Headlines About California Highways – August 2017

August — The month for roadtrips. Hopefully, some of you have been having fun on California’s roads. Me? It’s been a roadtrip to Madison Wisconsin via I-15, I-70, I-76, I-80 and US 151. The return, through St. Louis, has been an equal roadtrip: I-90, I-39, I-55, I-44 (US 66), I-40 (US 66), and I-15. Of course, in and out of LA, we did the high desert route: Route 18, Route 138, and Route 14. If you want to read about those trips, I’ve done three posts: (#1: Get Your Kicks on Route 66; #2: The Evolution of the Hotel; and #3: Confederate Statues and Route 66). Of course, if you just want to read about what’s happening in hot California, here are the headlines I’ve accumulated this month:

  • OCTA Secures $629 Million Federal Loan for I-405 Improvement Project. A loan secured by OCTA marks a major milestone in funding the I-405 Improvement Project while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Last week, OCTA signed the final documents with the U.S. Department of Transportation for the $627 million loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The TIFIA loan will pay for a major portion of the $1.9 billion worth of freeway improvements set to begin construction early next year.
  • I-5 South County Improvements Project Overhead Sign Work is Completed. Construction crews have completed the overhead carpool sign installation on southbound and northbound I-5. The lane and full freeway closures for this work on I-5 are now complete. The construction on the I-5 South County Improvements Project began in 2014. The project will add nearly six miles of carpool lanes in each direction from Avenida Pico in San Clemente to San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano. The overhead sign work is part of the project’s San Juan Creek Road to PCH Segment. The remaining work on this portion of the project includes realignment of the median barrier, landscaping installation and final striping.
  • Highway 1 to be rebuilt on top of Mud Creek Slide. Here’s how Caltrans will do it. Drivers on Highway 1 will be going over — not around or through — the Mud Creek Slide when the coast route reopens. “The new roadway will be realigned across the landslide,” the agency said Tuesday in a news release, adding that the highway will be “buttressed with a series of embankments, berms, rocks, netting, culverts and other stabilizing material.”

  • An ode to the Embarcadero Freeway, the blight by the bay. Not all “lost San Francisco” monuments are worth remembering. The Embarcadero Freeway once stood proud — well, maybe just stood — along San Francisco’s waterfront, helping connect the Golden Gate Bridge with the Bay Bridge and creating an elevated, vista-blocking, smog-enveloped scar that many San Franciscans considered an abomination. Recently, while refiling packs of negatives in The Chronicle’s archive, I turned up photos that hadn’t been seen in years showing the loathed freeway’s construction decades ago.
  • Plan to prolong Marin carpool lane hours scaled back. A regional transportation agency seeking to extend carpool lane times in Marin has offered a scaled-back plan, but Marin officials are still not warming to the idea. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission — the Bay Area’s transportation planning agency — is seeking extension of the carpool lane time on southbound Highway 101. The initial plan had an extension from 6:30 to 10 a.m., as a pilot project. Hours are now 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. That plan met resistance from Marin officials who were concerned it would make traffic worse.
  • Woodside/101 revamp plans taking shape. A direct connection between Veterans Boulevard and Highway 101, new bike paths on Woodside Road and Seaport Boulevard and additional through and turn lanes on Woodside Road and Seaport Boulevard near the Highway 101 interchange are among the changes city planners have set their sights on in an effort to facilitate movement through a congested Redwood City gateway.
  • Big Sur abuzz with activity as Caltrans gets busy rebuilding Hwy. 1. The stretch of Highway 1 where more than 4 million tons of dirt and rock barreled into the Pacific Ocean just north of the San Luis Obispo-Monterey county line looks more like an old-fashioned boom town these days — minus the buildings. White Caltrans vans and large construction vehicles carrying giant boulders fill roads zigzagging across the mound of earth, where you can still see a shadow of where the old highway — washed away in the May 20 Mud Creek Slide — used to be: a masonry wall peeking out from beneath the earth. Amidst it all, there are signs of progress where Caltrans plans to rebuild a quarter-mile stretch of road across the slide.
