California Highway Headlines for September 2015

userpic=roadgeekingWhew. Another busy month has come and gone. This one was extra busy, with vacation, the end of the government fiscal year craziness, and all sorts of stuff going on. Here are the collected headlines:

  • Creating the Santa Monica Freeway. Today, the Santa Monica (I-10) Freeway is an indelible marker across the Los Angeles landscape, a mini-equator that delineates boundaries between cultural and historical hemispheres of the city. Southern Californians depend on the freeway as a vital link between the Westside and downtown Los Angeles and as a transcontinental connection to points east. But in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, the I-10 was part of a massive public works project to bind the nation with concrete superhighways, then perceived as a threat that united local communities and later — according to one admirer — as a work of art.
  • Caltrans proposes wildlife overpass on 101 Freeway . Mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife would have less chance of becoming roadkill if the state adopts a plan to build a landscaped bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, supporters of the proposal said Wednesday. State agencies, elected officials and wildlife advocates urged the state to provide the much-needed link in an area where rampant development and highways have fragmented once-continuous habitat. The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long overpass near Liberty Canyon Road would connect the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.
  • New road-repair plan from Gov. Jerry Brown includes higher gas taxes, vehicle fees. Gov. Jerry Brown has ramped up his efforts to reach a deal on funding road repairs, dispatching a top administration official to present a new proposal to Republican leaders on Thursday morning. The proposal would provide $3.6 billion annually for transportation and includes a new $65 fee for vehicle owners, an 11-cent increase in the diesel tax and a 6-cent hike to the gas tax.
  • L.A.-area carpool lanes may be opened to everyone during off-peak hours. The state Senate sent the governor separate bills on Thursday — one that would allow all motorists to use carpool lanes on some Los Angeles County freeways during off-peak hours, and another that would increase penalties for sex offenders who remove court-ordered GPS tracking devices. The carpool lane measure was proposed as a way to reduce the frustrating congestion that plagues L.A. freeways even after the daily commutes.
  • Fixing the Most Dangerous Road in L.A. is Even Tougher Than You Think. It’s practically cliché to complain about traffic in Los Angeles. But one on- and off-ramp in East Los Angeles has become particularly notorious: the Avenue 43 exit on the Arroyo Seco Parkway. The first freeway in America, this thoroughfare was once considered a modern marvel. But more than 70 years later, the road’s sudden, sharp turns directly into speeding cars have led to countless accidents. Nearby residents are anxious for a solution.
  • Ortega Highway Interchange construction ends after two years of traffic-snarling construction. Long-anticipated upgrades to San Juan Capistrano’s Ortega Highway Interchange came to an end last weekend after more than two years of traffic-snarling construction. The California Department of Transportation and the Orange County Transportation Authority began improvements on the intersection of Ortega Highway and I-5 in February 2013 to relieve traffic congestion around San Juan Capistrano’s primary connection to the freeway. The $81 million project was finished Friday with improved traffic flow and freeway access.
  • People living near 60 Freeway in Ontario breathe the worst air in the Southland. With its sprawl of tract homes, apartment complexes, shopping centers and warehouses, Ontario looks like many other communities in the Inland Empire and shares the same environmental woes, including heavy truck traffic and air pollution. But people in one neighborhood near the 60 Freeway have a dubious new distinction: They are breathing the dirtiest air in Southern California, according to new measurements by pollution regulators.
  • Highway 4 widening completion pushed back to summer 2016. Commuters weary of Highway 4’s daily gridlock will have to wait a while longer than expected for the highly anticipated widening project to be completed, and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority says hot and windy weather is to blame. Officials now say that the Highway 4 widening project should be finished by midsummer of 2016, an extension of at least six to eight months beyond the agency’s original estimate that the project would be completed by the end of this year. Construction supervisors say East Contra Costa’s notorious heat, coupled with high winds in the area, have forced workers to postpone concrete pours time and time again, delaying the project.
  • Roadshow: New 101-880 interchange could cost $1 billion. Q I know you have probably answered this at least once a week for the last 30 years, but I missed each one. If I were in charge of Caltrans, upgrading the 880/101 interchange would have been on my to-do list in 1962 and would have been completed by 1964. Any chance of building a flyover in each direction before I die?
  • Highway 37 improvement plan eyed by Marin, other North Bay counties. Marin and other North Bay counties are looking to develop a plan and financing to improve the utilitarian and sometimes aggravating Highway 37 between Novato and Vallejo. Increasing traffic and sea-level rise are among the challenges facing the state highway, which existed in its current footprint since the 1930s.
