transportation continues work on the $1.5-million Lamb Canyon Drainage Project. The Caltrans project will be installing drainage inlets on SR-79 from First Street in Beaumont to Gilman Springs Road near San Jacinto. The project began Tuesday, March 14, and is expected to be completed by mid-to-late May.
  • Carpool cheats on favorite back door to Bay Bridge forces changes. Every driver loves a quick way to sneak onto the Bay Bridge. But some commuters are about to lose a favorite backdoor route: the oft-congested Sterling Street-Bryant Street on-ramp. Hoping to unclog the eastbound on-ramp, transportation officials want to restrict access to carpoolers only earlier in the day — starting at midday. They also plan a crackdown on cheaters — who make up as much as 50 percent of the ramp’s traffic — and may use high-tech cameras and devices to help the California Highway Patrol with enforcement.
  • Expanded carpool lanes hours could come to Marin this year. Carpool lane hours could be extended in Marin as soon as this year to allow for better flow of traffic for commuters sharing rides and buses. In Marin, the carpool lane going northbound on Highway 101 in the evening between the Richardson Bay Bridge and Interstate 580 is considered “extremely degraded” by federal standards.
  • Transit officials consider extending Golden Gate Bridge, Marin carpool lane hours. Transit officials may extend the hours of carpool lanes on U.S. Highway 101 on the Golden Gate Bridge and in Marin County for the first time in nearly two decades. And even in 1998, when they were last extended, the lane hours were quickly rolled back.
  • Highway 101/580 connector top priority, transportation officials say. A connector in San Rafael from northbound Highway 101 to eastbound Interstate 580 aimed at unclogging commute traffic is one of the projects Marin transportation planners will include in a project wish list to a regional agency. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission — the Bay Area’s transportation planning agency — is considering a ballot measure in 2018 to raise tolls to pay for projects in the region.
  • Berkeley, A Look Back: Highway widening, Albany Hill leveling planned in 1942. “Traffic bottlenecks” on the Eastshore Highway would be “doomed” by an expansion plan, the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported 75 years ago today, March 24, 1942. “Plans for a vast road program to smash bottlenecks in the East Bay … area were revealed today with announcement the East Shore Highway will be widened to six lanes immediately.”
  • West Contra Costa studying I-80 corridor gridlock solutions. With Interstate 80 jammed and BART service in West Contra Costa reaching capacity, transit officials are planning ways to increase transit options and reduce congestion while accommodating population growth along the corridor.
  • Big Sur bridge set to open Sept. 30, connecting broken link along Highway 1. Mark your calendars for Big Sur’s grand re-opening for business from the north: Saturday night, Sept. 30, according to CalTrans’ latest projection. That means it’ll be six months before Big Sur’s broken link — the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, damaged by winter storms — is ready for tourists to make the classic coastal Highway 1 drive between Northern and Southern California.
  • Ambitious bike lanes for Coronado Bridge would cost $210 million. Would you like to ride a bike or walk across the 2.1-mile Coronado Bay Bridge and enjoy the views at your own pace? A report headed for a San Diego Assn. of Governments committee Thursday says the concept — dreamed of even before the bridge opened in 1969 — contains no “fatal flaws” except perhaps this one: It could cost as much as $210 million and might require bringing back toll charges that ended 15 years ago.
  • Last of the old Bay Bridge east span comes down. The last chunk of the old eastern half of the Bay Bridge, which over the years carried 3 billion motorists on their starry-eyed odysseys to San Francisco, got hauled off to the junkyard Tuesday. There it will fetch 10 cents a pound. It’s a bad time to be an old bridge.
  • Last piece of workhorse Bay Bridge floats away. The last piece of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge, the one closest to the Oakland shoreline, was lifted off its piers with the help of the rising tide. A barge was placed under the 288-foot truss section and floated away from the new bridge, giving drivers and cyclists an unobstructed view of the eastern shoreline. Caltrans started the tricky demolition of the old cantilever span in November 2013. It had to be done in sections — in the reverse order from which it was originally constructed — to make sure it didn’t collapse into the bay. The piece was taken to Pier 7 where it will be cut into pieces and recycled.
  • Helping Caltrans create bike paths. Each year, 325,000 people, most on bikes, venture on the Crystal Springs Regional Trail on the Peninsula. That’s the route, mostly paved, that runs 15 miles along Crystal Springs and San Andreas lakes.
  • California freeways need help, and motorists need assurances. Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators on Wednesday announced a 10-year, $52.4 billion freeway repair and construction deal, and business and labor leaders have been quick to applaud, rightly.
  • North Coast roads could get relief from state transportation bill. Revenue from a sweeping transportation bill announced Wednesday in Sacramento could help with much-needed repairs for North Coast roads, but won’t take care of big-ticket projects such as completing widening of Highway 101 through Petaluma, local transportation officials said.
  • Bay Area Transportation Leaders Hail New State Funding Proposal. Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Chair Jake Mackenzie and Commission Vice Chair Scott Haggerty today applauded the funding package unveiled by Gov. Brown, state Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. The package, if approved by the Legislature, would mark the largest transportation investment in state history, directing some $5 billion annually to help restore California’s local streets and roads, state highways and bridges to a state of good repair; improve public transit; reduce congestion in major commute corridors; establish programs for upgrading key freight routes; and promote active transportation with new projects for bicycle and pedestrian travel. These improvements would be financed through a combination of higher taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel as well as an increase in vehicle license fees.
  • Big Sur bridge set to open Sept. 30, connecting broken link along Highway 1. Mark your calendars for Big Sur’s grand re-opening for business from the north: Saturday night, Sept. 30, according to CalTrans’ latest projection. That means it’ll be six months before Big Sur’s broken link — the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, damaged by winter storms — is ready for tourists to make the classic coastal Highway 1 drive between Northern and Southern California.
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