Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

A key stretch of Highway 1, the world-famous coastal highway, would be widened to 6 lanes under a proposed Caltrans project. The Calera Parkway widening project would affect a scenic 1.3-mile stretch of highway above Rockaway Beach.

Here is the before and after:


According to Caltrans, the project is needed to reduce peak hour delay by 5 minutes — in the year 2035. Many residents in Pacifica are not convinced that the environmental impact of the project is worth a hypothetical 5-minute travel savings.

Highway 1 is also a world famous bicycling route. Caltrans has incorporated bikes into its planning, by proposing cyclists use the 10-foot shoulder that would be built as part of the project. I don’t know about you, but riding on a high-speed 6-lane expressway is not very “accommodating”.

The project would be funded mainly by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. San Mateo County has always been indifferent to the safety needs of bikes/peds, and yet has no problem coming up with money for idiotic highway widenings.

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In California, a driver is only required to carry $15,000 in liability insurance coverage. That is the second lowest in the nation (only Florida is lower with $10,000). A car crash can cause well over $100,000 in medical expenses (not to mention lost wages). So if you are wondering why the amount is so ridiculously low, it is because the amount has not been raised in 40 years:

Enacted in 1974 when the average new car cost $4,440, California Vehicle Code 16056 dictated that drivers need to have insurance with $15,000 to cover bodily injury or death to one person in a motor vehicle accident, $30,000 to cover two or more people and $5,000 to cover property damage.

California is one of only seven states in the U.S. — the others are Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — with limits that low, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Only Florida has lower minimums, at $10,000, $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. Alaska and Maine have the highest at $50,000, $100,000 and $25,000.

Adjusted for inflation, $15,000 in 1974 dollars is equivalent to $70,800 in today’s dollars.

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Andrew Rosenthal is wondering the same thing I am. Why hasn’t Justin Bieber been deported?

A foreign national living in the United States on a work visa is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana, alcohol and prescription drugs, while drag racing in a residential area. Given the climate of hostility toward immigrants in many parts of the country, and the Obama administration’s love affair with deportation, you’d expect him to be sitting in a holding cell awaiting a one-way trip out of the country.

At least you would expect that if he were poor, obscure and, say, Hispanic. But what if the malfeasant were wealthy, famous and, say, Justin Bieber?

The answer is that Biber is here on a O-1 visa. Individuals with “extraordinary” gifts in the arts are eligible (which just goes to show there is no accounting for taste). Under Federal law, re-evaluation of O-1 visa status only occurs for prison sentences longer than 1-year.

Perhaps it is time for Congress to reconsider the O-1 visa conditions. Drag racing and DUI are serious offenses that can injure or kill other road users. Why should such dangerous individuals be permitted to remain in the country?

Canadian Prime Minister presenting Justin Bieber with the Diamond Jubilee medal. The medal is awarded to Canadians who have made great achievement abroad.

Canadian Prime Minister presenting Justin Bieber with the Diamond Jubilee medal. The medal is awarded to Canadians who have made great achievements abroad.

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Fort Lee Shenanigans

In New Jersey, government officials have abused their authority — possibly even broken laws. The victims were ordinary residents of Fort Lee, just trying to travel along city streets.

Oh, did you think I was talking about Governor Christie and his staff?

No, I am referring to Fort Lee’s Police Chief. He decided to ticket “distracted” pedestrians — even though there is no law against it:

After trying pamphlets and brochures, he’s ordering his officers to ticket careless pedestrians on the spot. “They’re not alert and they’re not watching what they’re doing,” Police Chief Thomas Ripoli told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis.

Unlike careless driving, there’s no specific charge for being a careless pedestrian, but Chief Ripoli said his officers are watching, adding they’ll know it when they see it.

Fort Lee does have a problem with pedestrian fatalities. It averages one pedestrian collision per week. But it is crazy to blame cell phones instead of the fast-moving 2-ton vehicles.

The family of Jerry DeAngelis was particularly appalled by the Chief’s emphasis on “distracted” pedestrians. Jerry was struck and killed while crossing an intersection on the way to church. The family believes the driver was not paying attention. The DeAngelis family writes:

We all agree that pedestrians need to do their part and are often to blame in these accidents, but focusing your campaign almost exclusively on the pedestrians, while ignoring the issue of distracted and reckless driving, is both short-sighted and naïve.

