California Highway Headlines for December 2015

userpic=roadgeekingAnother calendar year is drawing to a close, and so to another year of highway headlines. I’m busily working on updating the highway pages, taking advantage of “shutdown week”. So here’s the last round of headlines from 2015:

  • Here are better ideas for the land Caltrans has stockpiled for the 710 Freeway extension. We’re having the wrong debate about the 710 Freeway. To put it another way: The debate we’re having about the 710 Freeway should be a whole lot broader and more imaginative than it’s been so far. State and local transportation planners announced last year that they were finally abandoning the controversial idea of building an aboveground extension of the 710 through Pasadena and South Pasadena. In its place they presented five options, including adding new transit lines or building the roadway as a five-mile, $5.6-billion tunnel.
  • California Fights Road Expansions in the Face of a Growing Populace. The California Department of Transportation has decided that as the state’s population grows, it might be a bad idea to build more roads to accommodate the new residents. That’s the news from The Sacramento Bee, which reported last week that the department is prioritizing maintenance of existing roads above expansions and new roads. It’s a reflection of a culture shift CalTrans has been touting for a while now — latching onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s environmental policies, the department is now whole-heartedly embracing a concept it previously dismissed.
  • Terminal Island Freeway Removal Project To Face More Scrutiny Before City Takes Action . The fate of the city-owned portion of the Terminal Island Freeway, specifically regarding whether or not it’s feasible to decommission the space and transform it into park space, lurched another step forward Tuesday night, when the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously in favor of further traffic and environmental impact studies. The vote moves along a process that was initially proposed by advocates nearly a decade ago and was kickstarted when the city won a grant from CalTrans in 2013. The grant was part of an environmental justice initiative that provided it with the funds to hire a firm to come up with concepts for a potential freeway removal. That bid was awarded to Los Angeles design firm, Meléndrez, the same firm commissioned for the Bixby Park redesign.
  • Cost of 101-23 freeway expansion swells . A decision to redesign a sound wall along the 101 Freeway in Thousand Oaks could push back the scheduled completion date of the 101-23 interchange expansion weeks, if not months, according to a Thousand Oaks city official. Started in February 2014, work to expand the juncture of two of Ventura County’s busiest freeways was originally expected to last around two years. Now it’s looking more like two-and-a-half..
  • Interstate 5: The facts, the fiction, the video. For many Californians, winter vacation is a prime chance to spend some quality time on Interstate 5. This two-minute video shows you a big chunk of it — beginning with a Taco Bell parking lot in Coalinga — while sorting out freeway fact and fiction. It is a fact, for instance, that I-5 covers 796 miles in California and continues through Oregon and Washington. It is fiction, however, that Junipero Serra cast mustard seeds to show Caltrans engineers where to put the exits.
  • Roadshow: Tuesday marks 50th anniversary of Highway 85 to Mountain View. Q In 1965, I was 8 years old and living in Sunnyvale. My dad sold real estate at various subdivisions springing up around the Santa Clara Valley. Because he was a real estate salesman, he worked weekends. His day off was Wednesday. So on Dec. 8, 1965, which happened to be a Wednesday, we heard the Highway 85 freeway opening parade was to be held, and he agreed to take me. I never forgot that day and how special it was to be there with my dad. It’s one reason I’ve had a lifelong fascination with transportation of all kinds, including your column. I chaired the committee that updated the San Mateo County bike plan in 1999.
  • On the Road: Caltrans taking a look at a new freeway interchange. Q. With another 40 homes going in at the Marywood site and possible plans to replace the driving range on Meats Avenue with housing, are there any plans to move forward with building an on/off ramp at the 55 freeway and Meats in Orange? I know studies have been done, but I don’t know the results or if there is a timetable to any work.
  • Funding package could advance Highway 101 widening through Novato Narrows . Sonoma County transportation officials believe they have identified a funding source to complete a widening project at the northern entrance to the Novato Narrows, a notorious section of Highway 101 south of Petaluma that enrages many motorists. Carpool lanes would be opened on a 5-mile stretch of Highway 101 from the Petaluma River Bridge to just south of the Sonoma-Marin county line as part of the project, which faces a crucial test before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission next week.
  • Transportation bill allocates $26 billion to California. Congress has agreed for the first time since 2005 on a long-term transportation bill that will raise federal spending on highways by 5 percent and transit by 8 percent in its first year. Over the bill’s five-year life, California will get $26 billion in federal funds for a variety of transportation projects, a 14.5 percent increase.
  • Improvements and Change in Speed Limit on I-5 South Project. Crews have finished driving about one hundred steel piles for the new Interstate 5 (I-5) bridge over Avenida Pico in San Clemente, part of the $230 million I-5 South County Improvements Project. The project extends the carpool lane in both directions from San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano to Avenida Pico in San Clemente.
  • Concrete Dreams: Desire and Regret on the Freeways of LA. Los Angeles has been made of many things since September 1781. Despite the prevailing mythology that insists Los Angeles has no substance, that it’s a city only of dreams, Los Angeles has made itself out of real stuff, beginning with the city’s founding in dried mud. Dried mud is adobe, and adobe Los Angeles had the virtue of being made out of a sustainable and recyclable building material that’s also surprisingly durable. With a sound roof and some care, buildings made of adobe have survived nearly 200 years of Los Angeles rain and earthquakes.
  • CORONA: Grand Boulevard ramps to close. Ramps connecting Grand Boulevard to the 91 in Corona will be permanently closed next month. Drivers will be diverted to alternate ramps currently undergoing improvements as part of the 91 expansion project, said Riverside County Transportation Commission Deputy Director John Standiford.
