🛣 Headlines About California Highways – September 2019

And September comes to an end. For those of us who are Jewish, it is the start of a new year, 5780, and L’Shanah Tovah to all of you.  It is the end of the government fiscal year, meaning that the silly season of trying to close out your FY19 budgets as close to your targets — not over budget or under budget — has ended. We are moving into the fall, with crisper weather. As I write this, we already have our first snowfalls of the season in Lake Tahoe, well before the normal date that highway construction ends. But before we transition, let’s look back a little. September has been a busy month on the highways of our state. Here’s what happened.

[Note: 💲 indicates links that are paywalled (except for the LA Times, 🌴, to which I subscribe). ❌ indicates items overtaken by subsequent events]

  • California’s most scenic routes and highways. Under most circumstances, highway driving for more than an hour is a tedious task. But in California not all drives are a drag, especially when cruising down one of its many scenic routes. Throughout the state, you’ll find a number of highways and roads with picturesque views of beaches, hills and nature. We’ve rounded up some of the most beautiful routes and highways throughout the state and included notable sights you can expect on each one.
  • Public meetings scheduled on Highway 50 closure at Echo Summit. Caltrans is hosting two public meetings to discuss details of a potential full closure of Highway 50 over Echo Summit to accommodate bridge construction. The $14.1 million Highway 50 Echo Summit sidehill viaduct project is replacing the existing bridge, which was built in 1939, with a structure that meets current seismic and safety standards. Construction started in May and will be completed either this fall or next spring.
  • 7 Bay Area bridges to go cashless, eliminating toll takers’ jobs. Big changes are coming to the Bay Area’s toll bridges. A vote Wednesday signaled the end of cash lanes and toll takers will be replaced by the electronic FasTrak system. The Golden Gate Bridge made the switch six years ago. Now the other Bay Area toll bridges are preparing to eliminate cash payments.
  • No more digging for change: Plan to make Bay Area bridge tolls all-electronic approved. The Bay Area Toll Authority just kicked off its plan to convert seven Bay Area bridges to all-electronic tolls. That process includes efforts by Caltrans to find new careers for its roughly 200 toll-takers, who will one day soon be phased out for cameras that snap photos of license plates to forward a bill, and a greater reliance on FasTrak. This plan doesn’t include the Golden Gate Bridge, which is run by an independent district and has already converted to all-electronic tolling. But it does apply to the San Francisco Bay Bridge and its 66 toll-takers, among others.
  • MTC Approves $4M Contract To Transition Bay Area Toward Cashless Tolls. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission unanimously approved a $4 million contract Wednesday for consultation services to help switch the Bay Area to an all electronic toll future. With the move, toll takers and toll plazas will soon be a thing of the past with the vision of “open road toll taking.”

  • Part of Hwy. 50 to close for 2 weeks; Here’s how to get to South Lake Tahoe. Drivers heading to South Lake Tahoe could run into some traffic trouble this fall. Caltrans is planning to shut down Highway 50 for two weeks in October. Crews are working on the bridge at Echo Summit. Here’s what you need to know about the construction and road closure:
  • Bypass lane opens at Meyers roundabout. The Caltrans contractor working on the roundabout at the intersection of SR89 and US50 has completed concrete work on the bypass land and it opened Friday. The $4.1M project converted a T-intersection into a three-leg roundabout with a bypass lane. The roundabout has been in use for several days and Friday was the first day with the westbound bypass lane.
  • Caltrans Roundabout Project To Close Intersection For Extended Time. The intersection of First Street and California Boulevard in Napa will close Monday for the removal of a traffic signal to accommodate construction on one of three roundabouts west of downtown. Stop signs will replace signals at three intersections leading to the roundabouts and the one-way directions of First and Second streets will be reversed between state Highway 29 and Jefferson Street, according to Caltrans.
  • First Street detours begin Tuesday to build Napa roundabout. Come Tuesday morning, the 15,000 motorists who go through the First Street connection with California Boulevard and Highway 29 will notice something major missing. The traffic signal light at First and California will be yanked so that Caltrans can spend the next four months building a roundabout, one of three under construction at this entry to downtown.
  • America’s Transportation Awards – Recognizing the best in transportation. VOTE NOW. Twelve winning transportation projects from four U.S. regional competitions will battle it out in this year’s America’s Transportation Awards competition, with two $10,000 cash awards for a charity or transportation-related scholarship of the winners’ choosing at stake. The broad scope of the projects in the final round include one credited with using drone technology to get transportation systems back up and operating after a devastating hurricane as well as others that endeavor to incorporate citizen feedback and involvement in project design and development. One project is the Mud Creek repairs on Route 1.