  • For the following three, please indulge me. My real-life work is in the area of Cybersecurity, and so these caught my eye while doing some research:
    • DOT Cybersecurity Policy. The Departmental Cybersecurity Policy establishes the policies, processes, procedures and standards of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Information Systems Security Program, hereafter referred to as the Departmental Cybersecurity Program. The Departmental Cybersecurity Policy implements the requirements specified for all Federal agencies in the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002 and related laws, regulations, and other mandatory guidance and standards related to information security, information assurance, and network security. (PDF)
    • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Cybersecurity Program (CSP) Handbook (FOUO). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Cybersecurity Program (CSP) is an FHWA-wide program which provides cybersecurity protections for the information and information systems that support the operations and assets of FHWA, including those provided or managed by another agency, contractor or other source on FHWA’s behalf. The FHWA CSP Program encompasses all FHWA information, data, and resources collected, stored, processed, disseminated, or transmitted using FHWA information technology (IT) systems, to include the physical facilities in which the information, data and resources are housed. (PDF)
    • DOT HS 812 075: A Summary of Cybersecurity Best Practices. This report contains the results and analysis of a review of best practices and observations in the field of cybersecurity involving electronic control systems across a variety of industry segments where the safety-of-life is concerned. This research provides relevant benchmarks that are essential to making strategic decisions over the next steps for NHTSA’s research program. (PDF)
  • City of Monterey Park to Explore Joining City of Rosemead’s Lawsuit–Diversion of Funds, 710 Tunnel. The City of Monterey Park has instructed their City Attorney to explore potentially joining the lawsuit filed by the City of Rosemead to prevent Metro from diverting any funds away from the 710 Tunnel. On August 2, 2017, during a special meeting of the Monterey Park City Council, the instructions were given to the City Attorney to review the writ of mandate filed by the City of Rosemead with the Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to declare null and void the May 20, 2017 decision by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to divert funds away from the completion of the 710. The instructions included conferring with Rosemead legal counsel and reporting back to the City Council by August 16, 2017.
  • 5 Freeway improvements in Santa Clarita announced today; continues through summer 2019. A $171 million Caltrans project to construct new pavement on approximately 16 miles of the 5 Freeway in Santa Clarita will be formerly announced this afternoon and continue through summer 2019. The I-5 (Golden State Freeway) Roadway Rehabilitation Project will start a half-mile south of the 14 (Antelope Valley) Freeway to 1.7 miles north of Lake Hughes Road, Caltrans officials said.
  • Dr. Fine Bridge on U.S. Highway 101 in Del Norte County. The public comment period for the initial study/environmental assessment of our proposed replacement of the Dr. Fine Bridge on U.S. Highway 101 in Del Norte County begins tomorrow, July 29.
  • Leaving town at rush hour? Here’s how far you’re likely to get from America’s largest cities.. It’s Friday afternoon on a perfect summer day, and you’re ready to escape the city. Just how fast could you get out? If you picked up your keys and hit the road, here’s where you could end up:
  • Roadshow: Changes to ease traffic coming on Highway 237. Q: If I need to run an errand in the morning by 9 or 10 a.m., it boggles the mind how bad Highway 237 can be. … You’ve been quiet about the traffic on 237. Is there anything on the horizon to help?
  • Golden Gate Bridge toll taking changes coming. A large gantry-type structure project is moving forward as Golden Gate Bridge officials look to upgrade toll collection machinery. The bridge district has hired Oakland-based consultant AECOM for roughly $1 million to design the gantry, which will be built south of the existing toll plaza. The entire project will cost about $7 million.
  • Mariposa County Receives $19.8 Million in Road Funding as California Transportation Commission Issues Funding. Caltrans has announced that 32 major “fix-it-first” transportation projects can be accelerated a year earlier than planned thanks to anticipated funding from Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The advancement is possible due to nearly $690 million in funding authorized by the California Transportation Commission (CTC).
  • When Cajon Pass shuts down, officials don’t take it lightly. On rare occasion, as occurred last August, the entire roadway must be shut down and the High Desert suddenly feels isolated. In the Cajon Pass, the paramount thoroughfare of the region connecting the desert and the valley, even seemingly the slightest of interruptions can cause considerable strife for motorists.
