September 2017 Headlines about California Highways

Ah, September. A month for endings. Not route endings, but the ending of summer and the start of fall, the ending of 5777 and the start of 5778, and the ending of the government fiscal year and the start of a new one. I hope that your September ended on a good note. With that, some headlines:

  • New Protected Bikeway Connects Mid-City To Mission Valley. State and local transportation officials on Wednesday opened a mile-long protected bike lane alongside SR-15, creating a safer and more comfortable bike route between Mission Valley and Mid-City neighborhoods. Construction of the $15.5 million bikeway took about a year and a half, but plans for the project were first adopted locally in 2010. The project was a joint effort by Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments, the regional transportation planning agency.
  • California lawmakers act to name stretch of 134 Freeway in honor of former President Obama. State lawmakers Tuesday gave final approval to designating a section of the 134 Freeway as the President Barack H. Obama Highway in honor of the 44th president of the United States.
  • Progress on I-5 Construction in San Clemente. Work on the northbound I-5 ramps at Avenida Pico in San Clemente, which are being realigned to accommodate a freeway widening through the city, is expected to be completed by late October. The widening is part of a $230 million project to extend the carpool lanes from San Juan Capistrano to San Clemente. The project requires the complete reconstruction of the Pico interchange, with Pico being widened and straightened to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

  • OCTA Briefs State Transportation Official on the I-405 Improvement Project. On August 25, OCTA staff met with California State Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, to provide information about the I-405 Improvement Project. The Assembly Transportation Committee oversees all legislation and policy issues impacting the transportation sector in the State Assembly.
  • Caltrans wants to spend $28 million fixing this highway, but locals call it overkill. A sinewy stretch of mountain highway in Nevada County has become the site this summer of a $28 million tug-of-war between the state and local residents. The crux: How far should the state go in altering a scenic byway to make it safer? Caltrans wants to straighten and widen a 2-mile section of Highway 174, the two-lane, thin-shouldered connector between Grass Valley and Colfax. That includes leveling some hills, changing the angle of the road in some places, adding an 8-foot-wide shoulder and adding as much as a dozen more feet of open space to serve as a recovery area for drivers who drift beyond the shoulder.
  • Healdsburg roundabout construction delays lead to continued business woes. A long-running project to install a roundabout and major infrastructure improvements at the gateway to downtown Healdsburg — now as much as a year behind schedule — has created pain, frustration and anger, especially for businesses in the construction zone having to endure the noise, dust and loss of customers.
  • Novato Narrows widening planning put on fast track. Marin transportation officials are speeding up the design of Novato Narrows widening to make sure they are ready to go to construction if money becomes available. Two new sources of cash from a state gas tax increase and possible bridge toll increase make getting $250 million to finish the work a possibility. Now the Transportation Authority of Marin has approved up to $700,000 for design and associated work for two segments of the widening work.
  • Residents opposing new connector between I-805, Friars Road. Residents in Mission Valley and Serra Mesa are fighting a proposed connector road between Interstate 805 and Friars Road that could help alleviate San Diego’s housing crisis. In addition to allowing more dense housing projects in Mission Valley, the four-lane road would ease traffic congestion, help complete a regional bicycling network and reduce carbon emissions, city officials say.
  • Caltrans Implodes 2 of 13 Remaining Foundations of Old Bay Bridge. Caltrans demolished two of the remaining 13 concrete piers that used to hold up the eastern span of the Bay Bridge on Saturday.
  • Obama Freeway coming to Northeast LA. Drivers traveling back and forth between Pasadena and Eagle Rock will soon be able to make use of the nation’s first freeway named for President Barack Obama. On Tuesday, state legislators approved a bill forwarded by State Senator Anthony Portantino to rename a stretch of the 134 freeway between the 210 and 2 interchanges as the President Barack H. Obama Freeway.
  • CALTRANS COMPLETES UPGRADE OF SR-132 AT KASSON ROAD/RIVER ROAD IN STANISLAUS COUNTY. Caltrans has completed a $2.1 million project that upgraded State Route 132 (SR-132) at the Kasson Road/River Road intersection, including adding traffic signals, expanding the intersection and improving left-hand turn lanes for motorists and cyclists.
