California Highway Headlines for November 2015

userpic=roadgeekingAnother month has come and gone, and we’re one month closer to the end of 2015. Here are the highway headlines for November:

  • The 5, the 101, the 405: Why Southern Californians Love Saying ‘the’ Before Freeway Numbers. Southern Californians have a distinctive — “Saturday Night Live’s” Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig might say funny — way of giving directions. To get from Santa Monica to Hollywood, take the 10 to the 110 to the 101. Burbank to San Diego? The 134 to the 5. And, if you can, always avoid the 405. Why the definite articles? After all, a resident of the Bay Area enjoys coastal drives along “101” or takes “80 east” to Sacramento. Most of North America, in fact, omits the “the” before route numbers.
  • How We Got Into This Mess: A History of Bay Area Transportation. “Growing congestion due to a booming economy.” / “An influx of new people into already crowded cities.” / “Rising real estate prices.” / Sounds like the San Francisco Bay Area today, no? But actually, these are clips from newspapers stories in the 1950s, when San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose saw rapid population growth due to soldiers returning from World War II and the first phase of the baby boom. That is when the region embarked on a plan to build what was then the largest public works project in American history — the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, now known as BART — which opened in 1972 and is, today, a vital pipeline for the region, carrying more than 400,000 people each workday.
  • Demolition begins on 91 Freeway bridge in Corona after collapse.
    Crews have begun demolition on the 91 Freeway bridge that partially collapsed and injured several construction workers in Corona last month. At least nine workers were injured when the bridge that spans E. Grand Boulevard gave way on Oct. 9. The workers were lowering an on-ramp bridge into place when the jacking operation failed, causing the bridge deck to drop about 16 inches and hit the wooden support beams. The wooden support beams then hit the workers, the commission said in a press release.
  • At 100, ‘Mr. Freeway’ looks back at his concrete creations. If Jacob Dekema ’37 was an artist, his signature would be on the world’s largest art installation — 480 miles long — a sculpture with bending and twisting arteries of concrete, swirling through canyons, over hills, through valleys, intersecting in spectacular loops and bridges and all built on a monumental scale with the ultimate in concrete and tensile technology. Once he was hanged in effigy for putting a highway through a town. Some condemned him for building too many freeways. Others criticized him for not building enough. Officials gave him keys to their cities, and business leaders who appreciated the economic blessings of a good highway praised him.
  • PERRIS: I-215 construction opens road to progress. The expansion of I-215 through the middle of Riverside County was one infrastructure project that hit close to home for Daryl Busch. Not only is he the mayor of Perris, he also is the chairman of the Riverside County Transportation Commission. And the I-215 Central Project called for the Perris Boulevard Bridge, which runs between the Busch residence and City Hall, to be rebuilt.
  • NB 101 Freeway Lankershim off-ramp to close Nov. 30 – Dec. 9 for pedestrian bridge construction. Construction for the Universal Pedestrian Bridge that crosses Lankershim Boulevard continues with steel sections of the bridge arriving for installation. This will require a closure of the Northbound 101 Lankershim off-ramp, which will take place during late night hours from Nov. 23 through Dec. 9. Signage will be in place directing both foot and vehicular traffic around the construction zone. Temporary lane closures will be on Universal Hollywood Drive, Lankershim Blvd. and at Campo de Cahuenga. Access to Universal Studios, hotels and City Walk will be maintained via detour. Emergency vehicle access will be maintained at all times.
  • MID-COUNTY PARKWAY: Riverside wants county to build route as promised. About 10 years ago, a 32-mile freeway linking the San Jacinto Valley to Interstate 15 took shape as a way to improve east-west traffic flow in Riverside County’s growing midsection and provide an alternative to going through Riverside en route to Highway 91. Today, the Mid-County Parkway has been cut in half and won’t reach I-15, if it’s built at all. And Riverside city officials worry about the future of efforts to ease congestion that snarls the 91 and clogs city streets.
  • The 10 deadliest interstates in America, mapped. Car accidents killed 32,719 people in 2013, about 90 people each day. And there are some stretches of American road that prove much deadlier than others. I used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to examine where fatal traffic accidents are most likely to occur, and whether there are certain stretches of highway that seem to have a disproportionate number of collisions given their size. I pulled the 2,867 fatal accidents on major American interstates in 2013 into the map below.
