California Highway Headlines for July 2015

userpic=roadgeekingJuly was another busy busy month for highway headlines. Here’s what I collected:

  • $1.14 billion later, expanded 405 Freeway is a hodgepodge of design. Imagine if the ancient Romans, late in their empire-building days, had suddenly forgotten how to design aqueducts. Or if Chicago started filling the Loop with a collection of ungainly skyscrapers, each more of an eyesore than the last. Something similar — a sad reversal of infrastructural fortune — is happening in Southern California. A region once synonymous with freeways no longer builds them with much confidence or skill. How else to judge the new-look 405 Freeway, which has been widened, at a cost of $1.14 billion, to make room for a single carpool lane on its northbound side between West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley?
  • Bay Area tunnel to be renamed after late actor Robin Williams . A Bay Area tunnel, known for the brightly colored rainbow painted over its arched entrance, will now be called the Robin Williams Tunnel. Commonly known as the Waldo Tunnel or the Rainbow Tunnel, the passageway led travelers from Marin County to the Golden Gate Bridge. The late actor, who lived in Tiburon, Calif., likely traveled through the tunnel when he visited San Francisco.
  • Caltrans project set to start on 101 Fwy from Calabasas to Studio City. Caltrans is gearing up for a 24-mile asphalt repaving project on the 101 Freeway, stretching from Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas to the 170/134 interchange in Studio City. New guardrails will also be installed. “The crews are going to go through, grind away the old pavement and place new pavement right behind that,” Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler said.
  • Legislators clear plan to rename Marin tunnel for Robin Williams. The rainbow-adorned portal into and out of Marin will soon bear a new name: the Robin Williams Tunnel. The state Senate on Thursday approved the resolution introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, to change the name of the Waldo Tunnel. The state Assembly took the same action in April. Because it is a resolution, the change doesn’t need a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown.
  • With accidents aplenty on PCH, Malibu greenlights safety improvements . One of the world’s most scenic and celebrated ribbons of asphalt, Pacific Coast Highway has served as mood-setting backdrop to films and TV shows and inspired lyrics by artists of such diverse sensibilities as the Beach Boys, Jaden Smith and Hole. For 21 miles northwest of L.A., the fragmented, 650-mile road becomes the city of Malibu’s main thoroughfare. And almost daily the squawk of gulls and thump of waves are drowned out on this stretch by shrieking brakes, crumpling metal and sirens’ wail as accidents send people to hospitals and bring traffic to hours-long standstills.
  • Doyle Drive closure opens golden era of Presidio Parkway. Early Monday, after a three-day traffic nightmare, drivers heading to and from the Golden Gate Bridge will be greeted by the brand-new Presidio Parkway, a sleeker, safer, better-looking version of Doyle Drive. “It’s going to be a brand-new feeling and a brand-new driving experience — for everyone,” project spokeswoman Molly Graham said Tuesday as she showed off the new roadway. “We’re asking people to be patient on Monday and we do expect delays for the first couple of weeks.”
  • $1.8 million road project underway in Tam Valley. A $1.8 million road improvement program is underway in Tamalpais Valley this summer as Ghilotti Construction works on a resurfacing, curb, ramp, guardrail and drainage project.
    Areas for improvements coordinated by the county Public Works Department include Homestead Valley and Almonte behind Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. Officials said the work involves Circle Way from Homestead Boulevard to the end; Homestead Boulevard from Stadium to Loring, and Morning Sun from Dolan to Homestead.
  • Maintenance Contract Approved For Permanent Return Of Bay Lights. A maintenance contract approved Wednesday should keep the popular Bay Lights art installation on the western span of the Bay Bridge twinkling well into the next decade. The Bay Area Toll Authority approved a 10-year, $2.1 million contract for Philips Lighting North America Corporation to maintain the Bay Lights installation once it returns as a permanent fixture next year.
