California Highway Headlines for October 2015

userpic=roadgeekingWhew! That was a busy month. Now that you’re stuffing your faces with candy and getting that extra hour of sleep, how about some highway headlines to wake you up:

  • Officials Dedicate Interstate 5 – Ortega Highway Interchange Project. On Oct. 1, OCTA and local and state officials marked the completion of the I-5/Ortega Highway Interchange Improvement Project in San Juan Capistrano. The $77.2-million project is designed to ease travel for daily commuters and decrease vehicle emissions at this interchange, a major connection for motorists in Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties.
  • District 3/Sacramento – Sign Replacement Project. AAroads discussion of a new sign replacement project for the Sacramento metro area.
  • Bay Bridge designer fears leaks are damaging main cable. The cable that holds up the new Bay Bridge eastern span is vulnerable to corrosion because of rainwater leaking into its anchorages, the bridge’s lead designer has warned Caltrans — a threat that the agency has previously downplayed on the $6.4 billion project. Although bridge officials have been preoccupied with the possibility that rods at the base of the span’s tower could be corroded by water, lead designer Marwan Nader of the T.Y. Lin International design firm in San Francisco said the bigger concern is the cable — specifically, the twin steel boxes where the cable is anchored inside the span’s deck.
  • Gov signs bill: No bike or ped tolls on Golden Gate Bridge. Gov. Brown signed a bill Wednesday that will prevent tolls from being charged to pedestrians and bicyclists on the Golden Gate Bridge and other state bridges for the next five years. Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, introduced AB 40 earlier this year, which in part, will “prohibit the district from fixing or collecting any tolls or access fees for pedestrian and bicyclist use of the Golden Gate Bridge sidewalks.”
  • 9 Injured, 3 in Critical Condition, After Freeway Bridge Partially Collapses in Corona. onstructed along the 91 Freeway in Corona partially collapsed late Friday, officials said. The partial collapse occurred about 11 p.m. as workers were lowering the bridge into place at East Grand Boulevard, according to a news release from the Riverside County Transportation Commission.
  • From $250 Million to $6.5 Billion: The Bay Bridge Cost Overrun. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked the Bay Area, officials got serious about rebuilding the vulnerable Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland. The first cost estimates, released in 1995, figured both east and west spans of the bridge could be upgraded for a cuddly $250 million. By the time the new east span opened in September 2013 the price tag for that span alone had reached a reported $6.5 billion, with a B. Just your run-of-the-mill rise of 2,500 percent. UC Berkeley planning scholar Karen Trapenberg Frick meticulously chronicles the reconstructed bridge in a new book, Remaking the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. With Frick and her book as guide, CityLab tracked bridge expenses over time to get some sense of how the project that Herbert Hoover once called “the greatest bridge yet constructed in the world” became yet another example of a major public works project in which the cost ended outrageously higher than it began—and some ideas for what to do about it.
  • Experts: Eastern span of Bay Bridge may need expensive retrofit. An international group of bridge maintenance experts is pushing for an immediate retrofit of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge. The panel says it would include the installation of a dehumidification system. While presenting their findings Tuesday evening to the Bridge Oversight Committee, they said the systems have been crucial in the construction of new bridges around the world.
  • Freeway Ramp Removal – the 134 at Colorado. Recently, we took a look at an opportunity to improve access to the LA River and create space for building a bunch of badly needed housing by eliminating some ramps on the 2 that were probably causing freeway congestion anyway. There’s another set of ramps on the other side of Eagle Rock that could go, and while eliminating them wouldn’t do much for the freeway (which is rarely congested there anyway), it’s perhaps an even better development opportunity. If you know the area at all, you’ve already guessed that we’re talking about the long ramps from Colorado to the 134. As Walk Eagle Rock explained, these ramps are leftovers from an early interim terminus of the 134, when the state planned to run the freeway through Eagle Rock rather than the through the hills above it.
  • SANDAG adopts controversial $204B transportation plan. A plan that sets up a framework for future transportation projects around the region for the next 35 years was approved today by the San Diego Association of Governments.
    The $204 billion plan was opposed by environmentalists and public transit advocates, who contend that the plan called “San Diego Forward” doesn’t go far enough in prioritizing mass transportation.
  • Logistical headache: $3 billion plan for a project in Moreno Valley encounters powerful opposition. Today, 2,610 acres of flat, arid land on Moreno Valley’s eastern edge are filled with wheat fields, brush, dirt and a few scattered ranch homes. But the future of this land, the size of a small city, promises to have a huge impact on Southern California. State, regional, and local agencies, along with conservation groups, have watched with alarm over the past few years as developer Iddo Benzeevi has pursued plans for the 40.6-million-square-foot World Logistics Center. Equal to the size of 700 football fields, it would be one of the largest master-planned warehouse projects in the nation.