  • Bay Area freeways rank as California’s worst when it comes to animal vs. vehicle collisions. If you are a commuter, Southern California freeways are your nightmare. If you happen to be a deer, coyote or raccoon, the highways of Northern California are a lot worse. A study released Thursday by UC Davis identified the state highways that are the worst for collisions and near misses with animals. The Bay Area has most of them; only two are in the south.
  • ADVOCACY, BAKERSFIELD, HISTORY, KERN COUNTY, US 99. There is a group in Bakersfield trying to get historic route signs posted on the original alignment of US 99 through the Bakersfield area. They could use your support.
  • With Expansion of 710 Freeway on Horizon Residents Ask For More Time to Understand Impacts. Long Beach has changed a lot over the last 60 years. It’s population has nearly doubled, the downtown skyline has changed dramatically and its port has grown into one of the busiest in the world. To accommodate that growth, both the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach along with CalTrans and Metro have proposed a makeover and modernization of the main artery carrying goods out of the port complex and to their final destinations.
  • Highway 120 Work Continues, New Priest Grade Turnouts Complete. Caltrans is flagging improvements newly completed on Highway 120 — as well as a hot spot that will be creating hefty delays for motorists tomorrow. First the bad news; Caltrans officials say travelers should anticipate 15 to 20-minute traffic stops on Highway 120 at Tulloch Dam Road Friday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Since the eastbound lane will be closed for paving work the area will be under one-way traffic control.
  • Highway 101 carpool lanes to be designed, but construction is still years away. Adding carpool lanes to help relieve congestion on Highway 101 is one of the Ventura County Transportation Commission’s highest priority projects. So even though the estimated $750 million to $2 billion in funds to build them haven’t been identified yet, the commission has decided to get the project off the ground by soliciting proposals for preliminary engineering design and environmental consulting services.
  • Tricky Business: Appearing on Blue Highway Exit Signs is Harder than it Looks. Most official highway signs are clearly governmental, laying out speed limits, providing traffic instructions or giving directions and distances. Those huge blue interstate exit signs, though, familiar and useful as they may be, break that mold by featuring mainly commercial enterprises. So what does it take for a private for-profit business to get a coveted spot on one of these signs? And, in turn: what can these signs tell drivers about their options at a given exit?
  • Tired of traffic on the 15 Freeway? Here’s Temecula’s idea to tackle the congestion. Wildomar Mayor Tim Walker didn’t mince words talking about an issue that inflames the passions of even the most mild-mannered residents of Southwest Riverside County: traffic on Interstate 15. “Just getting to Corona is a joke now,” he said, adding that it takes about 30 minutes longer to make the trip there from Temecula than it used to.
  • 710 Freeway expansion: What $12 billion will pay for … maybe some day. By some estimates, it will cost the same as the 2,000-mile wall President Donald Trump wants to build along the Mexican border. Nearly two decades in the making, it’s the proposed expansion of the 710 Freeway by adding lanes from Long Beach to East Los Angeles. The projected cost: $6 billion to $12 billion, depending on which features are included the final plan.
  • Big Sur’s southern access to stay closed until next summer. The southern entrance to Big Sur will not re-open until late next summer — nearly a year and a half after fierce winter rains triggered a massive Mud Creek slide that covered iconic Highway 1. Caltrans announced Friday that it aims to have Highway 1 at Mud Creek open to traffic by late summer 2018. The new roadway — which will traverse over the slide area, using a series of embankments, berms, rocks, netting, culverts and other stabilizing material — will cost an estimated $40 million.
  • Golden Gate Bridge clock to stay despite toll modifications. It turns out time is not running out on the often fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza art deco clock. A large gantry-type structure is coming to the Golden Gate Bridge as officials look to upgrade toll collection machinery. Rather than put new equipment in the old toll plaza, bridge officials are looking to erect the gantry by Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Hunting for forgotten history; Old US 99 in Fresno. Coming back from my Great Lakes Trip the other day I encountered this sign goof at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport which incorrectly displays US Route 99. That little US 99 sign was the inspiration I needed to start tracking all the former alignments through the City of Fresno. Fresno in general has had a huge shift in highway layouts over the decades which is something I intend to finish with California 41 and 180 perhaps later this month.
