December was an interesting month. It started with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). That — combined with a post-conference cold and difficultly coordinating an interview — led to a delay in getting Episode 1.06 up. But it’s there for your listening pleasure now.
I appreciate much more what a podcast producer does, especially the hard job of scaring up interviews. I think I’ve got a lead for 1.07; I’m still working on 1.08 and beyond. I’m looking for someone who is willing to talk for 30 minutes or so on the following:
- For 1.08: We return to the US highway system, so I’m looking for someone from AASHTO on the process for getting highway numbers approved.
- For 1.09: We return to the Interstates, so I’m looking for someone with some interesting insights on California’s interstate submittals.
- For 1.10: We’re looking at the county sign routes, so I’m look for someone from the Caltrans Local Assistance Programs office, or someone from a County public works department.
If you or someone you know would be interested in helping this project, please contact me.
The headlines for December were light. Perhaps fewer piqued my interest this month, but I do think the pace has turned to a focus on resurfacing and disaster repairs, and that’s of less interest for the pages. Speaking of the pages: I’m working on the last round of updates to the California Highways pages for 2022, which should be up slightly after this post.
Enough of this shameless self-promotion. Here are the headlines that I found about California’s highways for December:
[Ħ Historical information | ＄ Paywalls, ＄＄ really obnoxious paywalls, and ∅ other annoying restrictions. I’m no longer going to list the paper names, as I’m including them in the headlines now. Note: For ＄ paywalls, sometimes the only way is incognito mode, grabbing the text before the paywall shows, and pasting into an editor.]
California Highways: Route by Route Podcast
- CARxR 1.06: Chronology – CEQA and Reality.In this episode, we conclude our exploration the history of the State Highway System with the last episode in this 6-part miniseries. This episode focused on the post-1969 era in the stat highway system: the changes in the highway system after 1969; the impact of the environmental quality acts, and the growing involvement of the regional transportation agencies. We also explore the changes in governance of state highways. Our interview is with Gary Ruggerone, who was the Caltrans District 5 Environmental Branch Chief from June 1980 until December 2010 when he retired from Caltrans. He started as as an Environmental Planner in D7 in March 1979, one of 5 environmental planners hired off the very first Environmental Planner Civil Service Exam. He was directly involved with Caltrans during the early days of CEQA and NEPA and is joining us to provide valuable insight on the impact of the CEQA. Gary is currently the Owner/Principal Environmental Planner of Piedra Environmental Consultants, a local environmental planning firm specializing in CEQA and NEPA analysis and regulatory permit compliance for transportation-related projects. A life-long resident of California, Gary earned a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, and a Master of Arts in Population Aquatic Biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
- The future of Bay Area freeways could have per-mile tolling (SF Gate). Transportation officials for the Bay Area are in the middle of a planning exercise to adapt the region’s freeway system for the next generation of drivers. One proposition in the early stages of consideration is to treat freeways as a public utility, therefore subjecting them to operation costs that would be accrued through tolling. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is starting to envision a future of Bay Area travel where per-mile tolls appear on freeways and highways across the region.
- Lawmaker May Take SF Out of Its Freeway Removal Slump (San Francisco Standard). A state lawmaker asked the state’s transportation department to figure out what it would take to remove what’s left of San Francisco’s Central Freeway and to look into what can be done with two other freeways. State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) formally asked the California Department of Transportation to study the cost and logistics for taking down the Central Freeway, the Bayshore Viaduct of Interstate 80 between 17th Street and the Bay Bridge, and Interstate 280 north of U.S. 101.
- Transportation officials consider plan for Bay Area commuters to pay tolls on busy freeways to reduce traffic, emissions (ABC7 San Francisco). The future of Bay Area commuters could include tolls, not only at bridges but also on freeways. Transportation officials are considering the proposal as part of an effort to ease traffic congestion and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Officials say congestion is mounting, partly because they’ve kept the user price of driving on freeways down. Officials are considering the Plan Bay Area 2050, a joint project between the MTC and Association of Bay Area Governments. They say the tolling idea would include all lanes of certain freeways-not just the express lanes.