  • Study: 405 Freeway Expansion Not Easing Traffic Congestion. Angelenos who commute through the Sepulveda Pass on the 405 Freeway are all too familiar with the heavy traffic that frequently chokes the main Westside to San Fernando Valley artery. A 5-year, $1.1 billion project to add a carpool lane, along with new on-ramps and off-ramps, was supposed to help ease some of that congestion. That project is perhaps best remembered for “Carmaggedon,” which closed parts of the freeway for a weekend in 2011 for construction work.
  • Largest support pier of old San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge demolished. The largest of more than 20 in-water piers that supported the old eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was demolished Saturday morning during a six-second underwater implosion. Sprays of water shot into the air as workers set off 600 charges that had been placed in pre-drilled holes in Pier E-3, a hollow, reinforced concrete structure that stretched from the waterline to 175 feet beneath the bay floor.
  • California’s DOT Admits That More Roads Mean More Traffic. Whenever a road project gets announced, the first thing officials talk about is how it’s going to reduce traffic. Just last month, for instance, the Connecticut DOT reported that it would be widening Interstates 95 and 84, a project that would result in major economic benefits from “easing congestion”: The analysis found that adding a lane in each direction border-to-border will save I-95 travelers well over 14 million hours of delays by the year 2040. Likewise, the widening of I-84 will save travelers over 4.7 million hours of delays during the same period.
  • 34 neighbors want to remove highway 980, which segregates W Oakland and downtown between 580 and 880 in Oakland.. 980 is the lowest traffic segment of urban freeway in Oakland, and the most valuable land (whether from a community or commercial perspective) taken up by a freeway. Reunite historic West and downtown Oakland, recover about 29 core city blocks!
  • Here’s the Bonkers, $700-Billion Libertarian Plan to Fix Los Angeles Traffic. The future of transportation in Los Angeles is getting a lot of much-deserved attention lately, as the sustainability of the city’s model has city planners looking at major changes in the way LA gets around town. Mobility Plan 2035, the city’s long-term transportation plan seeks to finally get many Angelenos out of their cars with workable public transportation and an improved network of bike lanes. Not everyone agrees that that’s the way to go, though. The Libertarian Reason Foundation says bikes and buses are not the solution to traffic congestion—making more room for cars is. They have proposed a $700-billion plan to build an extensive network of new tunnels and expressways that they say would help free up some of the city’s most congested areas of traffic.
  • Four Design-Build Teams Short-Listed for I-405 Improvement Project. The OCTA Board approved the short-listing of four design-build teams for the design and construction of the Interstate 405 (I-405) Improvement Project. OC 405 Partners, Orange County Corridor Constructors, Shimmick/Tutor-Perini, and Skanska-Flatiron will be invited to participate in the industry review process and submit proposals in response to the final request for proposals for the project.
  • A Freeway-Free San Francisco. Of all North American cities, San Francisco is the most commonly cited example of how urban freeways can be removed successfully. The City by the Bay has earned high marks in using surface streets and transit in place of freeways to better move people, goods, and services, and improve the vitality of neighborhoods. A Freeway-Free San Francisco explores the following question: If the Embarcadero and Central Freeway demolitions achieved success, could the same benefits result from replacing other urban freeways? If San Francisco were to remove more freeways, what strategies will generate the most success—and which stretches of road might be removed first? Building on the experiences of both cities, A Freeway-Free San Francisco outlines practical steps for replacing freeways with surface streets and how those steps could help San Francisco, and, by example, other cities.
  • Roadshow: How would you fix Highway 17?. Q The problem with Highway 17 is simple: It is too narrow. Santa Cruz County doesn’t want to widen and straighten 17 because they want it to be a barrier to more people commuting from Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley. I understand people wanting to complain about it, but the focus of their complaints should be in Santa Cruz government halls.
  • The 12 Worst Bottlenecks on Los Angeles’s Freeways. Thanksgiving traffic is nearly upon us, but for those who drive year-round, the hellish crawl of holiday gridlock is not quite as soul-crushing as dealing with some of the worst congestion points in the nation as part of everyday life. A new study shows that the Los Angeles area “had far more bottlenecks than any other metropolitan area, claiming the second through seventh worst spots, as well as the 11th, 13th, 14th, 29th, 30th and 40th,” says City News Service. The award for second most terrible bottleneck in the whole country, and the worst in the LA region, goes to (drumroll please): the 405 Freeway between the 605 Freeway and Route 22.