  • Caltrans talks Highway 49 concept: Center barrier, roundabouts on corridor. The Highway 49 roundabout plan, the Caltrans director emphasized Tuesday, is a concept only. That concept, formed over the past few days, envisions a center barrier from Grass Valley to north Auburn. It would feature roundabouts, placed every 1¼ to 1½ miles, enabling drivers to leave the highway or change direction on the road.
  • I-5 Roadway Rehabilitation Project Starts in Northern L.A. County. A news conference and groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 9, 2017, spotlighted the beginning of the construction phase of the Interstate 5 (Golden State Freeway) Roadway Rehabilitation Project in northern Los Angeles County. The $171 million project will replace and repair aging concrete pavement on nearly 16 miles of I-5 in and near the city of Santa Clarita, the third largest city in Los Angeles County. On average, more than 200,000 vehicles a day use this section of the freeway.
  • Carpool lane in works for 101. The wheels are beginning to turn on a $750-million plan to add lanes to the 101 Freeway between Thousand Oaks and Ventura, but construction could be over a decade away. Last month, the Ventura County Transportation Commission formally requested bids for preliminary engineering design and environmental consulting services on the project, which would add a carpool, or HOV, lane as well as auxiliary lanes to the northbound and southbound 101 between state routes 23 and 33. Auxiliary lanes run between interchanges, giving drivers more time to merge in or out.
  • South Orange County traffic is getting worse, the Toll Roads can solve it. Traffic in South Orange County is getting worse and everyone knows it. In fact, the Orange County Transportation Authority projects that Orange County traffic delays will increase by 64 percent over the next 18 years. With 14,000 new homes approved for construction, South County leaders must plan to accommodate the tens of thousands of new vehicles destined for our roads. Further, with the nearest trauma center more than 12 miles away from San Clemente and I-5 serving as the only route, South County faces serious public safety risks in the event of a disaster or need for emergency/critical care.
  • Caltrans seeks public input on Senate Bill 1 planning grants guides. Caltrans is on a fast track to launch new grant funding from Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, releasing Aug. 3 for public review and comment the final drafts of the SB 1 Sustainable Communities and Adaptation Planning Grant guides. SB 1 will provide more than $270 million in planning grants for local communities over the next decade.
  • How Caltrans will spend your gas tax money. Californians are going to be paying more at the pump. That’s because of the transportation bill recently passed by the California Legislature. But the tax also means changes are coming to state roads in need of repair. At least, that’s the thought behind an ambitious plan from the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.
  • Caltrans Incorporates Active Transportation-Friendly Concepts Onto State Route 62 in Joshua Tree. Caltrans recently announced the completion of a project in Joshua Tree that actively incorporates complete streets concepts, designed to accommodate all users. The project on State Route 62 in Joshua Tree used funds from a current construction project to restripe the downtown section of Joshua Tree with bike lanes and diagonal parking in order to more safely move vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists through the downtown business district.
  • Bay Bridge’s old foundations to be imploded. Thirteen little concrete islands that once helped hold up the old Bay Bridge east span will be blasted into history in a series of implosions over six weekend days beginning in September and concluding in November. Caltrans officials will announce the demolition plans Monday for the bridge foundations, or piers. Five other foundations are expected to be spared. Tentative plans call for a large foundational pier near Treasure Island to be saved for conversion into public spaces. Four piers on the east end in Oakland would be saved for the same purpose.
  • $3 toll hike plan has Bay Area politicos dueling for dollars. East Bay officials are threatening to oppose a regional ballot measure calling for a toll increase of as much as $3 on area bridges unless they get a bigger cut of the pie — and that’s triggered some last-minute political wheeling and dealing to get everyone on board with the transportation initiative.
  • Lane policy takes aim at solo drivers. How far are transit agencies willing to go in their ongoing efforts to steer commuters onto public transit? Is making congestion worse for solo drivers worth it?
    There’s no silver bullet to resolving the Bay Area’s transportation challenges that are compounded by a geographically dispersed region facing a boom in jobs and a lack of housing. But these tough questions are issues commuters and the San Mateo County Transit District are attempting to broach as they look to ease traffic woes.