  • How Your Favorite (or Hated) SoCal Freeway Was Built. They may be the most pervasive landscapes in southern California. The freeways, highways, and interstates that slice through our lives have become so mundane that it’s easy to forget that these massive transportation corridors were crafted over years, some even decades, for our daily use as commuters. Click on the images below to read ten brief histories of SoCal roadways and the culture they spawned:
  • No easy cures for Long Beach Freeway woes (Opinion). The Long Beach Freeway has had many names in its storied history. It started out as the Los Angeles River Freeway decades ago before finally being designated as the 710 and Long Beach Freeway. But the clogged freeway also has more notorious names, like “Diesel Death Zone” and “Asthma Alley.” And for more than 20 years there have been futile attempts to find a solution to this nightmarish, 19-mile corridor on Long Beach’s westside.
  • Road to nowhere: Long Beach’s ‘crosstown freeway’. We haven’t set aside enough time yet to form an opinion on Long Beach’s land-use element that will determine the density and heights of buildings in the city far into the future. We’re only up to 1958, but we can tell you that city planners don’t always get what they want. Sometimes, proposals are merely wish lists.
  • Tiger salamander undercrossings nearing completion on Hwy 246 west of Buellton. Construction work on six new Highway 246 wildlife undercrossings is in the final stages, and the project is expected to be complete this fall, a Caltrans spokesman said. The culvert-type undercrossings are designed to allow California tiger salamanders — and other small animals — to pass safely between breeding ponds and upland habitat on opposite sides of the highway between Buellton and Lompoc, the spokesman said.
  • Improved intersection brings relief, motorists say. Construction work at a key intersection in Ramona along state Route 67 — a highway that has long been one of the county’s most congested during rush hours — is nearing completion and appears to be doing what it was designed to do. California Department of Transportation has spent roughly $14 million in the past year reconstructing the SR-67 intersection at Highland Valley/Dye Road, just to the west of town.
  • Mile Marker: A Caltrans Performance Report, September 2017. In This Issue: Mile Markers / Starting to Fill in the Gaps / Budget Picture Much Brighter for Caltrans / Strategy to Cut Water Use Pays Off Big / Teaching Water-Wise Ways / Freight Route Bridges Top SB 1 Fix-It List / Caltrans Keeps Close Eye on Bridge Condition / Projects Relieve Traffic Squeeze on I-15 / Solar Keeps Caltrans on Green Goal Track / Litterbugs Still Foul Roads, Local Waters / Early Truck ‘Platoon’ Tests Show Promise / Staying in Your Lane Just Got Easier / Caltrans Keeps Project Pipeline Filled / New Law Puts Strategic Vision in Motion / New Caltrans App Can Be a Lifesaver
  • Wildlife crossing over the 101 could begin construction by 2022. The long-awaited overpass that would allow mountain lions and other wildlife to safely cross the 101 is moving forward. Caltrans recently released an environmental assessment for the project, called the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, and will be doing public outreach. As for actually building the overpass, Kate Kuykendall from the National Parks Service says the wildlife overpass is still on track and, if all its funding goals are met, it’s scheduled to begin construction in 2022.
  • ExpressLanes use continues to rise on 10 and 110. Lots of interestingness in the above report that covers the fiscal year from July 1, 2016, through June 30 of this year. The ExpressLanes give single-occupant vehicles the chance to use the HOV lanes for a toll; carpoolers generally travel for free.
  • Derelict plots under freeways in SF could become parklands. San Francisco may soon have an opportunity to transform up to 10 gritty, weed-choked plots of land beneath elevated freeways into public parks and recreation spaces, thanks to a state bill now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. The parcels are among 75 in the city owned by Caltrans, which makes about $9.2 million each year by leasing them out, mostly to private companies that use them as makeshift parking lots or as storage space.
  • Carpool Lanes In Riverside County May Open To All Vehicles, Sometimes. A Riverside County lawmaker’s bill seeking to make carpool lanes in the county available to all commuters during off-peak hours cleared another legislative hurdle Friday. Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes’ Assembly Bill 91 received unanimous approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill is now bound for the floor of the Senate.
  • Traffic on major Bay Area freeways has grown 80 percent since 2010. Drivers slogging through Bay Area freeways during the rush-hour commute are spending more time crawling along at speeds of less than 35 miles an hour, with traffic congestion up 80 percent since 2010, a new report released Monday by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) found.
  • Caltrans launches new public website for future project to improve Bus80/CapCityFreeway (State Highway 51).
