California Highway Headlines for April 2017

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

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

  • South Napa County boasts old Lincoln Highway route. American Canyon’s main drag is known by many names – most prominently Highway 29, but also Napa-Vallejo Highway, Broadway Street, old Highway 40 and, all-but-forgotten, the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway was a transcontinental route at the dawn of the Automobile Age. It was established by car enthusiasts and industry officials in 1913 and south Napa County became part of an alternate route in the late 1920s.
  • Corona’s 91 toll lanes getting steady use. Plenty of commuters have been driving the new 91 Express Lanes in Corona in the two weeks since their debut, officials said. The update came Friday, March 31, as Riverside County Transportation Commission gathered with state and local officials to celebrate the end of the three-year, $1.4 billion, project that added two toll lanes and one general-use lane over an 8-mile stretch through Corona to the Orange County line.
  • Widen Highway 29, American Canyon says. City officials are determined to widen Highway 29 from four to six lanes through the heart of American Canyon, even if the county’s transportation agency isn’t on board with the idea. But officials admit it won’t be easy to come up with funding for the multi-million-dollar project, or for the expansion of Newell Drive unless the county steps up with some help.
  • A New Step For Pedestrians on State Route 1. A new type of crosswalk beacon has been installed by Caltrans on State Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. The system is popularly known as a HAWK beacon (the acronym is derived from High-intensity Activated crossWalK). More precisely, it is referred to as a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB).
  • Long Term Lane and Ramp Closures on Route 210. The pavement rehabilitation project occurring on Foothill Freeway (I-210) will move on its way to the next section of the freeway. Caltrans will close one lane on eastbound I-210 beginning April 17, from Ocean View Boulevard to Lincoln Avenue as crews begin to replace damaged pavement. This lane closure will remain in effect through winter 2017.
  • Roadshow: Oops, sign at 17-280-880 gives wrong directions . Q I think the sign providing drivers directions from Interstate 280 north to Interstate 880/Highway 17 is backwards. I’ve looked at it twice in the last couple of days (usually I ignore those signs because I think I know where I am going). The sign on 280 near Leigh Avenue to north Oakland is to the left and the sign to go south for Santa Cruz is on the right. It should be reversed.
    I’m confused.
  • Marin history: The San Rafael-Richmond Ferry Company. As automobiles became more prevalent in the early 20th century, the Bay Area’s ferry system began to build larger ferries to carry both automobiles and people. The San Rafael Richmond Ferry Co. opened for business in May 1915 using wooden-hulled, side-wheeler paddleboats. By 1924 three 240-foot steel-hulled ferries, the El Paso, Klamath and Russian River, were operating on the 20-minute run. The newer ferries featured a sit-down restaurant on the upper deck, where full-course meals could be cooked and eaten while crossing the bay.
  • Sunken barge in SF Bay is settled on sea floor above Transbay Tube. A sunken barge in the San Francisco Bay south of the Bay Bridge is resting on the sea floor above the Transbay Tube, however, the tube is “not impacted,” the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday. The barge’s location “poses no threat to the Bay Area Rapid Transit District Transbay Tube or salvage operations,” according to a statement by U.S. Coast Guard 11th District Public Affairs.
  • Roadshow: Making fixes at messy 85-280-Foothill interchange. Q I live pretty close to the 85-280-Foothill interchange and was not aware upgrades were planned. What are they?
  • Workers knock down portion of Clinton overpass at Highway 99. The Clinton overpass crossing southbound Highway 99 was knocked down Monday night as part of construction clearing the way for the California High-Speed Rail project. The overpass will be rebuilt as part of the realignment of the highway for the rail project. According to the California Department of Transportation, the overpass will be closed for an estimated six months. Highway 99 was closed overnight and rerouted as part of the demolition. More overnight closures are planned this week when the segment of the overpass crossing over northbound lanes of the highway are knocked down.
  • Automated warning system coming to Hwy. 99. Caltrans is preparing a project that will install an Automated Warning System on northbound Highway 99, allowing better monitoring of local traffic and weather conditions to benefit motorists and businesses. Time-saving information will be relayed through a Changeable Message Sign (CMS) and Caltrans’ QuickMap (http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov), which provides near real-time updates on traffic congestion, accidents and other factors that threaten to delay motorists.
  • Here’s what a new Highway 1 bridge in Big Sur will look like, and it may open in September. Remember that Highway 1 bridge that sank into the hillside in Big Sur? Caltrans announced Wednesday that a $24-million replacement bridge could be open to the public as soon as September. The Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, a few miles south of Big Sur Station, failed and shut down Highway 1 to all traffic on Feb. 15. The 1967 span was demolished in March, leaving a gap in the roadway that temporarily cuts Highway 1 into two parts.
  • Loved ones of Golden Gate Bridge suicide victims see hope in net. John Brooks clutched a photo of his daughter, Casey, showing the 17-year-old smiling as she posed for her high school senior portrait shortly before she jumped to her death from the Golden Gate Bridge. Brooks and his wife, Erika, returned Thursday to the iconic Art Deco span to commemorate the beginning of construction on a suicide deterrent system they hope will spare other families the pain they’ve endured since Casey’s death Jan. 29, 2007.
  • 50 years ago, LA got its first freeway onramp meter. Here’s how they changed traffic. Caltrans transportation engineer Wahib Jreij fixed his gaze on a live jumbo screen of infamous Los Angeles traffic, then zeroed in on some grainy insets of the northbound Hollywood Freeway.
