Highway Headlines for June 2014

userpic=roadgeekingWhew. I finally got highway page updates done over memorial day weekend, so here are some headlines that have occurred since then. The big highway news seems to be winding down: the Federal highway trust fund is running out of money, and interest these days is more on building transit and bicycle support. You’ll see lots of maintenance work, some rehabilitations, but few completely new routes, and just a few reroutings or major constructions (other than adding HOV lanes):

  • I-80/680 interchange project work begins. Phase 1 of the seven-phase plan to renovate the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange complex got an official start Monday with a groundbreaking ceremony. This initial project doesn’t include work on the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange structure itself, but rather replaces the nearby Green Valley interchange. For that reason, transportation and civic leaders gathered in the now-closed Green Valley park-and ride lot along the Green Valley Road onramp to westbound I-80.
  • Caltrans begins improvements on I-80 in Solano County. Caltrans broke ground Monday on the first of a series of planned projects intended to reduce congestion and improve safety for more than 150,000 motorists who travel through the Interstate 80/Interstate 680/State Route 12 interchange in Solano County daily. During the first phase of a seven-phase project, a new Green Valley Road overcrossing will be constructed above I-80 about 200 feet east of the existing overcrossing. The new overcrossing will have twice the number of lanes (four) as the existing overcrossing, along with a new on-ramp to westbound I-80/SR-12. The connector ramp from westbound I-80 to SR-12 also will be widened from one lane to two lanes.
  • Interstate 80 to get new, wider Green Valley Road overcrossing. A major first step in revamping the Interstate 80/I-680/State Route 12 interchange was taken Monday morning. Next to a bustling I-80 and Green Valley Road overcrossing, local city, county, regional and state government representatives gathered in the windy and cool morning for a ground breaking on a major project designed to reduce congestion and improve safety for more than 150,000 motorists who travel daily through the interchange.
  • Photos: When Southern California’s Freeways Were New (and Empty). The Southland’s freeways hardly inspire optimism anymore. Glance at the shoulder of a slow-moving freeway and among the weeds you’ll see shards of plastic and twisted metal—the accumulated detritus of a dozen high-speed crashes. They may (occasionally) be convenient, but whether it’s their shabby appearance, the way they balkanize communities, or simply their soul-crushing traffic, it’s hard to feel good about the freeways. But there was a time when Southern California’s freeways were new, and feelings were different. Despite local opposition to specific routes, the freeway system as a whole enjoyed widespread political support. L.A.’s infatuation with the automobile hadn’t yet waned, so it was only natural for the city to embrace these new monuments to car culture. They provided an alternative to the aging electric railways and traffic-choked boulevards. They promised to improve life in the decentralized city. They represented the region’s best hope for the future.
  • Chino puts up $12M for freeway ramps. Chino city council voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $12.5 million to cover the city’s share of the cost of interchange improvements at Central Avenue and the 60 Freeway. The project calls for widening of the Central Avenue bridge over the freeway and widening of the eastbound and westbound ramps. Landscaping will be replaced.
  • Toll Lanes Becoming Permanent on the 110, 10, and Maybe 405. With tens of millions of dollars flowing into Metro’s coffers, and slight time savings for commuters, the transit agency’s board voted yesterday to make the ExpressLanes toll system permanent. The demonstration project for the ExpressLanes, which started in late 2012 and converted 25 miles of carpool lanes on the 10 and the 110 into toll lanes open to anyone who could pay, including solo drivers, was a success—the agency expected to distribute 100,000 of the transponders required to use the lanes, but ended up handing out more than 260,000 (the lanes are also driving more people to transit, which is another win). Now Metro will lobby the state legislature to keep the ExpressLanes for good, and to expand the system to other freeways, possibly starting with the 405, which will have continuous carpool lanes from the Valley to the OC starting next month.
  • Premature cracks found on Carquinez Bridge. A seismic expansion joint on the westbound Carquinez Bridge – similar to a dozen used on the skyway portion of the new Bay Bridge eastern span – has cracked after less than 10 years of pounding by heavy trucks, Caltrans officials said Wednesday. The cracking on the joint of the $240 million steel suspension span – which was finished in 2003 and crosses the Carquinez Strait near Vallejo – started showing up two years ago, Caltrans officials said.
  • Fix for anchoring rods of new Bay Bridge span to cost $1.5 million. Caltrans officials spoke on Wednesday about how crews will fix the anchoring rods of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge and how much the procedure will cost. The new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge was designed to have a 150 year lifespan. And while there have been some speed bumps along the way, Caltrans is convinced the bridge should reach its century and a half milestone after some needed work is completed.
  • Caltrans ordered to stop work on Willits bypass. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended the permit for the controversial Willits Bypass project which has been plagued by environmental and financial issues. The construction project is on Highway 101 in Mendocino County where Caltrans is building a freeway bypass around the town of Willits. It is six miles long and will cost at least $210 million.
  • I-10, Cabazon alternate route to begin by end of year. Construction is scheduled to begin at the end of 2014 on the extension of a road that runs parallel to Interstate 10 in Cabazon. Once Seminole Drive is connected to Rushmore Avenue — a process expected to finish in March — drivers will have an alternate route in case of emergency lane closures on westbound I-10.
  • Long Beach Port bridge delayed at least a year . The massive $1.26 billion project to replace the ailing Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach will be delayed at least a year, port officials announced. Originally expected to open by the end of 2016, port officials say the bridge that will rise over its port won’t be completed until late 2017 or early 2018. The delay has been attributed to design issues, including delays in obtaining approval for designs from Caltrans officials, who have the ultimate authority over plans.