  • Popular LED light sculpture shining again on Bay Bridge. The popular 1.8-mile-long LED light sculpture on the Bay Bridge known as The Bay Lights is shining again. The popular 500-foot-high art installation, designed by artist Leo Villareal, creates a colorful display on the bridge with 25,000 white LED lights.
  • Golden Gate Suicide barrier project to go to bid Tuesday. Golden Gate Bridge officials next week will begin the process of finding a construction firm to build the landmark $76 million suicide barrier. On Friday the bridge board approved a deal with the National Park Service to allow builders to store material and equipment on park lands during construction. The bridge district on Tuesday will seek bidders for the barrier work, which couldn’t have happened without the agreement.
  • Experts urge quick action to protect Bay Bridge cable. An international group of bridge maintenance experts is urging the immediate retrofit of the $6.4 billion new eastern span of the Bay Bridge to protect the main cable from corrosion and to allow for inspections of other potentially vulnerable areas on the structure. In its report to Caltrans and a Bay Bridge oversight committee, the maintenance peer review panel cited concerns ranging from the span’s well-publicized problems with high-strength rods to a lack of maintenance access on the project.
  • The Barham Offramp on the 101 Freeway is Permanently Closing Months Ahead of Schedule. NBCUniversal is hard as work remaking both its theme park and pretty much the entire composition of the southeastern tip of the San Fernando Valley. One of the expected casualties of the $1.6-billion NBCUniversal Evolution expansion is the Barham Boulevard offramp on the southbound 101 Freeway. To make way for a new offramp that will feed Universal guests directly onto the 101, the Barham ramp was set to close for good in spring of 2016. But now with construction ahead of schedule, Caltrans has announced they’re actually closing it later this week instead, reports the Beverly Press. Local residents already fuming over Caltrans’s perceived preference towards CityWalk guests are not taking the news lightly.
  • Reconnection of Route 66 in Cajon Pass will be done by mid-2016 . A massive interchange project at Interstates 15 and 215 that will reconnect old Route 66 in San Bernardino County is ahead of schedule for its projected completion of mid-2016, according to Construction Equipment Guide. According to previous reporting, about two miles of old Route 66 in the Cajon Pass will be reopened to traffic for the first time in decades.
  • Roadshow: Highway 92-El Camino Real improvements get a green light. Q The congestion on eastbound Highway 92 in San Mateo in both the morning and evening seems due to backups at the El Camino Real and Highway 101 exits/entrances. And now there is a new 900-unit residential community under construction between El Camino and 101 that is going to make 92 even more of a disaster. Are there plans to widen 92 or improve these exits?
  • Business coalition pitches toll road proposal for Highway 37 upgrade . An alliance of business interests is seeking to establish one of the few toll roads in the Bay Area to widen and raise Highway 37 between Novato and Vallejo, the latest proposal seeking to ease chronic congestion and address environmental concerns along the notoriously bottlenecked 21-mile stretch of road. Few Bay Area roads spark as much motorist rage as Highway 37, particularly the two-lane section between Mare Island and the Sonoma Raceway built upon a levee bisecting marshlands. Besides congestion, that section of the highway is the site of frequent mishaps, including Friday morning when a hay-laden big-rig overturned on the highway near Vallejo and caught fire, causing massive traffic backups.
  • The Lost U.S. Highways of Southern California History. US-101 still traces the spine of Spanish California. US-395 continues to parallel the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada. And US-66 charts a direct course to a gauzy, nostalgic past. But these are mere vestiges of our first interstate highway system, one that linked Southern California to the nation with concrete pavement and black-and-white shields. Soon after a joint board of state highway officials adopted the 50,100-mile United States Numbered Highway System in 1926, you could have cranked up your Model T on the Lake Michigan shore, followed signs for US-66, and in 2,451 miles your tires would be kicking up Santa Monica sand. Or, starting at the Peace Arch that straddles the U.S.-Canada border, you might have followed signs for US-99, and within a couple days you’d be cruising past the downtown department stores and movie palaces on Broadway.
  • Transit project changes: What it means for your Bay Area commute. Not so long ago, a list of the Bay Area’s top transportation projects would have been crowded with longer, wider, even brand-new highways and freeways crisscrossing the region. But that approach has all but disappeared in the rearview mirror. Transportation improvements now in the works focus on public transit, carpooling and bicycling with a modicum of smaller highway projects: a freeway widening here, a shared carpool-toll lane there.