  • Construction Moves Forward on the Avenido Pico Interchange. Pile driving is scheduled to begin in late October for the new portion of the Avenida Pico bridge on the southbound side of Interstate 5 (I-5) in San Clemente. Reconstruction of the Avenida Pico interchange is part of the $230 million I-5 South County Improvement Project, which also extends the carpool lane from San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano to Avenida Pico in San Clemente.
  • I-580 toll lanes opening delayed; I-680 projects on the way. With jam-packed freeways an all-too-common roadblock for many drivers in the area, Pleasanton is on track to soon find itself nearly surrounded by one of regional traffic officials’ go-to strategies for congestion relief. Toll express lanes, an alternative to traditional carpool lanes, continue to be built along both directions of Interstate 580 through Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore
  • Toll payers will dig deep: Bay Bridge fix could top $15 million. A long-term fix for the waterlogged steel rods at the base of the new Bay Bridge eastern span’s tower will cost at least $15 million, much of which could come from toll payers, Caltrans officials said Wednesday. The risk of corrosion to the high-strength, 25-foot-long rods has led to months of study and delays in putting the finishing touches on the eastern span, which opened to traffic in September 2013.
  • Ridge Route, pioneering LA-to-Bakersfield highway, hits 100. If the Grapevine is California’s hardworking mother road, the Ridge Route is the state’s demanding, surprising grandmother. And when grandma marks 100 — as the Ridge Route does next Saturday — you bring the party to her. Next Saturday’s centennial celebration will feature an antique car show, lectures and a tour of wind-whipped Dead Man’s Curve — but what supporters really want for the Ridge Route’s birthday is to reopen all of the historic highway.
  • Highway 101 toll lanes possible for Marin. A plan for toll lanes on Highway 101 in Marin to move drivers along faster — for a price — is still a possibility for the county. The toll lane — also known as “express lane” — concept is straightforward: Solo drivers could pay to use carpool lanes. That money could be used to finance local transportation projects.
  • Highway 101 projects get OK: San Mateo County Transportation Authority allocates $108M in local sales tax money . With congestion along Highway 101 tightening alongside the burgeoning Bay Area economy, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority is allocating $108 million in local sales tax dollars toward projects aimed at alleviating commuters’ woes. The authority is responsible for overseeing revenue from Measure A, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax originally passed in 1988 and reaffirmed in 2004; now it has about $125 million to improve conditions near Highway 101. While this recent allocation will not exhaust its entire highway grant fund, the leftover money can be rolled over to future years’ funding cycles and officials with the TA are hopeful the stream of sales tax revenue will support new projects.
  • Gov. Brown vetoes off-hours use of L.A. County carpool lanes. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure Monday that would have allowed, during off-peak hours, all motorists to use carpool lanes on the 134 Freeway from North Hollywood to Pasadena, and on the 210 Freeway from Pasadena to Glendora. The measure would also have allowed the state Department of Transportation to study whether similar openings should be used on other freeways in the county.
  • I-80 onramp meters in Solano County to be switched on. The switch will be flipped by the California Department of Transportation on some 32 traffic meters throughout Solano County starting Monday. Vacaville will see 16 meters given the green light. The second stage of ramp meter activation in Solano County includes on-ramp locations on eastbound and westbound Interstate 80 between Redwood Street in Vallejo and Interstate 505 in Vacaville. “Traffic is only going to increase in these areas, so this is an effort to get out in front of it,” said Vince Jacala, Caltrans public information officer for Napa and Solano counties. “This is a tool that helps with the flow of traffic.”
  • Marin IJ Editorial: Highway 101/580 connector needs to be a Marin priority. Local officials have compiled a list of proposed traffic problems, all aimed at helping solve local problems. This countywide grouping, which will eventually have to be culled to $480 million, is laundry list on plans, promises and wishes. The Transportation Authority of Marin should make sure it is topped by a plan to address one of Marin’s worst traffic problems, solving the nightly jam of Highway 101 traffic getting onto Interstate 580.
  • Caltrans gets go-ahead to implode pier on old Bay Bridge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given Caltrans final permission to carry out a $160 million implosion of the largest concrete pier of the old Bay Bridge eastern span next month, the state agency said Thursday. Caltrans said in the spring that it intended to implode the five-story underwater structure to speed demolition of the old bridge. Various agencies raised concerns over the potential harm to an endangered fish, the longfin smelt, a 5-inch-long species whose numbers have plummeted in the drought.