  • New Study Identifies Nine of the Worst Highway Projects Across the Country, $10 Billion in Taxpayer Dollars Wasted. A new report by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies nine of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $10 billion. This third iteration of the highway boondoggles report details how despite America’s mounting repair and maintenance backlog, and in defiance of America’s changing transportation needs, federal, state and local governments across the country continue to spend billions each year on expanding highways. The report disputes the claims used to justify these investments and argues that the projects are outright boondoggles.
  • 15 Freeway toll lanes coming, from south of Corona to Jurupa Valley. Now that cars are moving through the new 91 toll lanes through Corona, officials are getting closer to starting their next big freeway project. It too will bring more toll lanes to Riverside County. Construction is set to start early next year on a 14.6-mile toll lane on the 15 Freeway, from the Temescal Valley, south of Corona, north to Jurupa Valley.
  • Long-Term Lane and Ramp Closures Planned for 210 Freeway. Long-term lane and ramp closures are planned for the Foothill (I-210) Freeway beginning Monday and are expected to last several months. One lane is set to close on the eastbound Foothill 210 Freeway from Ocean View Boulevard to Lincoln Avenue as the California Department of Transportation gets ready for a pavement rehabilitation project. The lane closure will begin April 17 and end in winter 2017.
  • El Segundo OKs Sepulveda Boulevard name change to PCH. El Segundo is pushing ahead with plans to rename Sepulveda Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway as part of a destination marketing push to give the city a more coastal feel. At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council decided to initiate the name change process without conducting a new round of surveys with businesses on the 2-mile stretch of Highway 1 that bisects the town, something that produced mixed results in 2014.
  • Tulare County Highway 190 Roundabout Is a Caltrans Safety Success Story. On a recent road trip to visit family in the town of Springville, California, I spotted a new traffic circle on a two-lane stretch of Highway 190. The roundabout is at the intersection of Highway 190 and Road 284, in Tulare County near the eastern edge of the city of Porterville, where the flats of the Central Valley give way to the Sierra Foothills. Road 284 is called Reservation Road, for the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation.
  • State Route 246 Passing Lanes Project Continues. A safety project to construct passing lanes in both directions on State Route 246 near Lompoc from Cebada Canyon Road to Hapgood Road (East) will continue on Monday, April 24 with paving for the new traffic lanes over the next two weeks.
  • The first toll lanes in San Bernardino County are likely coming to the 10 Freeway. With the Inland area’s first toll lanes now open on the 91 in Riverside County, San Bernardino County is gearing up for its own major project on the 10 Freeway that would rival the Corona work in cost and scope. The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority is almost done with plans for 33 miles of toll lanes — the first in county history.
  • Bill to Stymie 710 Tunnel Is Stymied by Asm Transportation Committee. Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) tried to bring an end to a long-stewing controversy over what to do about the 710 freeway through his district, but his efforts to have the state legislature weigh in seem to be falling short.
  • Why 405 interchange work in Carson will cost $8 million more, take longer to finish. Traffic lane closures, large construction equipment, noise, vibrations, dust and occasional power outages will continue through the end of the year at the Wilmington Avenue interchange with the 405 Freeway in Carson. Expansion of the often-clogged interchange was supposed to finish early last year, but now completion isn’t expected until 2018.
  • Projects Throughout CA Awarded Sustainable Transportation Planning Grants. Caltrans just awarded $9.3 million in Sustainable Transportation Planning Grants to 41 projects. The grants went to small rural cities, large cities and regions, and transit agencies throughout the state. The grants come from a mix of state and federal funding, including the state highway account and federal planning and research grants.
  • Bill to kill proposed tunnel for 710 freeway gap fails, but that doesn’t make tunnel more likely, opponents say. A bill that would prohibit extending the 710 Freeway from the 10 to the 210 freeways by tunnel or surface route has failed, opening the door for a vote on the controversial project in May or June by the governing board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The bill was voted down in its first test in front of state Legislators on the Assembly Transportation Committee last week, opening a window for the long-sought-after option of drilling a car tunnel under northeast Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena to close the freeway’s 6.2-mile gap.
  • Original plan for the Interstate Highway System (September 1955). Map.
  • Metro releases RFP to study Sepulveda Pass transit options. In a significant initial step to bring a transit line through L.A.’s notoriously congested Sepulveda Pass, Metro on Wednesday issued a Request for Proposals to study the feasibility of various transit modes and alignments.
  • One of Sacramento’s oldest freeways will close intermittently for repairs. State officials this week announced they will partially close sections of Highway 160 in North Sacramento, one of Sacramento’s oldest freeways, at nights this spring and summer for repairs. The closures, which begin this week, will be intermittent. Some lanes in each direction will remain open nightly, Caltrans officials said. “Nearby residents may experience loud construction-type noises that include saw cutting, jack hammering and commercial vehicle beeping noises,” the state said in a news release on Wednesday.
  • Santa Monica approves pedestrian-friendly makeover for Lincoln Boulevard. City officials in Santa Monica are betting on a streetscape makeover to make one of its main thoroughfares, Lincoln Boulevard, less of a mess, especially for people on foot and on bikes. Santa Monica’s City Council approved plans Tuesday for the first phase of the Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor Plan, reports Santa Monica Lookout.
  • Transit plan takes aim at LA’s biggest freeway nightmare. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a Request for Proposals to study the feasibility of various transit modes and alignments through L.A.’s notoriously congested Sepulveda Pass.
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