  • CORONA: Partially collapsed 91 ramp to be demolished. The 91 on-ramp damaged during a partial collapse earlier this month will be demolished and rebuilt amid concerns about the structural integrity of the 750-ton bridge that spans East Grand Boulevard in Corona. Though the new work isn’t expected to delay completion of the 91 expansion project, it will cause traffic delays starting next week, Riverside County officials say. It will be paid for by the contractor.
  • Bay Area regional planning agencies to merge. A last-minute compromise Wednesday morning defused a building confrontation between two of the Bay Area’s most important regional planning agencies and set the stage for their merger. Leaders of the Association of Bay Area Governments at an early morning meeting agreed to study merging with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a proposal they had initially opposed.
  • Bay Area Lawmakers Talk About Raising Bridge Tolls. Bay Area and state lawmakers are discussing the possibility of raising bridge tolls again, and they are debating where the money would go. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Bay Area has a massive transportation problem.
  • How The ‘Los Fezil’ Sign Fail Happened. Earlier this week, a brand new sign was installed on the 5 Freeway, one that welcomed folks to hipster neighborhood of “Los Fezil.” Many were left wondering how this misspelled sign managed to make its way onto a freeway sign post, but a Caltrans official explained to us what led to this mistake. The husband of Redditor Pixelated_Penguin first took notice of the misspelled “Los Fezil Blvd” sign erected on Monday evening and snapped a couple of photos of it, one of which showed a Caltrans worker attempting to fix the mistake with tape. Pixelated_Penguin then posted the photos onto Reddit the next day, and told LAist, “My husband said that he asked the guys about it, and apparently there’s a two stage process for approving these signs, and it got past both of them.”
  • Fears of failure grow for rods on Bay Bridge eastern span. New documents raise questions about the integrity of the steel rods that hold together the Bay Bridge eastern span and point to potentially widespread problems that experts warn could lead to premature failure. An engineer who studied tiny cracks found in flooded rods at the base of the bridge’s tower — a problem Caltrans has downplayed — discovered similar cracks in rods elsewhere on the $6.4 billion span. That cracking, experts say, could make the rods far more vulnerable to failure than the agency has acknowledged.
  • Caltrans to implode underwater pier beneath old Bay Bridge. e underwater pier that held up the cantilever section of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge will be imploded on November 7th. Caltrans contractors are almost done with preparations of the old span’s main support.
  • Bridge at 605/10 freeway interchange in Baldwin Park nears completion. After three years of construction, workers are putting the finishing touches on a new $66 million freeway connecter bridge linking the 605 and 10 freeways in Baldwin Park, expected to open to motorists early next week, Caltrans officials said.
  • What Does California’s State Highway Shield Symbolize?. California’s state highway markers — those green, numbered signs placed along local freeways and rural routes across the Golden State — are so familiar a feature of the automotive landscape that it’s easy to overlook their symbolism. But the shield accomplishes a neat trick. At once it points ahead and back — forward toward some spatial destination, but also back toward a temporal point of origin. Its shape mimics the spade carried by Forty-Niners into the foothills and sold by the opportunistic merchants who made the real fortunes of the California Gold Rush.
  • 710 tunnel opponents threaten to campaign against future Metro funding. More than a dozen people opposing the 710 Freeway tunnel from El Sereno to Pasadena told the Metro board Thursday they will campaign against next year’s transit tax if the ballot measure includes funding for the controversial project. One by one, prominent residents of Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, El Sereno, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre and Alhambra threatened to use their considerable resources to turn voters against Measure R2, a future sales tax that would pump an extra $120 billion into Metro coffers for rail and highway projects during the next 42 years.
  • 710 Freeway Opposition Testimony Dominates October Metro Board Meeting . Last week’s Metro board meeting agenda included numerous items, from bus service to Union Station run-through tracks, but the audience was packed with people mobilized to testify against Metro’s freeway expansion projects. Namely, the 710 Freeway.
  • Plans to decommission Terminal Island Freeway in West Long Beach unveiled. The future can’t come soon enough for West Long Beach residents like Evelyn Knight. Like other residents of Long Beach’s furthest western boundary, she has spent decades living in the shadow of one of the area’s most contested and vilified roadways: the Terminal Island Freeway, State Route 103. The 1.6-mile stretch is both a vital route for trucks carrying goods from the Port of Long Beach, and is blamed for a host of health issues in area residents, everything from asthma to cancer. On Saturday, the city hosted an event showcasing conceptual plans to decommission SR 103 that have been in development for two years. It was the first time the plans, developed from a series of community meetings, have been shown publicly.