  • One Stop Shop for Traveler Information. Yet another site like Caltrans Quickmap, that provides traffic information and other highway closures across the nation on an interactive map.
  • Pearblossom Highway work coming. Drivers who frequently travel Pearblossom Highway may want to get their detours lined up now, as a major road rebuilding project is scheduled to start Sept. 16 and last for about a year. The project will tear out and rebuild about three miles of the highway rough­ly between 25th and 55th streets east. While the finished product will be a much smoother and improved road for drivers, the process will bring disruptions.
  • Highway 330 closure set. Beginning Monday, Sept. 9, at 5 a.m. Highway 330 will be closed in both directions. The road remains closed until 11:59 p.m. Sept. 20. Caltrans is constructing a rock-fall barrier on State Route 330 near Running Springs. The project includes removing rock debris from the slope, excavating and reducing slope size and installing the rock-fall barrier at Postmile 37 and 39.
  • Project rebuilding Hwy. 1 in Big Sur CA finalist for award. Nearly a month of online voting will determine if the $54 million Highway 1 restoration project at Big Sur’s Mud Creek area will win the People’s Choice award in a national transportation project competition. Voting ends Oct. 6.
  • SANDAG unveils spending blueprint for traffic-prone commuter corridors, vexing backers of freeway expansion. San Diego’s top transportation experts released a long-awaited spending blueprint on Friday for kick starting an overhaul to many of the region’s most gridlock-prone commuter corridors. The San Diego Association of Governments outlined a long list of proposed projects totaling nearly $600 million over the next five years — including mapping out a high-speed rail line between Oceanside, Escondido and Carlsbad, as well as designing express lanes along state Route 78.
  • RivCo Supes Oppose Installing Freeway Toll Lanes In Riverside. Riverside County supervisors Tuesday formally declared their opposition to a proposal to install express toll lanes on the Riverside (91) Freeway between Corona and the 60/91/215 interchange, based mainly on lack of justification for the lanes. “If we were adding capacity, I would feel different,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said of the Riverside County Transportation Commission concept. “This is not adding capacity (to carry a greater number of vehicles). So we’re upset with this item, and now we go on record to oppose it.”
  • Highway 50 closure at Echo Summit pushed back to next year. A full closure of Highway 50 over Echo Summit that was scheduled for mid-October won’t happen until next year, Caltrans said. Bridge girders needed for a $14.1 million construction project will not be ready in time, Caltrans said in an update Tuesday. About a half-mile of the highway was scheduled to be closed from Oct. 18 to Oct. 31, creating a lengthy detour for drivers trying to get to South Lake Tahoe. Instead, the contractor for the bridge project will winterize the job site and come back next year.
  • Coronado Council Starts Down The Road To Relinquishment Of State Routes 75 And 282. The topic of relinquishment, in this case the City of Coronado negotiating with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to acquire control and operation of State Routes 75 and 282, officially started rolling down the road during the City Council meeting of Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. An agenda item that would authorize City Manager Blair King to engage in negotiations with Caltrans for the 9.79 miles of roadway in question, was presented, questioned, discussed and voted on, all in just under an hour. Specifically, the 9.79 miles of roadway include SR 75 from Tulagi Road to the Southern City limits; SR 75 from Glorietta Boulevard to Tulagi Road; and the full portion of SR 282 including Third, Fourth, and Alameda between Third and Fourth Streets. The staff recommendation was to pursue the relinquishment of all three segments of roadway.
  • Basics of $100B Faster Bay Area concepts, funding presented to STA. Proponents behind a $100.6 billion tax plan to develop a “world-class, integrated transportation system” for the Bay Area on Wednesday laid out the foundation of the Faster Bay Area proposal to the Solano Transportation Authority.
  • Effort Underway to Move Trucks From Orchard Road. Residents of Orchard Road south of Holtville are holding out hope more of their long-sought safety goals can be achieved based on a recommendation at a county Traffic Advisory Committee meeting on Aug. 28.  Meanwhile, county-promised no truck parking signs had as of the second week of September not yet been installed.