  • In L.A., One Way to Beat Traffic Runs Into Backlash . The music can start blaring at the crack of dawn. That is often followed by loud cellphone conversation, and before too long Melissa Menard, clad in a bathrobe and holding a cup of coffee, confronts the offenders: the caravan of morning commuters driving by her house. “Everybody loves Beyoncé, but not at 7 a.m.,” she said. Ms. Menard’s suburban Los Angeles street of ranch houses, Cody Road, has turned into a thoroughfare with enough gridlock to make Times Square at rush hour feel tranquil. On early mornings when headlights are still needed, it resembles one long funeral procession.
  • Caltrans finishes Upvalley bridge work a year ahead of schedule. Caltrans has completed construction of the new Highway 29-Troutdale Creek Bridge one year ahead of its late 2016 schedule. It opened to two-way traffic Friday. The bridge is in northwest Napa County between Calistoga and Middletown. Motorists on Highway 29 should drive with caution as crews switch traffic lanes and remove temporary traffic signal lights approaching the new bridge.
  • Study: San Francisco, Oakland among worst traffic bottlenecks in US. A new study shows that the San Francisco-Oakland area has two of the top 50 trouble spots in the country. The report says this proves America is stuck in traffic, costing billions in lost productivity and fuel. The stretch of Interstate 80 between Highway 101 and the Bay Bridge is nationally recognized, but it’s nothing to be proud of. That section has landed on the list of America’s Worst 50 Traffic Bottlenecks.
  • In the Inland Empire, Freeway Overpasses Can Win Urban Planning Awards . The American Planning Association advocates for excellence in planning. But to judge from the awards given by its Inland Empire chapter, sometimes the notion of “excellence” is in the eye of the local beholder. The chapter gave its 2015 Urban Design Award to a sprawling freeway interchange where Van Buren Boulevard crosses over I-215 in Riverside. As Jason Arango points out on GJEL’s blog, there are a lot absurdities about this award.
  • TIGER helping fix worst freeway interchange in California . In Los Angeles County, a 2014 TIGER grant is going toward improvements on a 2-mile stretch of highway where the congested 57/60 freeways converge. If you drive in the County, you probably know the 57/60 Confluence all too well…and for all of the wrong reasons.
  • Highway 227 traffic problems to be studied by SLO agency . During rush hour on Highway 227, some residents in the Rolling Hills neighborhood just south of San Luis Obispo purposefully avoid leaving their homes. “We don’t go out for dinner,” said Carolyn Park, who has lived off Highway 227 for 40 years. “We schedule doctor’s appointments past 9 or 9:30 a.m. I’ve heard this from other people, too. Many people said we adjust our lives now, so we don’t have to go out during those times.” Numerous Rolling Hills residents said they had seen traffic steadily increase, then become much worse in the past few years, in part because of new developments near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. Some of the additional traffic also comes from drivers trying to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic on southbound Highway 101 during rush hour.
  • The 710 Long Beach Freeway: A History of America’s Most Important Freeway. From the corporate investment of Jamestown to the Wolf of Wall Street era, economic interests have superseded many other American values. The I-710 Long Beach Freeway, meanwhile, has become the country’s most important — although clogged — economic artery, in the vascular system of American capitalism. The business of America is business. Yet, the 710 Freeway’s primary function has aided in the largest trade deficit in world history, facilitating the exporting of U.S. manufacturing jobs, while Pocahontas pajamas, children toys, and a litany of consumer goods are imported onto thousands of diesel powered trucks.
  • Agency studies 101 toll lanes: Millions sought for early phases of bringing carpool/toll lanes to well-used highway . With commute times on Highway 101 getting worse, the City/County Association of Governments is moving forward with studying whether carpool and toll lanes can solve the problem. The C/CAG board is seeking $9.4 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to conduct the preliminary environmental and design work needed before any potential construction can actually take place on the corridor. C/CAG has also requested another $8.5 million from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for the environmental phase of the project.
  • Analysis of Bay Bridge pier implosion shows minimal effect on water, wildlife. Initial analysis of the implosion of the largest pier of the old Bay Bridge eastern span shows that there was minimal impact to wildlife and water quality, Caltrans officials said Tuesday. Given the success of the Nov. 14 implosion of Pier E3, Caltrans will likely seek to use explosives to demolish the remaining 21 piers of the defunct span.