California Highway Headlines: 11/16/13 – 12/15/13

userpic=roadgeekingNormally, there would be a clever opening here; however, the clever opening is still exhausted from ACSAC and has decided to go out of town for the holidays:

  • Slow and steady builds massive Long Beach bridge. When it’s finally completed, the new Gerald Desmond bridge will tower above the ships steaming in and out of port, the tallest structure in the Long Beach skyline. Its twin towers will rise 50 stories into the air and its 1.5-mile span will perch motorists more than 200 feet above the water, allowing the latest generation of large cargo ships to pass underneath. But on a recent afternoon, the eyes of a half dozen workers were trained on the ground — and what lies beneath it on this narrow strip of Terminal Island. The workers, dressed in muddy overalls and hard hats, looked on as the loud whir of machinery reverberated from a large steel drum, sunk nearly 200 feet into the soil.
  • Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore to ease traffic backups during reverse commute. Bring on the Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore. Bring on the traffic relief. And say goodbye forever to the frustrating daily change of direction in tunnel lanes at one of the Bay Area’s most famous bottlenecks. After four years of work, the $417 million fourth and probably final bore of the 76-year-old Caldecott Tunnel, will likely open this weekend, Caltrans reports. But just how much relief will it bring drivers? It depends on which direction and when you drive.
  • Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore opens. Another Bay Area transportation tradition has vanished. But unlike, say, the Key System trains or the sturdy gray girders of the old Bay Bridge eastern span, the merging and guessing games required to navigate the three-bore Caldecott Tunnel will be missed by few, if any, drivers. Those games came to an end Saturday morning, when the long-awaited fourth bore of the tunnel opened to westbound traffic after emergency systems were tested and certified. Signs reading “Welcome to the 4th Bore” greeted predawn commuters beginning about 4 a.m.
  • Part of truck-heavy Terminal Island Freeway could become a park. Long Beach city officials are considering a radical makeover of west Long Beach that would involve ripping out a one-mile section of one of the Southland’s first freeways, now mostly used by truckers, and replacing it with a long ribbon of green space. The proposal, backed by an array of groups and the focus of a new state-funded study, would mark the first time a stretch of Southern California freeway was removed and converted to a non-transportation use.
  • Orange County, long a toll-road supporter, makes U-turn over 405 plan. A $1.47-billion proposal to add toll lanes to a traffic-clogged 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway from Long Beach to Costa Mesa has met with wide opposition from officials and residents in the six cities along the route. Civic leaders said they fear the plan could be a harbinger of more toll roads to come.
  • OCTA Brakes On I-405 Tolls, But Questions Remain. Orange County transportation officials took a step back Monday from a bruising fight over the idea of tolls on I-405, supporting instead a $1.3 billion project to widen the freeway with free lanes. The vote by a committee of board members at the Orange County Transportation Authority sets up a final decision by the full board this coming Monday. But even that is unlikely to be the final word on tolls in Orange County or the future of I-405. The proposal keeps in place a plan to build one new lane on each side of the freeway, which cities along the route oppose as too little. It also keeps Orange County at the table for a regional look at freeway toll lanes, an idea that Caltrans has pushed as one way to manage traffic.
  • City Council Wants Better Wheelchair and Bike Access for New Santa Monica Pier Bridge. As plans move forward to replace Santa Monica’s 74-year-old Pier Bridge, the City Council wants to make sure the new connector will ease access for bicyclists and people with disabilities. The City Council also directed City planners Tuesday to look closely at the impact some of the plans to replace the “structurally deficient” concrete bridge, which connects Colorado Avenue to the historic Santa Monica Pier, might have on nearby businesses as City Hall begins State and nationally-mandated environmental reviews of the proposed project. (Note: This bridge was constructed in 1937 as a grade-crossing separation by the California Department of Highways for the then LRN 163 (State Sign Route 187), which ran from “[LRN 60] at a point near Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica to a connection with Windward Avenue in the city of Los Angeles”)
  • Bay Bridge soon to be seen in new lights. Having built the most expensive bridge in the world, Caltrans is now getting ready to show off the new Bay Bridge eastern span with $2 million worth of “aesthetic lights,” designed by a team whose members lit up the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium and the White House. In all, some 7,800 LED lights have been installed along the bridge’s suspension section, just off Yerba Buena Island.
  • 101/23 Freeway expansion scheduled to start soon . The long-awaited expansion of the 101/23 freeway interchange in Thousand Oaks, a regional project meant to relieve traffic congestion, is scheduled to begin by January. “Caltrans is hoping to award a contract in the next couple of weeks,” said Cliff Finley, the city’s deputy public works director. The roadwork will add a travel lane in each direction for drivers connecting to the 101 Freeway from the 23 Freeway and vice versa. Sound walls will be constructed on the north side of the interchange between Hampshire and Conejo School roads and on the south side between Manzanita Lane and Hampshire.
  • O.C. votes to expand 405 Freeway without adding toll lanes. Orange County transportation leaders voted Monday to expand a clogged stretch of the 405 Freeway without adding toll lanes, which were strongly opposed by cities along the project route. Ending months of rancorous debate, Orange County Transportation Authority board members voted to pursue an expansion plan that would add one free lane in each direction along a 11-mile stretch of the 405 from the 605 Freeway to Euclid Street.
  • California Transportation Commission allocates $152 million for transportation. Continuing the push to rebuild California’s infrastructure and spur job growth, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) has made new allocations totaling $152 million to 36 projects statewide. This latest round of funding drives the total amount of transportation funding allocated in 2013 beyond the $3 billion barrier.
  • OCTA in the News for Dec. 11, 2013: 91 Freeway Commute Just Improved … A Bit. Wednesday, Riverside County breaks ground on a long-anticipated widening project meant to smooth away a bottleneck that snags traffic at its border with Orange County. It will be the biggest transportation project in the county’s history, adding a single free lane in each direction and replacing the carpool lanes with express toll lanes.
  • Caltrans wraps up Cotati safety project. Caltrans crews Thursday wrapped up a six-month safety improvement project on Highway 116 and Madrone Avenue in Cotati, city manager Dianne Thompson said. The $690,000 project added 350-foot left-turn pockets in each direction of Highway 116 at Madrone Avenue and a 5-foot shoulder on the south side of the intersection.