  • Caltrans says bye-bye to Botts’ Dots. To the dismay of most California drivers, it’s now official. Those popular Botts’ Dots will disappear from state roadways. Caltrans has approved removing the nonreflective pavement markers that for the last five decades have warned motorists when they veer out of their lanes. The 20 million now in use will be replaced over time with new markers that are cheaper and safer to install and can better guide the thousands of self-driving cars that are in our future.
  • 91 Freeway in Corona to see more night ramp, lane, connector closures. Nighttime closures will continue on the 91 Freeway through Corona this week as part of the Riverside County Transportation Commission’s work related to the toll lanes that opened in March. The northbound and southbound connectors from the 15 to the westbound 91 Freeway will be closed nightly from 8 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. The closures began Monday night, Aug. 21, and will continue through Friday morning, Aug. 25.
  • I-405 Improvement Project Update: Full Speed Ahead. During its meeting on August 14, the OCTA Board of Directors received an update on the I-405 Improvement Project from Jeff Mills, OCTA’s I-405 Project Program Manager. The project has been “moving full speed ahead” since reaching a major financing milestone a few weeks ago that allowed the contractor to proceed with design and construction.
  • Original Highway 101, precursor to I-5, was first official north-south San Diego route. Nearly a century ago when automobiles were a relatively new invention, roadsters and open-air sedans made their way from the Mexican border to Orange County along a patchwork of paved and unpaved surface streets. They included Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla Boulevard, Turquoise Street, Cass Street, Garnet Avenue, Morena Boulevard, San Diego Avenue, India Street, Harbor Drive, Broadway in Chula Vista and Beyer Boulevard in Otay Mesa.
  • Roadshow: What you may not know about the Bay Bridge’s history. Q: Recent comments in Mr. Roadshow about the history of the Bay Bridge have been interesting. I am one of a very few who can claim that they once made a U-turn on the Bay Bridge.
  • Dumbarton Corridor plan gets low marks. A plan to boost movement along the Dumbarton Corridor has some Menlo Park residents concerned that it will increase the use of single-occupancy vehicles. SamTrans earlier this month released a draft report of its Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study, detailing plans for the corridor between Newark and Redwood City, including possible improvements to the highway and rail bridges. The plans include short-term fixes that could be in place by 2020, through long-term improvements for 2035 and beyond, with price tags for eight recommended alternatives as high as $2.4 billion.
  • Jamul tribe gives $1.1 million to county for road upgrades. The Jamul Indian Village earlier this week gave $1.1 million to the county to go toward traffic improvements along state Route 94. The money is part of $3.4 million the tribe has pledged toward safety measures along the dark, winding highway in rural East County.
  • As steel girders launch, official says Big Sur bridge may not open until October. Crews began the process Tuesday of launching steel girders for the new Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, which officials said may not be open until October. “Right now, this operation is kind of an unknown for us,” said David Galarza, Caltrans’ structure representative for the project. “We have a schedule and we have predicted time frames, but because it’s kind of a new operation, it’s a bit of an unknown. We’re probably going to be (working) into October.”
  • Veterans memorial trees planned on Route 66 in Barstow, other areas. A Route 66 enthusiast, with the help of a gardening group, plan to plant 3,200 trees along Route 66 to honor veterans, including more than 100 along the Mother Road in Barstow, California.
  • San Ramon Valley I-680 express lanes now expected to open October. The upcoming Interstate 680 express lanes are now set to open in October, with the exact opening date pending the conclusion of a software test set to finish mid-September, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
  • Marin officials still oppose expansion of carpool lane hours. Thanks, but no thanks. That was the message from Marin officials to a regional agency that is pushing for the county to expand its carpool lane hours. That agency — Metropolitan Transportation Commission — had offered a scaled back plan to entice Marin leaders.
  • Ritchie Valens, late rock star and local hero, gets a stretch of the 5 Freeway in the Valley named after him. A section of the 5 Freeway in the northeast San Fernando Valley will be named after rock ’n’ roll icon Ritchie Valens, who grew up in the area and had a stellar career before he died in a plane crash.

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