California Highway Headlines for November 2016

userpic=rough-roadIt’s been a rough month, with a crazy election, loads of talk about infrastructure possibilities, the passage of Measure M here in Southern California. But I’ve still been accumulating headlines, so enjoy. I hope to do a page update during my “shutdown break” between the Jolly Fat Guy holiday and the Jolly Drunk Guys holiday.

  • Highway 99 lane expansion in Stockton. Caltrans may be celebrating a 4-mile expansion on Highway 99 in Stockton, but drivers will be the ones celebrating with less traffic and a faster travel time. “It’s been a difficult project, but great to have it done,” said Caltrans Director Malcom Dougherty. “(Hwy. 99 will) make it less congested and safer for people traveling in and out of Stockton.” The expansion goes from the Crosstown Freeway near Hwy. 4 to Arch Road in Stockton.
  • In-depth: Are I-580 express lanes easing traffic?. It is the topic that everyone in the Bay Area talks about (actually complains about)–traffic. Drivers spend hours on the road, just trying to get from one place to another, even when the destination is not that far away. Caltrans launched several new projects this year to try and get things moving. On Interstate 580, officials said you can get there faster if you pay the price.
  • Crumbling roads in SF, Oakland ranked worst in nation. To experience America’s crumbling infrastructure firsthand, look no farther than San Francisco and Oakland — ranked this week by a transportation research group as being home to the worst roads of any large urban region in the country. The Bay Area cities and their surrounding neighborhoods topped the list for having poor roadways for the second consecutive year, according to a study conducted by the Washington, D.C., group Trip.