- Contractor: Golden Gate Bridge suicide net will cost $400M (AP News). A suicide prevention net on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge that is already years behind schedule will cost about $400 million, more than double its original price, because of problems sparked by the government agency that manages the span, the lead contractors allege. The allegations filed Monday in state court by Shimmick Construction Co. and Danny’s Construction Co. say that changes to and flaws in the government’s net design and the lack of transparency about the deterioration of the bridge’s maintenance platforms have raised the construction price from $142 million to at least $398 million.
- Modesto’s State Route 132 West Project | What to know (ABC 10). The State Route 132 West project has been a goal for the city of Modesto for 60 years. Highway 132 currently runs through streets in Modesto, causing issues with congestion, shipping, and even pollution due to idling vehicles. The project is supposed to make the area safer and keep trucks moving by relieving some of the traffic on Maze Boulevard. The long-anticipated $100 million project received over 70% of funding from the state and federal government, with a majority from the state. The local region funded about 30% of the project.
- ＄City’s path followed Agoura Road (The Acorn). The vintage, late-1940s postcard shown above provides a glimpse of Agoura Road when it was part of the main route from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara long before the 101 Freeway was built. The tall “Agoura” sign at the upper right of the picture—possibly dating back to the 1920s—welcomed travelers to a little hamlet where they could grab gas and food. But it was more than that. Known now as the Historic Quarter of Agoura Hills, the area south of the 101 Freeway off the Chesebro Road exit along Agoura Road, can also be thought of as the closest thing to a downtown the city has ever had.
- Barriers to completion: Golden Gate Bridge ‘suicide net’ in limbo amid contractor spat (Local News Matters). The stalled completion of a suicide prevention net on the Golden Gate Bridge could be delayed even further after construction companies hired to take on the project allege their costs have more than doubled, according to recently filed San Francisco Superior Court documents. The project to erect stainless steel mesh nets on both sides of the bridge was supposed to be completed by last year but has been fraught with delays. Last year, subcontractor for the project Vigor Works LLC sued joint venture contractors Shimmick Construction Co. and Danny’s Construction Co. (SDJV) over allegations that they were owed at least $13 million. Shimmick and Danny’s then countersued this year. In a motion in that case filed last week, SDJV also asked the court’s permission to sue the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which manages the bridge.
- SLO County receives more than $174M for transportation infrastructure (KSBY NBC 6). San Luis Obispo County has been awarded more than $174 million for transportation infrastructure from the California Transportation Commission according to Caltrans. This funding comes after the Transportation Commission this week approved $1 billion for 93 new walking and biking projects for disadvantaged communities as part of the 2023 Active Transportation Program.
- State Commission funds a historic $80 million for Santa Barbara transportation projects (News Channel 3-12). A total of $80 million has been approved by the California Transportation Commission for seven projects in Santa Barbara County. That is largest number of projects funded in a single year since the creation of the Active Transportation Program since it was signed into law by Governor Brown in 2013. A notable number of state-wide active transportation projects received funding due to the inclusion of $1 billion in one-time state funds directed through the California Budget Act of 2022.
- SLO to get $6.95M to improve Higuera Street Corridor (KSBY NBC 6). The city of San Luis Obispo will soon receive $6.95 million in state grant funding to make the Higuera Street corridor safer. On Wednesday, the California Transportation Commission awarded the city $6.95 million from the State Active Transportation Program to complete street improvements along the Higuera Street corridor between Marsh Street and Los Osos Valley Road, including accessibility and safety enhancements for walking, bicycling, and driving.
- ＄CA highway upgrade comes to site of deadly James Dean crash (San Luis Obispo Tribune). Nearly seven decades after the head-on crash that killed actor James Dean, the deadly interchange on the highway linking the San Joaquin Valley to the Central Coast will finally be reconfigured into a four-lane expressway. On Friday, Caltrans announced that the California Transportation Commission had approved funding for the $171 million project, which will break ground in March and take three years to complete. The long-awaited upgrade will replace the dangerous Cholame “Y” interchange with a flyover connection that routes Fresno-bound traffic from Highway 46 East to northbound Highway 41.
- ＄Yuba County awarded $21M for West Linda project (Appeal Democrat). As part of $1 billion in funding that will go toward nearly 100 walking and biking projects for disadvantaged communities in California for 2023, Yuba County is set to receive $21 million for the West Linda Safe Routes to School Project, state officials announced Friday. According to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Transportation Commission gave approval this week for $1 billion to be put toward 93 new walking and biking projects for disadvantaged communities as part of the 2023 Active Transportation Program. The commission also allocated more than $878 million for projects to repair and improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state.