  • Caltrans Upgrades Drainage on Highway 140 in Mariposa County in the Merced River Canyon, West of Yosemite National Park, Due to SB 1 Funds. Caltrans has repaired two culverts on State Route 140 in Mariposa County due to funds from Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the Road  Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. This project fixed two locations in the area of the Ferguson Fire scar, west of the Yosemite National Park entrance, where Incline Road meets Route 140 to help handle high flows.
  • Survey Markers and Olympic Medals. Observant walkers strolling down Ninth Street in Eureka between A and L streets may have wondered about the occasional incongruent circular metal discs anchored into the south sidewalk bearing the words “CALIFORNIA DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS,” “HUM-101” and the date 1971. Incongruent because Ninth is outside Caltrans jurisdiction. In fact, the discs are centerline markers of what would have been the realignment of U.S. Highway 101, taking off from what is now Bayshore Mall, staying south of Fourth and Fifth streets, and rejoining the present-day highway west of the Eureka Slough bridge. Had the plan gone ahead, drivers would be zipping through Eureka at 65 mph in the same way they now bypass downtown Arcata.
  • Worley Ranch Curve Improvement Project. Work has been completed on the Worley Ranch Curve Improvement Project on SR 44 in Lassen County (approx. 6 mi. west of the junction with SR 36). The project improved a half mile of curve, added clear recovery area, and modified/added drainage & culverts. ENJOY!
  • Wildlife News on the State Highway System. This time of year, the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions typically peak as animals start migrating to winter habitat, mating season begins for deer and elk, and bears spend more time foraging before hibernation. To help reduce collisions, Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to be on the lookout during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs Sept. 15-21.
  • Lower speed limits and fewer traffic lanes are on the table for L.A.’s oldest freeway. Caltrans has begun studying several ways to improve safety along a nearly 5-mile stretch of the narrow and winding Arroyo Seco Parkway (110 Freeway), including lowering the speed limit to 45 miles per hour and reducing the parkway to two lanes in each direction. The five alternatives — which also includes keeping things as they are — are focused on making it safer to get off and on the nearly 80-year-old freeway, which is notorious for its extremely short onramps and offramps.
  • Daggett, California Inspection Station. On September 15th, Roy Applewhite posted information concerning the California Inspection stations located in and around Daggett and the posting became long, so I have posted now what information I have on the second one that was built in Daggett.
  • 💲 Yellow carpool lights to be removed on San Tomas Expressway. Q: There is a real problem with the San Tomas Expressway carpool lanes. The yellow diamond lights are either turned off or no longer working. I drive it almost every day after 3 p.m., and the number of solo drivers in the carpool lane is almost the same as the other lanes. I guess that drivers must think if the lights are off that they can drive solo in the lane.
  • South Lake Tahoe to hold informational meeting on Loop Road project. The city of South Lake Tahoe will hold an informational meeting about the US 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project right in the heart of the community that will be most affected. The project, commonly called the Loop Road project, involves the realignment of US 50, south of the tourist core.
  • Highway 101 upgrade project through Salinas continues. Traversing Highway 101 through Salinas will continue to be a challenge for motorists as Caltrans works on a major four-mile project through the area. Jim Shivers, Caltrans spokesperson said, “There is no widening of the highway in this project (and) no increased lanes.”
  • Where Is LA’s El Salvador Community Corridor? Signs on the 10 Lead Way. Los Angeles is home to the country’s only official artery that celebrates Salvadoran culture—but unless you were driving through, you’d probably miss it. In 2013, the 12 blocks of Vermont Avenue from 11th Street to Adams Street were officially christened the El Salvador Community Corridor. Now, six years later, two green-and-white signs are being installed on the 10 Freeway to make it easier for passersby to navigate there.
  • Construction project will close part of Hwy 41 near downtown Fresno for next 8 weekends. You may have seen the neon orange signs that warn of an upcoming project that will shut down part of State Route 41 for 55 hours for the next eight weekends. Construction will start each Friday at 10 pm, and the plan is to have the cones picked up in time for each Monday morning commute at 5 am. Caltrans says the weekend pain will pay off in the long run.
  • Nonprofits await new homes after lawmakers pull the plug on the 710 tunnel. The state Legislature passed a bill last week that brings nonprofit tenants of Caltrans-owned properties such as Arlington Garden one step closer to purchasing their properties from the state transportation agency. Recently named Nonprofit of the Year by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, Arlington Garden, Pasadena’s only dedicated regenerative Mediterranean Chaparral climate garden, is holding its annual fundraiser on Sept. 29.
