California Highway Headlines for August 2015

userpic=roadgeekingAugust. The dog days of summer. A time when you’re either out driving in the heat or hiding from it. I’m on the beach in Hawaii m’self, but I did collect these headlines for you:

  • 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.”
  • On 91 Freeway, a $2-billion effort to keep up with increasing traffic . The 91 Freeway between Fullerton and Corona is one of the most congested stretches of highway in California — an often frustrating bog of idling engines, squeaking brakes and commuter angst. The rush hour traffic results from an abundance of jobs in Orange County and more affordable housing in the Inland Empire. But for almost a decade, Caltrans and local transportation agencies were prevented from improving the heavily congested portal.
  • I-680 toll express lanes construction set to start. The project to bring toll express lanes to Interstate 680 through the San Ramon Valley is expected to start construction this month, with completion estimated for late next year. “The beginning of work on the 680 express lanes between San Ramon and Walnut Creek is an important milestone,” John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) said Tuesday.
  • 1963 Orange County Freeways Master Plan. It’s just a map, but what a map.
  • Contra Costa driver tolls on the I-680 horizon. Express lanes — toll roads for solo drivers willing to pay for speedier commutes — are about to bring Contra Costa County drivers into the world of high-tech traffic controls. Work was to begin Wednesday night on the first of three express-lane segments that in time will extend from the Benicia Bridge to the county border at Alcosta Boulevard in San Ramon. The first segment is on both directions of Interstate-680 from Walnut Creek to San Ramon.
  • San Antonio Road Bridge replacement plan in works. Plans to replace the San Antonio Road Bridge near the Marin-Sonoma border are in the works at the Civic Center. The bridge, built in 1917, will remain standing for pedestrian and bicycle use as a new $5.5 million span is constructed. The project, financed by federal grants, is part of the Marin-Sonoma Narrows freeway widening program. It involves realignment of San Antonio Road between Novato and Petaluma, including the span over San Antonio Creek.
  • Caltrans Talks About Replacing PCH’s Alamitos Bay Bridge. California’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is beginning a process to replace or repair the Alamitos Bay Bridge on Pacific Coast Highway. The bridge was built in 1959 over the river channel between Second Street and Loynes Drive. It was widened eight years later, but now has been deemed seismically deficient (in danger of collapse in an earthquake).
  • Caltrans: Grass Valley public meeting on Hwy. 49 widening . To get local feedback on the State Route 49 highway widening project, the California Department of Transportation will host an open house from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday in the Hullender Room at the Grass Valley City Hall. In an attempt to improve traffic operations and safety, the project proposes to widen Highway 49 to a four-lane highway, with 10-foot shoulder upgrades, from Nevada County’s section of the highway from miles 11.1 to mile 13.3.
  • New Life for Old East Span Steel. The Bay Bridge Steel Program, being administered by Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), was created in response to significant public interest from Bay Area artists and creative communities in making steel from the original 1936 East Span of the Bay Bridge available for repurposing and reuse. The steel that will be made available through this program will be drawn from the second phase of bridge demolition that began this summer. Noted photographer Sam Burbank, who also documented the dismantling of the Carquinez Bridge, has graciously provided the amazing photos on this two-page spread to give our readers an idea of the raw materials that will eventually become public art.
  • Why the time is right to re-examine the L.A. freeway. In 1981, a young writer named David Brodsly described the Los Angeles freeway as one of the city’s indispensible metaphors, “one of the few parts capable of standing for the whole.” He argued that the freeway had expanded “the realm of the accessible” for drivers in Southern California — that it was a powerfully democratic force, in essence — and lent “a new clarity” to a vast metropolitan region that newcomers had long found illegible and tough to grasp.
  • ‘The prettiest park in Los Angeles’ and why a freeway runs through it. Freeways are brutal structures. And they have been dropped into many communities — especially poor ones — in often indiscriminate ways. Exits from the 101 spill out onto quiet residential streets in Silver Lake. The monumental stacks of the 105 and the 110 lord over single-family homes in South L.A. And all over town you find homes and businesses tucked into the noisy, inhospitable curves of a freeway access ramp. There is Offramp Gallery, a contemporary art space in Pasadena, which lies within the roar of the 210, and the Psychic Center of Los Angeles, sandwiched between a towering freeway wall and an onramp on the southbound 5. (Freeway noise aside, they do excellent readings.)