- East Palo Alto breaks ground on University Avenue pedestrian overcrossing (Palo Alto Weekly). A long-awaited pedestrian-bicycle overcrossing that’s expected to make for safe passage over U.S. Highway 101 at University Avenue in East Palo Alto broke ground on Friday. The University Avenue/101 Pedestrian Overcrossing Project, which will parallel but be separate from the existing bridge, will create safe access to the east and west sides of East Palo Alto and neighboring Palo Alto after decades of separation by the busy freeway. The $14.6 million project, which is the second of two pedestrian overpasses to join the city — the first is the Clarke Avenue bridge near the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center — has been more than a decade in the works. It will span 12 feet wide connecting the east side along East Bayshore Road to a route in the University Circle business development near the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley.
- ＄Caltrans reconsiders an old idea: Repairing the closed section of Highway 39 (Daily News). Caltrans is considering repairing a 4.4-mile closed gap in State Highway 39 in the northern section of the Angeles National Forest, a washed-out portion of highway north of Azusa, closed for 44 years, that blocks local access to ski areas and high-desert communities. A scoping meeting will be held virtually on Thursday, Dec. 15, with officials from Caltrans leading a presentation on roadway fixes as well as key environmental issues, which will include a discussion about protecting the Nelson’s bighorn sheep, a state-listed endangered species. “I am hopeful. It would be a wonderful thing,” said Steve Castro, executive director of the Azusa Chamber of Commerce. For nearly 25 years, Castro and the business community have pushed to reopen Highway 39, to once again reach Highway 2.
- $80 Million Approved for Pedestrian, Bicycle, Safe Routes to School Projects (Noozhawk). The California Transportation Commission approved $80 million in 2023 Active Transportation Program funding for projects in the cities of Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, in Santa Barbara County, and Caltrans District 5 at its Dec. 7 meeting in Riverside. A historic number of critical active transportation projects were funded locally and statewide because of the California Budget Act of 2022, which added $1 billion of one-time state funds to the Active Transportation Program to address significant unmet needs for critical pedestrian, bicycle, and safe routes to school projects. Notably, Caltrans District 5 representing Santa Barbara County in the Central Coast became the first California Department of Transportation District to be awarded active transportation program funds to receive more than $8 million for the Los Alamos Connected Community Project.
- Solano’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan calls for $142M in projects (Solano Daily Republic). An updated five-year Public Works Capital Improvement Plan, extended out to 2027-28, has a total of $141.81 million in projects. “The majority of that is unfunded, and that is how we do it,” Matt Tuggle, the county engineering manager, told the Board of Supervisors last week. “We list projects we want to do . . . and include it in the plan.” As projects are completed, others are added. More than $96 million of the projects – mostly in the later years of the plan – are unfunded.
- Marin officials air lingering concerns on Highway 37 plan (Marin IJ). Marin transportation officials are on board with a plan to elevate Highway 37 to thwart threats of traffic jams and rising seas, but some have voiced concerns about the feasibility of costly and disruptive interim projects. State officials presented an update to the Transportation Authority of Marin board on Thursday on the plan to replace the 21-mile highway connecting Highway 101 in Novato to Interstate 80 in Vallejo with a 30-foot-high, four-lane causeway along the current alignment of the corridor. Officials with Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission primarily focused their discussion on an estimated $500 million interim project to widen a bottlenecked section of the road to four lanes by adding a carpool lane in each direction by 2027, and associated marsh and shoreline enhancements.
- Roundabout construction continues at Highways 25, 156 (SanBenito.com). Construction of a new traffic roundabout at the intersection of State Routes 25 and 156 near Hollister continues this week with work taking place behind protective concrete barriers, according to the California Department of Transportation. Recently installed K-rail at all four approaches to the construction zone serve as protective barriers for construction crews. Traffic signals now include timing for protected left-hand turns at all four approaches to the intersection, says a press release from Caltrans. Signals have also been adjusted to permit additional time for green lights during commute hours to maximize pass through of vehicles. Caltrans officials say these changes have helped commute times stabilize and reach more predictable levels. Progress continues to depend on the weather, with the next scheduled activities to include the continuation of roadway excavation and drainage construction.