We are not interested in publicity stunts and public relations campaigns. As Jerry’s family, our motivation is to see fewer families suffer the way we have.

We believe your campaign needs to be better researched and more comprehensive. We suggest you look at a number of methods to improve pedestrian safety, but most importantly, Fort Lee needs a significantly stepped up police presence.

Many residents express frustration that the town’s streets are unsafe and point to the lack of law enforcement presence and effective action as a major cause. The consensus seems to be that drivers in Fort Lee violate traffic laws with impunity. Research shows that a greater police presence will be the most effective means for gaining voluntary compliance with traffic laws – far more effective than handing out ice scrapers and florescent umbrellas.

Clearly, education initiatives are important but all safety campaigns must be accompanied by strict law enforcement measures and an acknowledgment of the increasing numbers of distracted drivers contributing to these accidents.

An effective pedestrian safety campaign should begin with a realistic assessment of the root causes of these accidents. A zero tolerance policy for motorists who put themselves, other motorists, and pedestrians at risk would go a long way toward reducing the number of accidents in Fort Lee.

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The California Alliance For Sprawl Jobs is looking to pass a VLF tax increase. Their ballot initiative would raise $3 billion annually in new revenues. Their expenditure plan, however, is extremely lopsided in that 90% of these funds would go to streets and highways. The remaining 10% would go for transit. Bikes/peds would not receive any funding.

If that sounds bad, it is actually worse when you consider the history of California’s VLF.

The VLF is really nothing more than a personal property tax. Until 2003, VLF revenues went into the General Fund (like any other property tax) and would be distributed to counties for health and welfare programs. The VLF allocation used a complicated formula to set the tax rate based on the health of California’s General Fund:

Under the law, local governments are “backfilled” by the state general fund for any loss of revenue due to VLF reductions. In 2004-05, this backfill will amount to $3.9 billion. The law has always contained provisions that if state general fund revenues are insufficient to fund this taxpayer subsidy, then the offset would be removed and the effective taxpayer rate would return to its 1998 level. On June 19, 2003, the California State Controller and Director of Finance made findings of insufficient revenues and the effective MVLF rate went from 0.65% to 2%.

A VLF “increase” occurred during the Gray Davis recall election. Schwarzenegger seized on the VLF tax during the recall. His first act in office was to reduce the VLF to .65%. However, that left a $3+ billion hole in the General Fund. This lost VLF revenue was one of culprits of what became a decade-long budget stalemate in the Legislature.

So now comes along the Alliance for Sprawl with a plan to partly restore the VLF. They are calling it new revenue for road “maintenance” —  but really it is a transfer from health and welfare programs to highway construction.

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California, like most states, has not increased its gas tax in a very long time. Instead, the state has relied on a combination of bond measures, and local transportation sales taxes. The last statewide transportation bond measure was Proposition 1B, which raised $19 billion. Most of Prop 1B went to highway projects — including the Caldecott 4th bore, and massive widening of I5 in LA.

Now that Prop 1B funds are running out, highway construction lobbyists are plotting a new ballot measure. This one would permanently increase the vehicle license fee, providing $3 billion per year in new revenue. The new revenue is certainly welcome, as is using the VLF.

Unfortunately, their expenditure plan leaves much to be desired. It would devote 90% of the funds to highways, leaving only 10% for transit. Bikes and peds would receive nothing. If we are going to raise taxes to fix the infrastructure, then let’s fix all the infrastructure.

Even worse, the distribution formula to counties is based on the number of registered vehicles, and the number of road miles. This rewards sprawly counties, at the expense of urban counties with low car ownership.

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Academics Or Parking?

Colorado has made huge cuts to higher education funding. So what does the CSU Administration plan to do about that?

Answer: spend up to $93 million of on three new parking garages!

University officials say the development is not directly connected with the proposed on-campus football stadium a few blocks away, but acknowledge the additional parking would be useful on game days. They say the garages, with space for thousands of cars, would primarily serve the growing campus and the nearby MAX bus rapid-transit service.