  • Southern California traffic: Caltrans 5 Freeway expansion project on schedule to alleviate gridlock by 2021. Most drivers in Southern California bold enough to brave the 5 Freeway during rush hour will tell you it’s always terrible, but Caltrans hopes to help alleviate the gridlock by 2021. Transportation officials said Tuesday that the expansion of the Santa Ana Freeway was coming to the rescue.
  • Converting a Carpool Lane to a High Occupancy Toll Lane No Easy Task. High occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, a popular form of express lanes where carpoolers are allowed free access, are inherently more efficient when managed with dynamic tolling than their older sister, the high occupant vehicle (HOV) lane, as they allow maximum utilization of the managed lane, by, in essence, ‘selling’ excess capacity to single-occupant vehicles. In other words, HOT lanes constructed by conversions enable increased capacity without widening highways. However, in politics, efficiency isn’t always the most important consideration, as illustrated by the 4-0 vote (with one member absent) by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday to approve a resolution by Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Karen Spiegel to express “Support for Continued Utilization of Free HOV 2+ Carpool Lanes on SR 91 in the City of Riverside.”
  • Hwy. 25 repairs near Pinnacles delayed until 2022. Repairs to an 800-foot stretch of Highway 25 just five miles south of Pinnacles National Park have been delayed until at least 2022, according to Caltrans Project Manager Brandy Rider. Rider told BenitoLink on Sept. 6 that the delay is primarily because of a Native American site detected near the project.
  • 💲 Milpitas will honor Obama with road that connects to landfill. Milpitas will likely have the first street in Silicon Valley named after President Barack Obama, even if part of the road connects to a dump. “This thing is going to make news,” said Mayor Rich Tran, who opposed the road name change. Despite concerns from the mayor about the roadway connecting to a nearby landfill, the Milpitas City Council voted to change the name of a section of Dixon Landing Road to Barack Obama Boulevard, a decision first reported by this news organization.
  • Solano views fed-for-state transportation exchange as win for local agencies. The Bunker Station Road bridge was built in 1959 across Haas Slough, about 1.5 miles south of Binghampton Road east of Elmira. While a National Bridge Inventory inspection completed in March 2017 states that the bridge meets the “minimum tolerable limits” to leave the structure in place, the condition of the bridge is considered poor.
  • Rio Vista residents raise concerns over new roundabout. A new construction project being built at a busy intersection along Highway 12 in Solano County has residents worried after a major crash at the construction site killed two people Wednesday night. The intersection is at Highway 12 and State Route 113 in Rio Vista, and has been a problem spot for years as the north-to-south commuters on SR 113 try and merge onto the east-to-west running Highway 12.
  • Best of: State Route 133 brings ‘calmness and tranquility’ . The quickest way between two points is in a straight line. The way most people like to travel in is a straight line too, but when do we have an opportunity to stop and smell the flowers — something equally important? When heading from Monterey Bay, California, down to Orange for a new semester, I can’t count the number of times my family’s saved hours taking the Interstate 5 highway instead of the U.S. Highway 101.
  • 7lO ‘Demise’ Bills Pass, But Questions Remain. Midnight has not officially struck regarding the demise of the 710 tunnel proposal through South Pasadena, but even skeptics seem to agree the clock has hit 11:59, leaving just a tiny and unlikely window for the controversial and long-pending project to become a reality. Two bills with similar language — one authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, the other by Assemblyman Chris Holden — passed the state Legislature last week, and now await signing by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
  • Hey, Knuckleheads: Want To Pollute Less? Stop Treating New Highways Like The Answer To Everything. Five years ago, the California Department of Transportation completed a $1.6 billion project to rebuild a 10-mile portion of the Sepulveda Pass of the 405 in Los Angeles. The project, like nearly all highway expansion projects, was billed as a way to relieve congestion and improve travel times. Often, such projects are also sold to the public as environmentally friendly because stop-and-go jams result in higher emissions than free-flowing traffic.
  • 🎥 Almanac: L.A.’s freeway “Stack”. On September 22, 1953, the world’s first Four-Level Interchange highway design (also known as “The Stack”) opened in Los Angeles, promising an easing of congestion as it allowed drivers in 32 lanes to switch from one freeway to another without ever having to cross another lane of traffic. Jane Pauley reports.
  • Highway 330 in San Bernardino Mountains to close 12 days as crews install rock barrier. About 13 miles of Highway 330 in the San Bernardino Mountains will be fully closed for 12 days while crews install a barrier to prevent rocks from falling onto the road and endangering drivers. The closure of Highway 330, which stretches from Highland north to the unincorporated mountain community of Running Springs, will span almost the entire roadway.