  • Bay Lights are back! Watch the artist reprogram the lights this week. The lesser-loved Bay Area bridge is about to shine again. Artist Leo Villareal is currently testing the Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge so if you want another glimpse at his sparkling creation, head to your favorite view of the bridge this week. Villareal works from Pier 14, where he has custom software to control the lights. The project was initially meant to run for two years only, but it became so popular that Illuminate the Arts was able to raise the $4 million needed to make it a permanent fixture. Back in early October, construction workers installed over 25,000 LED lights along the bridge’s 300 cables.
  • Salvaged Bay Bridge Steel Awarded To 5 Art Proposals. Salvaged steel from the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge has been awarded to five projects for public display, with more awards on the way, Oakland Museum of California officials announced Tuesday. The chosen projects include a public sculpture near the Petaluma River, a gate for an arts center in Joshua Tree, two public installations near the bridge and an observation platform for a park in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, museum officials said.
  • Westlake’s new Lindero bridge wins acclaim. The American Public Works Association recently recognized the City of Westlake Village’s newly reconstructed Lindero Canyon Road Overpass with a 2015 APWA “Best” award in the transportation category for cities under 50,000 in population. Representatives from the city—including Mayor Pro Tem Brad Halpern, Councilmember Kelly Honig, city manager Ray Taylor and city engineer John Knipe—attended the APWA Southern California Chapter’s 16th annual awards luncheon Dec. 9 at the Lakewood Civic Center.
  • Bay Area’s 10 worst commutes. Ten worst commute corridors. The morning commute to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge regained its top ranking as the most congested highway. Recognize your daily slog on the Top 10 list compiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission?
  • Bay Bridge corrosion leads panel to reconsider plan. In an apparent about-face, the oversight panel for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge voted Thursday to consider the idea of installing a corrosion-fighting system on the main tower’s flooded foundation. The unexpected vote of the board — composed of the heads of Caltrans, the local Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the state Transportation Commission — came two months after the three rejected the same idea.
  • Zzyzx: Revisiting Doc Springer’s Boulevard of Dreams. Many iconic points of interest dot the Mojave Desert stretch of Interstate 15, the busy speedway linking Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The recent ruins of the Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark, also known as Lake Dolores, are prominent from the highway — 23 miles east of Barstow and 45 miles west of Baker. Once said to have had the world’s longest raft ride, its endless rivers have now sat dry for over a decade, slides removed, and concrete channels marvelously vandalized. For years there have been rumors of the park’s eventual reopening, but this seems less likely with each new layer of graffiti.
  • Digging Deep in the Never Ending Battle to Extend the 710. It’s one of the joys of living in Los Angeles. You can be beetling along in traffic, ruing the day gridlock was invented, and then have an epiphany smack right up against your windshield when you realize that you’re in a neighborhood you’ve never noticed before. The what-is-this-place delight is all the more heady when you’re an L.A. know-it-all. That was me as I rolled into South Pasadena 12 years ago, sunlight flickering through the thick tree canopy onto turn-of-the-century stoops and gables. Blocks of Craftsman homes led to a drowsy downtown with an old Carnegie library and a new Gold Line station. What I thought was just the nether end of Pasadena was actually a city of its own, founded in 1888 and covering three-and-a-half square miles. There were ice cream shops and small parks and, for me, the general sense of wonder at finding Brigadoon next door to the nation’s second-largest city./li>
  • Tear Down a Freeway? In Southern California? It Could Happen. A number of West Coast freeways have been decommissioned and demolished over the years — Harbor Drive in Portland in the 1970s, the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco in the 2000s. Doyle Drive in San Francisco is currently being demolished. And the long-delayed project to remove the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a raised freeway that mars downtown Seattle’s waterfront and will be replaced with a tunnel, resumed on Dec. 22 when Bertha, a giant tunnel-boring machine, finally got repaired. But in Southern California, the freeway is king. It may be impossible to build a new freeway in L.A. County, but it’s damn near unthinkable to remove one. That may be about to change.
  • $10 million grant secured for upgrade to Old Highway 40 at Donner Summit. For the first time in roughly 50 years, a historic portion of Donner Pass Road that serves as a vital link to rock climbing, biking and hiking in the Sierra is scheduled for a major overhaul. Nevada County Public Works principal civil engineer Joshua Pack said he had been waiting to hear about a $6.6 million grant application under California’s Federal Lands Access Program. .
  • A toll crossing between the U.S. and Mexico is slowly taking shape. At a time when border waits can stretch for hours, the plan seems almost too good to be true: a major new international crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, where trucks and passenger vehicles would wait no more than 20 minutes to reach the border. Planners in the United States and Mexico are thinking big as they envision Otay Mesa East, a future port of entry that would serve both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. Otay Mesa East would be California’s first tolled vehicle border crossing, incorporating binational lane management and toll collection. It would be privately financed through bonds in a plan where San Diego Assn. of Governments, or SANDAG, would play the central role
  • Tony Bizjak: Caltrans plans to widen Capital City Freeway – but when?. It’s the Sacramento region’s worst freeway bottleneck, by far. Every day, traffic comes to a standstill on the Capital City Freeway near the American River. The snarls are even worse some Saturdays. Now, after years of debating what to do, state and local leaders say they’ve reached a resolution: It’s time to drop the small-town mindset and go for a big fix. Caltrans has begun laying the groundwork for a $700 million freeway widening from midtown to the junction with Interstate 80. That includes widening the American River bridge to add a new multi-use lane in each direction, as well as building wider shoulders for stalled cars to pull over, a separate lane on the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, and other improvements. The proposed project area is 8 miles long.