  • $1.1 million approved for plan to keep Bay Bridge bolts safe. The committee wrangling with the Bay Bridge construction problems voted Thursday to spend an additional $1.1 million to come up with a plan to prevent further damage to bolts anchoring the eastern span’s signature tower to its foundation. The decision, approved on a 2-1 vote, came despite a statement from a seismic review panel that the bridge doesn’t need any of the 424 anchor rods to survive a major earthquake.
  • New contract approved for Bay Bridge lights. Fans of the lights installation that has adorned the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge can expect to see the span illuminated well into the next decade, under a new maintenance contract approved Wednesday. The Bay Area Toll Authority approved a 10-year, $2.1 million contract for Philips Lighting North America Corporation to maintain the Bay Lights installation once it returns as a permanent fixture set for next year.
  • Experts to make recommendations to test, repair anchor rods in Bay Bridge tower. A panel of experts convened to determine the extent of water damage to anchor rods in the base of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern tower will make their first recommendations for testing and repairs today, according to Caltrans officials. Among the recommendations chief bridge engineer Brian Maroney will ask the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee to approve is a dehumidification system to dry the rods, according to Caltrans.
  • Long Beach sues Caltrans, OCTA over 405 Freeway widening project. Long Beach is suing Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority over the $1.7 billion project to expand the 405 Freeway. The City Council authorized the city attorney in closed session Tuesday to file the lawsuit challenging the environmental documents filed with the plan, which widens the 405 by four lanes through Orange County to just past the Long Beach border.
  • The new Jameson Canyon: Wider and faster. Jameson Canyon Road, a stretch of Highway 12 between Highway 29 and Interstate 80 once known as “Blood Alley,” is safer today than it was a year ago, thanks to a barrier in the median and an expansion from two lanes to four. But the once infamous stretch of roadway still has problems. With congestion now reduced, motorists are more likely to speed, said California Highway Patrol Officer Roger Kellogg, who patrols it regularly.
  • Work continues on I-680 project. Repaving work on Interstate 680 between Fairfield and Benicia is continuing this week. Intermittent lane closures and alternating ramp closures should be anticipated nightly through Friday as crews work on the 13-mile stretch of I-680, according to the California Department of Transportation.
  • State Agency Cites Caltrans, Contractors for ‘Serious Violations’ Leading to Willits Bypass Collapse. A state investigation has determined the falsework that collapsed on the Willits bypass on January 22 “was not properly designed, was not erected as per the design plans, was missing components, [and] deficiencies were not identified when inspected and signed off by the project engineer for the company erecting it.” The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited all three employers at the worksite – Caltrans, Flatiron West, Inc., and “DeSilva Gates-Flatiron West: A Joint Venture” – for four “serious” violations. Those July 16, 2015, citations were for: failure to properly inspect the falsework; failure to make a thorough survey of the conditions of the site to determine “predictable hazards” to employees; failure to ensure vertical supports were erected on a “properly compacted and reasonably level” base; and failure to ensure the falsework was designed and erected to “assure its ability to withstand all intended loads.”
  • Caltrans Completes Highway 99 Widening Project Through Manteca. Traffic flowed smoothly during the morning commute Wednesday. It wasn’t bumper to bumper or even congested thanks to a newly completed Caltrans road widening project two years in the making. “Each individual should recognize about a 16 minute savings in time. That is a big difference for those who want to get through this area especially through peak hours,” Dennis Agar, Caltrans director for District 10, said.
  • Bridge collapse shuts down major California freeway after record-breaking July rain. Historic rain in Southern California—the most we’ve had in July since 1886!—caused a bridge collapse near the town of Desert Center, California over the weekend. The bridge collapse shut down all traffic for hours on the highly-traveled Interstate 10 freeway between Los Angeles and Phoenix. One unfortunate driver plowed his pickup truck into the collapsed structure, and hundreds of other cars were stranded. Alternate routes will require cars and trucks to travel hundreds of additional miles.
  • Caltrans considering Ceres’ diverging diamond idea. Although the design is being used successfully in a number of states, Caltrans is acting slowly to approve the “diverging diamond” design for the future Mitchell/Service/99 interchange. Caltrans officials from District 10, which covers Ceres, like the design but it is being viewed cautiously at state headquarters.