  • Trump threatens CA with highway fund cuts over air quality. The Trump administration is ratcheting up its threats against California with a letter warning the state faces sanctions – including cuts in federal highway funding – over its “failure” to submit complete reports on its implementation of the Clean Air Act. In the letter to the California Air Resources Board, Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wrote that the state had the “worst air quality in the United States” and had “failed to carry out its most basic tasks” under the federal law.
  • Caltrans wraps up nearly one year of Camp fire recovery work. Just a week after the Camp Fire erupted last fall in Butte County, Caltrans launched one of the region’s largest recovery efforts to make the state highways safe for emergency crews and motorists. Nearly a year later, signs of recovery are clearly evident across the landscape. New traffic signs, guardrail, fences, culverts and drainage systems are in place.
  • Home to the modern-day 15 Freeway, the Cajon Pass has presented challenges to travelers for centuries. Thousands of Southern California motorists travel along the 15 Freeway through the Cajon Pass each day. Many of them see this corridor which bridges the Mojave Desert with the San Bernardino Valley as nothing more than a necessary evil, potentially slowing them down as they hurry home from work or on their way to make a “killing” in Las Vegas … with little time to contemplate those who struggled through here in ages past. The first known use of this “road” through the Cajon Pass began long before the arrival of the white man, when an old American Indian trail connecting a string of villages stretched all the way from the upper Mojave Desert, through Summit Valley and Coyote (commonly known today as Crowder) Canyon, and then through Cajon Canyon.
  • Lawsuit filed over deadly Hwy 101 crash at El Campo Road. The parents of a Cal Poly student killed last year at a dangerous intersection of Highway 101 in Arroyo Grande filed a lawsuit Tuesday against various agencies and a motorist convicted criminally for their son’s death. Since the death of 18-year-old Jordan Grant in October 2018, Caltrans has closed down the intersection of El Campo Road and Highway 101 where Grant collided with a car making an “unsafe” left-hand turn across the highway.
  • Modesto approves major transportation project. It’s one of the largest transportation projects that Modesto has ever seen: a plan to reroute a major highway to help reduce traffic jams. Highway 132 has always been one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, cutting through downtown Modesto and taking travelers from D Street to 9th Street and over to L Street. The plan to shift the highway has been in the works for more than half a century. Since the 1950s, traffic engineers have always dreamed of rerouting Highway 132 to accommodate more traffic.
  • Northbound Highway 29 ramps at Napa’s First Street closing for 2 months. As part of the roundabout construction project, Caltrans announced Thursday that both the northbound Highway 29 off ramp and loop on ramp at First Street will be closing for two months starting Monday, Oct. 7. The ramps are expected to reopen at the end of November when a working roundabout should be ready at this location, project sponsors said.
  • Hope is coming for those stuck one of the Bay Area’s worst commutes: State Route 37. Hope is coming for those stuck one of the Bay Area’s worst commutes: State Route 37.  The east-west corridor in the North Bay is chronically congested, and runs through a flood plain that regularly goes underwater.
  • Street suffixes show the organization of cities. The suffixes on street names can say a lot about a neighborhood. A Boulevard elicits a business-centric area whereas a Road or Court might mean a more residential area. So, Erin Davis mapped the suffixes of all the streets in some major cities. [via @NadiehBremer]
  • Update: Old US 99 near Calimesa. Attention Old Highway 99 Fans: This section of Old 99 near Calimesa from the original-surface Mesa Road (at upper left), all the way down Roberts Road (center) to past the Tukwet Canyon Parkway (bottom right), is DOOMED.

Here are some links from the good folks over at the Gribblenation blog:

  • California State Route 221. Back in early 2017 I drove the entirety of California State Route 221 which is located mostly in Napa.
  • California State Route 198. Over the past four years one of the most common State Highways I’ve driven in California has been California State Route 198.  Fortunately CA 198 has one of the best driving segments in the entire California State Highway System and some deep history dating back to the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act.
  • The Vauge Original Southern Terminus of US Route 91 in the Californian Mojave Desert. One of the more intriguing mysteries of the early US Route System in California is where the original south terminus of US Route 91 was intended to be located in the Mojave Desert.  This blog is a little different than my usual behind the wheel fare and explores why US 91 ultimately ended at US 66 in Daggett instead of Bannock.

 

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