  • Roadshow: Highway 85 light-rail plan still alive . Q There is growing talk about running light rail down the median of Highway 85 if the Measure B sales tax is approved. Can you shed some light on what route this would take? As far as I know, there is only space to build light rail between Highway 87 and Interstate 280, which would create a connection between South San Jose and Cupertino. Is this a useful route? I don’t think so unless it can continue farther north and connect with the Mountain View Caltrain station.
  • State Route 36 project funded by feds, state. Members of the Highway 36 Association traveled to Red Bluff last week with some good news about funding for a much needed highway improvement project near Dinsmore. In mid-October, the California Transportation Commission approved a resolution which allocated the state’s share of the money for the State Route 36 project, along with 13 other State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) projects throughout California.
  • Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier project has new $204 million funding plan. Golden Gate Bridge officials are close to finalizing a new funding plan to build a suicide barrier on the span, a project that now has a price tag of $204 million. By next month, the Golden Gate Bridge district board is expected to vote on a new funding package to bring in an additional $120 million for the project. Bridge officials were stunned in July when bids came in much higher than the original $76 million estimate. A contingency budget brought the cost to $84 million.
  • Willits Highway 101 bypass finally opens to traffic. The Willits freeway bypass opened to the public late Thursday afternoon, signaling a new beginning for the city of Willits and a speedier route for commuters and travelers driving past town on Highway 101. During opening ceremonies, local, state and federal officials recalled the decades of trials and tribulations that preceded completion of the controversial $300 million bypass, which skirts Willits to the east. The 5.9-mile project had been delayed by debate, protests, lawsuits, construction snafus and budget issues since it was first proposed 60 years ago.
  • Caltrans to do sign work along Highway 29. Caltrans will be out with cranes and other equipment installing new, highly reflective signs along Highway 29 in and near the city of Napa that will lead to some nighttime ramp and highway detours. The highway signs presently are illuminated at night by attached lights. But the new signs can be read solely using automobile headlights, allowing Caltrans to make the swap and cut the electricity.
  • Roadshow: Highway 101 now a ‘smart highway’. Q I thought there were electronic signs put in place on Peninsula roads paralleling Highway 101 in case traffic had to be rerouted around a freeway accident. How come this system was not used for the RV fire in San Carlos a couple of weeks ago?
  • Abandoned Freeway Stub on State Route 163. In the 1960s, San Diego proposed to expand what is now known as State Route 163, the Cabrillo Freeway, through Balboa Park to an 8- to 10-lane freeway. Public protest stopped the freeway from expanding more than its existing four lanes, but not before a portion of the SR 163/I-5 freeway connection began construction. The built portion would have extended north over a pedestrian walkway. The stub is still visible today from the Bridle Trail in Balboa Park and connects to the SR 163/I-5 interchange, modeled after the “Four Level” US 101/SR 110 interchange in Los Angeles.
  • CalTrans brakes Hwy 65 realignment. Plans to move Highway 65 away from the City of Lindsay have come to a screeching halt. Last month, CalTrans announced that it had “withdrawn from further consideration” its 2012 plan to realign Highway 65 between Exeter and Lindsay. Project Manager Judy Aguilar-Luna said the project was being discontinued for a lack of funding through the State Transportation Improvement Program. Instead Aguilar-Luna said Caltrans will begin studying “essential improvements” along the route. She said these will most likely be smaller projects that can be completed one at a time, such as improving the intersection of Highway 245 and Highway 198 near Exeter or changes to the intersections of Hermosa Street and Oak Avenue along Highway 65 in Lindsay.
  • When PCH Blasted Through Point Mugu. Today, Pacific Coast Highway passes effortlessly through Point Mugu between Oxnard and Malibu. But when highway engineers began plotting the route in 1919, the rocky promontory presented a colossal challenge. Then, Point Mugu was a near-vertical ridge of resistant volcanic rock — an igneous dike that in a distant epoch intruded the Topanga formation’s softer sedimentary strata–standing some 150 feet tall against the pounding surf. As the westernmost tip of the Santa Monicas, it represented the last hurrah of the rugged mountain range. Just north and west of the point, the land opened up as the Oxnard Plain. (The Santa Monicas don’t truly end at Point Mugu. Instead, geologists speculate, the thrust fault that gave rise to the mountains plunges beneath the waters of the Pacific only to reemerge far to the west as the northern Channel Islands.)
  • Richmond Bridge third lane work could start this month. A plan to create a third eastbound lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is moving forward and work could start as soon as the end of the month. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee this week approved a $27.2 million contract to Berkeley-based O.C. Jones and Sons Inc. to construct the third lane and associated work. It was one of five bids submitted.
  • $1.2 billion contract to add lanes, tolls to 405 freeway gets green light. The county’s transportation board on Monday awarded a $1.2 billion design-build contract – the largest in the agency’s history – to add one regular lane in each direction and an express lanes toll facility to relieve traffic on the I-405. Upon completion of the I-405 Improvement Project, travel time on the highway from State Route 73 to I-605, consistently ranked among the busiest in the nation, is expected to take 29 minutes during rush hour and 13 minutes on the 405 Express Lanes, by the year 2040, according to a study by the Orange County Transportation Authority Environmental Impact Report.
  • Caltrans sets Buckhorn completion celebration for Monday in Weaverville. Caltrans sets Buckhorn completion celebration for Monday in Weaverville. The California Department of Transportation will hold a celebration of the completion of the Buckhorn Capstone Project from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Weaverville.
  • Freeway expansion officially dedicated. Two and a half years after work began, community leaders lauded the completion of the Route 101-23 Interchange Improvement Project at a ribboncutting Nov. 1 in Thousand Oaks. The $37-million effort added a new lane in each direction of the 101 Freeway from the Ventura/ Los Angeles county line to Moorpark Road, a distance of about four miles, but it did much more than that, Thousand Oaks Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña said.
  • Improvement for State Route 71 in offing at long last. Los Angeles County’s Measure M wasn’t just about trains. Measure M, dubbed the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, is expected to generate about $860 million a year through a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects and upgrades all across the county. Train lines, such as the extension of the Gold Line to Claremont, will garner much of the money and attention, but everything from bicycle lanes and paths to repair of city streets is included in the county’s most ambitious transportation plan ever.
  • Why Isn’t There an Interstate 1?. If there were an Interstate 1, it would likely pummel its way through California’s coastal regions. To understand why, you’ll need to know a little about the clever numbering scheme that governs which interstate routes get which numbers. Each route number conceals coded information about its highway’s direction, geographic location, and function:…
  • ‘Lessons learned’: Metro will pay nearly $300 million more to company that widened the 405 Freeway. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has agreed to pay nearly $300 million more to the contractor of the 405 Freeway widening project, capping a years-long dispute over responsibility for schedule delays, design changes and cost overruns. The settlement will push the cost of the controversial Sepulveda Pass project above $1.6 billion, about 55% higher than the original budget.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge Is Starting To Show Its Age. The Golden Gate Bridge is in need of some love and its corrosion in causing concerns. While the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge regularly gets a paint job to prevent rust, the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t receive the same attention.
  • Marin Headlands’ 1-lane tunnel faces long shutdown. A narrow little tunnel that doesn’t make the radio traffic reports or even appear on Google Maps is about to create months of congestion in the Marin Headlands. The Baker-Barry Tunnel, known to many who visit the Golden Gate National Recreation Area as “the five-minute tunnel,” will close for repairs Jan. 2. It isn’t scheduled to reopen until early May.
  • Sacramento’s most annoying freeway project is (almost) over – five years later. Commuters in North Sacramento are about to get some breathing room after five years of pinched lanes, closures and traffic jams due to construction on Interstate 80. Caltrans’ Across The Top freeway widening project will hit a landmark moment this week with the opening of a 10-mile carpool lane on the westbound side, stretching from near Watt Avenue to the Yolo County line. Weather permitting, Caltrans plans to open that lane on Saturday. A similar lane in the opposite direction will open a few weeks later.
  • Caltrans has over-the-top delay on a vital freeway project. As state lawmakers prepare to take another stab at a transportation funding package, they should consider the Across The Top freeway-widening project to be a cautionary tale. The project will ease maddening Interstate 80 traffic jams between the Yolo County line and Watt Avenue once the new carpool lanes finally open later this month and in January. But like a frustrated parent trying to get home on a California freeway at rush hour, the project crept along at a snail’s pace, as The Sacramento Bee’s Tony Bizjak detailed earlier this week.