- What is Sacramento’s connection to Ocean City, Maryland? (Fox 40). There’s a green mileage sign that looks like any other road sign at first glance while driving eastbound on Highway 50. But upon a closer look drivers may notice something peculiar about it. At the point where the sign is placed, Placerville is 46 miles away and South Lake Tahoe is still a 107-mile journey. Underneath those destinations is a small East Coast town that is 3,073 miles away from Sacramento and hosts a population of just under 7,000 people: Ocean City, Maryland.
- ＄$9.3 million allocated for Williams project (Appeal Democrat). The California Transportation Commission OK’d more than $878 million in funding for 93 walking and biking projects in disadvantaged communities, including $9.3 million for the E Street Complete Streets Project in Williams. “This project will greatly add to the pedestrian and bike safety in our major traffic corridor through town to the school site along with beautifying the city and calming traffic,” said Frank Kennedy, Williams city administrator. At this time, Kennedy said the intersection of E and Eleventh streets, including F Street, has various conflict points for drivers due to cross traffic and speeding, failure to stop at stop signs, collisions, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety continue to be a concern in this area. To alleviate these problems, city officials are looking to install a roundabout at the intersection.
- State allocates transportation funds for projects in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Los Alamos (Santa Maria Times). Pedestrians and bicyclists in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Los Alamos will benefit from nearly $18.6 million in Active Transportation Program funding that was allocated Dec. 7 by the California Transportation Commission. The money is part of $80 million approved for unmet transportation needs in Santa Barbara County, its communities and Caltrans District 5 at the CTC meeting in Riverside, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments said. The remaining funds will be spent on projects in the city of Santa Barbara and Isla Vista.
- ＄Caltrans OKs Emergency Bridge Repairs After Northern Calif. Quake (Engineering News-Record). Officials are moving to conduct emergency repairs on a bridge damaged in the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that shook areas of northern California early Dec. 20. The quake, centered in Humboldt County, happened at 2:34 A.M., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said at a press conference that there were no confirmed deaths, although an undetermined number of injuries were reported. There were as many as 80 aftershocks, including one that was recorded at magnitude 4.6. Tony Tavares, director of the California Dept. of Transportation, added that the agency had dispatched a “strike team” of bridge inspectors and engineers to assess bridges, roads and major structures. One bridge in Humboldt County, the Fernbridge, suffered damage, Tavares said. The 1,320-ft concrete arch bridge carries State Route 211 over the Eel River between Ferndale and U.S. Route 101. Officials closed the bridge to traffic while Caltrans inspectors assessed the extent of the damage.
- Proposed Highway 239 would improve travel in eastern Contra Costa; public can comment (Local News Matters). Public comments are being accepted for a proposed new state highway that would connect state Highway 4 in eastern Contra Costa County to either Interstate 580 in Alameda County or a location further east at Interstate 205 in San Joaquin County. State Highway 239 would connect from Highway 4 at Marsh Creek Road south for about 17 miles to one of the two endpoints being considered under the project. The new state highway proposal has been years in the making and is sponsored by Caltrans and the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority. An online-only public scoping meeting was held Tuesday on the project, but public comments are being accepted through Jan. 18.
- Fed funding halted for Half Moon Bay Main Street Bridge (San Mateo Daily Journal). Half Moon Bay has let go of allocated federal funding to rehabilitate the Main Street Bridge over concerns it might violate the voter-passed Measure F, closing out plans for large-scale bridge improvements for now. The city determined the funding might violate Measure F, which prevents the city from demolishing or physically expanding the bridge without a vote of the people. Voters passed the measure in 2014 to respond to the planned demolition of the existing bridge and replace it with a wider one to address structural deficiencies. Main Street Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and crosses Pilarcitos Creek just south of Stone Pine Road. It is the primary access point to downtown Half Moon Bay from State Route 92.
- Bay Bridge bike path will connect Oakland to SF in 2030 (Berkeleyside). East Bay and San Francisco residents who want to cross the Bay on foot or bicycle have a date to look forward to: 2030. That’s the year the Bay Bridge bike path is expected to open, connecting West Oakland to downtown San Francisco via Yerba Buena Island, according to Gavin Lohry, a planner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Lohry gave an update on the status of the transbay bike path at Oakland’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meeting last week.