  • I-5 Construction Updates in South County. Work on the northbound I-5 ramps at Avenida Pico in San Clemente, which are being realigned to accommodate a freeway widening through the city, continues with a pedestrian detour and a weekend closure. The work is expected to be completed by late October. The widening is part of a $230 million project to extend the carpool lanes from San Juan Capistrano to San Clemente. The project requires the complete reconstruction of the Pico interchange, with Pico being widened and straightened to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.
  • The far-out future 1960s planners envisioned for LA transit. If midcentury planners and architects had their way, we’d be whizzing around Los Angeles in monorails and flying buses. Southern California’s population and economy were booming in the 1950s and ’60s, driving up the demand for practical infrastructure, says architect and historian Alan Hess. But, in that time, architects, who “like to think of themselves as visionaries,” were pushing the limits, he says.
  • Rebuild State Route 37 to address sea level rise and traffic. State Route 37 — which snakes across Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties in Northern California — is living on borrowed time. At times, the highway appears to be impassable because of the 44,000-plus vehicles that travel portions of it every day. However, the effects of climate change will render this critical northern Bay Area crossing absolutely impassable during high tides unless we collaborate regionally on the best way to balance traffic needs and the valuable wetlands the roadway straddles.
  • Highway 37: Marin officials seek solutions for flood-prone road. Levee improvements, a raised roadway and highway widening could help rescue flood-prone Highway 37, Marin transportation officials said this week at the first in a series of meetings aimed at brainstorming solutions to protect the roadway from sea-level rise.
  • Northbound 405 Freeway connector to eastbound 105 to close through winter. The northbound 405 Freeway connector to the eastbound 105 Freeway near Hawthorne will be closed Wednesday as part of a long-term roadway and embankment repair project that will continue through the winter, according to Caltrans.
  • And the winning choice for the North County Corridor is…. After long years and even decades of talk and study, a preferred path for the North County Corridor is emerging. The best route among four options for a future expressway skirting Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale would provide easy access to businesses close to Oakdale’s south end while sparing more homes east of town, Oakdale leaders said in an important official recommendation to the California Department of Transportation.
  • Freight Route Bridges Top SB 1 Fix-It List. Caltrans has added 30 bridges on several of California’s most important freight corridors to its fast-track schedule for improvements or replacement
    under Senate Bill 1. The spans along freight-critical junctures on Interstate 80 in Northern California, and I-5 in Southern California merited inclusion on Caltrans’ Accelerated Bridge Delivery schedule, and earlier funding
    to begin the project delivery process, the California Transportation Commission recently decided. The CTC is scheduled to consider adding another 30 to the accelerated list in October.
  • LIVE THE MADDENING LIFE OF A TRAFFIC ENGINEER WITH A $3 GAME. THE AIR SINGS with four-letter words. The iPad sits stoic as fingers poke, jab, and prod at its screen. Traffic engineering, it turns out, is a difficult job, even when you’re working in a fantasy “city” made up of nothing but one office building and a solitary tree.
  • I-680 express lanes opening Oct. 9. After over two years of construction, the opening date for San Ramon Valley’s Interstate 680 express lanes are officially scheduled to open Oct. 9. The $56 million project has involved converting the single high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction into a toll express lane as a tool to help reduce congestion. It includes one northbound express lane from Alcosta Boulevard in San Ramon to Livorna Road in Alamo, and one southbound express lane from Rudgear Road in Walnut Creek to Alcosta Boulevard.
  • Are L.A.-area HOV lanes headed toward +3?. Ah, the good ol’ carpool lane, often the saving grace on a hellacious cross-county commute. That is until your cruise past traffic comes to a grinding halt and you’re left wondering how the carpool lane is failing at doing its primary job — providing passengers who fill their seats with a faster ride.
  • 405 Freeway Connector Near LAX To Close For Remainder Of 2017. A construction project will close the connector between the 405 and 105 freeway near Los Angeles International Airport through the end of the year as part of a Caltrans construction project, creating possible traffic issues in the area.
  • Highway help on horizon. Anyone who has driven on Highway 101 through Marin and Sonoma counties in the past two decades will have noticed two things: The traffic has become a lot worse, especially in key bottlenecks; and the pace of construction to widen the freeway has slowed to a crawl resembling the afternoon commute through The Narrows.
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