  • AQMD: 710 Freeway tunnel would raise cancer risk to unacceptable levels. In a detailed critique, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said the draft environmental impact report for the proposed 710 Freeway extension failed to estimate emissions of carbon monoxide and airborne particulates and that the tunnel project would raise the cancer risk to unacceptable levels. The eight-page letter from Ian MacMillan, the anti-smog district’s planning and rules manager, says the lack of basic air quality analysis renders the draft EIR useless to the agency or those deciding on a tunnel or other transit options.
  • Work continues on freeway interchange project. Work on the Interstate 80/Interstate 680/Highway 12 interchange project is continuing with bridge deck installation work related to the new Green Valley Road overcrossing. Crews installed five giant girders at the interchange earlier this week, the California Department of Transportation confirmed in a press release Thursday.
  • Caltrans, San Diego reviewing improvements to congested SR-56 in Carmel Valley. The city of San Diego and Caltrans are working together to find solutions for commuters who struggle daily with the heavily congested SR-56. At peak hours, the 56 can resemble a parking lot, with cars at a standstill. And with all the development occurring along the corridor, traffic is only expected to increase.
  • Caltrans seeking permit to bring down Bay Bridge support pier with explosives. Caltrans is seeking permits to demolish the largest pier of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge with explosives, a procedure that could be dangerous to native marine mammals, but Caltrans officials say it would have the least impact on bay wildlife. Federal agencies are still taking public comment on the planned implosion, which if approved would take place in November.
  • Levine wants third lane open on Richmond-San Rafael Bridge by September. A third eastbound lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge should be opened by the end of next month at the latest, not in 2017 as Caltrans has proposed, says Assemblyman Marc Levine. On Tuesday he introduced a bill — Assembly Bill 9 — in an attempt to push the agency into action, a move Levine, D-San Rafael, believes will help relieve the afternoon commute, which has created bumper-to-bumper traffic in Marin as drivers jockey to get onto the span. Some of that backup has spilled onto northbound and southbound Highway 101.
  • I-80 traffic control system in new test phase. The congestion improvement project meant to help drivers safely negotiate commute tie-ups on Interstate 80 moved into a new phase of testing this week. Overhead signs for the I-80 SMART Corridor between the Carquinez and Bay bridges are being tested during the daytime as engineers integrate the interconnected parts and their controls.
  • 1953 – Newly opened Sepulveda Blvd passing beneath LAX runway.. (photo and comments)
  • Mr. Roadshow: Route 85 Access Points in Saratoga. Q: Where will the access points to the planned Highway 85 express lanes be located? Will there be any in Saratoga?
  • Nobody Walks in LA. Kickstarter for a coffee-table art book of empty freeways in Los Angeles
  • 710 Tunnel: San Gabriel Valley cities take it off wish list for sales-tax funded projects. A group representing San Gabriel Valley cities has removed a controversial freeway tunnel proposal from its wish list of projects that might be funded by a new transportation sales tax. The decades-old idea of extending the 710 Freeway north from its Alhambra terminus near Cal State Los Angeles to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena via an underground tunnel has been divisive. Alhambra wants a tunnel, Pasadena doesn’t. Other cities have taken sides.
  • Tenants worry as Caltrans prepares to sell homes along 710 Freeway corridor. The modest cottages and majestic Craftsman homes that line a swath of quiet streets stretching though Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno are part of the long, tortured legacy of a freeway that was never built. In the 1950s and ’60s, Caltrans began buying up houses and plots of land for what was expected to be the path of the 710 Freeway extension. But in the decades that followed, the 6.2-mile project was stalled by lobbying, lawsuits and legislation. …
  • Rising seas, traffic threaten Highway 37. Highway 37 may mostly sit in Solano and Sonoma counties, but it has the potential to cause major traffic headaches for Napa County. Race days at Sonoma Raceway – such as this weekend—jam Highway 37 with traffic and prompt motorists to use south Napa County highways, jamming those roads too. During heavy winter storms, Highway 37, which sits on a low berm over marshland, can flood, diverting traffic to other routes, including Highway 12/121 in Napa County. With sea levels expected to rise, 37 faces an even more watery future.