- MTC sets completion date for Bay Bridge bike path (SF Examiner). In a best case scenario, you would be able to cross the Bay Bridge on foot or by bike by 2030, this according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Gavin Lohry, an agency planner, spoke on behalf of the MTC last week during an Oakland Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meeting. He laid out what would need to be done for construction of the path to occur between 2028 and 2030. An estimated $300 to $400 million is needed to undertake such a project, but these funds haven’t been allocated or secured. Some portions hinge on the continued funding of the Active Transportation Program, which was created by Senate Bill 99 to encourage increased use of active modes of transportation, such as walking and biking.
Gribblenation Blog (Tom Fearer)
- Former US Route 101 and California State Route 156 at San Juan Bautista Y. San Juan Bautista Y was once where US Route 101 and California State Route 156 intersected near the city of San Juan Bautista. San Juan Bautista Y was constructed during 1935 as part of an extension of Legislative Route Number 22 west of San Juan Bautista to US Route 101 on the Prunedale Cutoff. During 1938 California State Route 156 began to be signed at San Juan Bautista Y eastward towards Hollister. The signature mission adobe walls, cross and campanile of San Juan Bautista Y were added to the junction also during 1938. San Juan Bautista Y was bypassed upon the opening of the San Juan Interchange during June 1959. San Juan Bautista Y has been preserved as something of an informal rest area.
- Alfred Harrell Highway. Alfred Harrell Highway is an approximately eleven-mile highway maintained by the Kern County along the Kern River northeast of Bakersfield. Alfred Harrell Highway between Panorama Drive east to the boundary of Hart Memorial Park is an approximately six-mile freeway grade constructed during 1955-1959. The freeway segment of Alfred Harrell Highway is disconnected from all other limited access highway grades and retains a 1950s-era standard rarely seen elsewhere in California. Alfred Harrell Highway east of Hart Memorial Park to California State Route 178 is constructed to two-lane expressway standards. Alfred Harrell Highway incorporates a segment of the 1850s-era Stockton-Los Angeles Road via the China Grade at it’s western terminus. Depicted as the blog cover is Alfred Harrell Highway at the China Grade of the Kern River Bluff as seen in the March/April 1960 California Highways & Public Works.
- Former California State Route 49 through Bagby. Bagby was a small community located on the original alignment of California State Route 49 at the bottom of the Merced River Canyon of Mariposa County. The community of Bagby was located on the historic Merced River crossing of Ridley’s Ferry and was for a time a siding of the Yosemite Valley Railroad. Bagby was bypassed by a new alignment of California State Route 49 during 1966 as the site was being prepared to be inundated due to the expansion of Lake McClure. Above as the blog cover is a view on California State Route 49 from the Bagby Hotel facing the Merced River Bridge. Below Bagby can be seen on the original alignment of California State Route 49 and the Yosemite Valley Railroad on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Mariposa County.
- Former US Route 99 in El Centro. When the US Route System was created during November 1926 the terminus of US Route 99 was located in El Centro via Imperial Avenue to US Route 80 at Adams Avenue. During June 1932, US Route 99 would be extended from El Centro to the Mexican Border in Calexico. US Route 99 would remain signed through El Centro until the highway was truncated to the southern end of the Golden State Freeway during June 1963. The blog examines the history of US Route 99 within the community of El Centro from inception to eventual replacement by California State Route 86. Pictured above as the blog cover is the multiplex of US Route 99 and US Route 80 on Main Street in downtown El Centro during the 1940s. US Route 99 from El Centro to the Mexican Border in Calexico can be seen in detail on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Imperial County.
- The indomitable Fernbridge (California State Route 211). The Fernbridge near the city of Ferndale in Humboldt County was completed during 1911 over the Eel River and presently a component of California State Route 211. Upon opening, the Fernbridge was then the longest concrete arch bridge in the world. The Fernbridge is often touted as the precursor span which inspired similar arch concrete bridge designs which were constructed during the early twentieth century in California. The Fernbridge stood against flooding on the Eel River during 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1937, 1953, 1955, 1964, and 1986. During 1987 Caltrans recommended replacing the Fernbridge with a modern span which sparked a local movement to preserve the structure. The Fernbridge has also withstood numerous earthquakes including the 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquakes and the Ferndale Earthquake of December 2022. The cover photo of this blog is the Fernbridge as depicted in the September 1950 California Highways & Public Works Centennial edition.