A parking garage to serve a BRT stop? And it gets better…two of the garages will be situated in protected wetlands:

The $43 million Bay Farm garage project envisions twinned parking structures with a combined capacity of up to 2,400 cars. The garages would be built in the vacant fields behind the Hilton, in space opened up by this fall’s redesign of the city’s Spring Creek Trail.

Because the area is in a floodway, CSU is limited in what it can build there. Regulations generally bar buildings such as offices, shops or homes from being built in floodways, but parking garages are allowed.

That is one giant loophole which needs to be closed.


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We’ve seen the absurd ways that cities subsidize parking. In Seattle, they’ve gone full-circle, using eminent domain to seize a parking lot and turning it into…a parking lot:

Myrtle Woldson, 103, owns a long-term parking lot near the Seattle waterfront valued at $7 million. When the city approached the Spokane resident about allowing it to lease space to help ease the parking crunch during construction of the Highway 99 tunnel and the seawall, she declined, city sources say. Now the City Council is moving to condemn the property to provide more short-term parking for businesses, tourists and shoppers.

Around 100 on-street parking spaces will be lost during the Alaska Way Viaduct construction. To “mitigate” the parking loss, Seattle proposed leasing Woldson’s parking lot. Woldson already provides parking — just at a market rate. Woldson declined the lease offer as too low. So rather than meet her price, Seattle will just seize her lot through eminent domain.

Seattle is also considering whether to build a parking garage on the lot. Because if there is one thing the waterfront lacks, it is parking:




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It can take more than a decade for a city to develop a good bus and bike network. And it can all be destroyed in a matter of days by a petrolhead Mayor.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has decided to scrap all 24 of that city’s bus lanes on a “trial” basis. The decision came with hardly any debate or data. His reasons for doing so:

We have a commitment to reduce congestion and the harmful emissions associated with this and to keep the city moving, for the benefit of residents, commuters, visitors and businesses. Ultimately, the evidence we have indicates that bus lanes are not benefiting city as planned – either for buses or cars. This trial is about investigating this further so we can make an informed decision over whether the permanent removal of bus lanes will bring benefits to the city.

Bus lanes are one of the biggest sources of complaints for our highways team. We receive a huge number of objections from motorists who stray by mistake into bus lanes and are hit with a fine of at least £30. We know they are a source of frustration for many people in the city. We have listened – and we are taking action.

The decision will cost the city £700,000 annually in lost revenue. It comes at a time when the Mayor is threatening to close all parks and libraries due to ongoing budget problems.

Liverpool is the most unlikely of places to conduct this “trial”. It has a compact layout where one-third of people walk to work. There is a low rate of car ownership, and parking is expensive. There is an extensive public transit network, with 80 million annual bus passengers. The bus lanes double as bike lanes, so their removal will be devastating for bicyclists as well.


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Roundabout Capital of America

You may be surprised to learn that the Roundabout Capital of America is Carmel, Indiana. It is a small town just north of Indianapolis:

The mayor, Jim Brainard, built the first roundabout in Carmel in 1997 after seeing them in Britain. Instead of a four-way intersection with traffic lights, a circular bit of road appeared. It was so successful that today Carmel is the roundabout capital of America, and the mayor plans to rip out all but one of his remaining 30 traffic lights.

One of their main attractions, says Mayor Brainard, is safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent research group, estimates that converting intersections with traffic lights to roundabouts reduces all crashes by 37% and crashes that involve an injury by 75%. At traffic lights the most common accidents are faster, right-angled collisions. These crashes are eliminated with roundabouts because vehicles travel more slowly and in the same direction. The most common accident is a sideswipe, generally no more than a cosmetic annoyance.

What locals like, though, is that it is on average far quicker to traverse a series of roundabouts than a similar number of stop lights. Indeed, one national study of ten intersections that could have been turned into roundabouts found that vehicle delays would have been reduced by 62-74% (nationally saving 325,000 hours of motorists’ time annually). Moreover, because fewer vehicles had to wait for traffic lights, 235,000 gallons of fuel could have been saved.

You can read more on the city’s webpage.


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