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Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

Here come the earmarks

Congressional earmarks, the notorious funding method for wasteful highways, are back. Here is how Solano County is proposing to spend their funding:

The [project] list will go to Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, to be included among the 10 projects each can request for the earmark dollars. The first transportation project is for the Highway 37 and Fairgrounds Drive interchange project, which is viewed as critical for the Solano360 project as well as a general economic benefit to that part of Vallejo. The second is for the Vaca Valley Parkway and Interstate 505 Multimodal Improvement Project.

[…]

In the case of the fifth project – the $228.7 million Rio Vista Flood Risk Reduction Project – the request is for $150 million. The project is designed to provide 200-year flood protection to the city by “raising levees and constructing cutoff walls on several levees protecting the eastern and northern flanks of the city along (the) Sacramento River and raising vulnerable structures above (the) 200-year flood elevation within the flood zone.”

It takes a special lack of self-awareness to widen highways, while requesting funds to mitigate flooding from climate change.

Ok, but the highway projects include a bike/ped component, right? Because that is required under the Caltrans Complete Streets policy. Here is what EIR has to say about that:

The [Solano County] Bicycle Plan proposes construction of a Class I bike path along Fairgrounds Drive, from Marine World Parkway to Redwood Street. Under the Build Alternative, this bike path would be reduced to a Class II bike lane facility. Although the Build Alternative does not propose the construction of a separated bike path, such as the one proposed in the Bicycle Plan, the proposed improvements would establish the bicycle network connectivity the Bicycle Plan intended to establish along Fairgrounds Drive. As such, the proposed Build Alternative is not considered to be in conflict with the Bicycle Plan.

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There have been a number of such positive reactions to Buttegieg’s nomination to head DOT. People making such comments have probably not looked at his actual performance as Mayor….which is not good.

As Mayor, Buttegieg had a traffic signal removed from a busy arterial, directly in front of a bus transportation center. It was there that an 11 year-old was killed while trying to cross the street trying to get to his school bus. Four other intersections near schools also had traffic lights removed:

City officials had planned since May 2016 to install traffic signals at the downtown intersection where an 11-year-old boy was struck and killed Monday, and activation was expected next week, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday. Following a consultant’s 2015 study finding that vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the corner of South and Michigan streets didn’t warrant a traffic light, the city placed a bag over the light Feb. 1, 2016, as it did at a handful of downtown intersections.

Following the study by American Structurepoint Inc., the city bagged and evaluated lights at four other intersections: Calvert and Michigan, and Calvert and Main. Those signals were put back in last fall because schools were located nearby. Broadway’s signal was removed permanently. One near the fire station on South Michigan Street was reactivated.

Buttigieg was asked whether he thinks the boy’s death was attributable to any mistakes made by his staff. “Any time anything bad happens in the city, finger-pointing happens,” he said. “I get it. I’m in charge. But I also think what you had here was professional engineers acting on recommendations based on expertise, and based on everything we knew, making the best decision that we could. 

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I’m sure this will greatly enhance the visitor experience of seeing these majestic trees:

The state’s long-standing proposal to widen part of Highway 101 in Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County, to make room for bigger trucks, took a step forward Wednesday when a federal appeals court said Caltrans had adequately considered any likely impact on towering, ancient redwoods living alongside the highway.

The project hit a roadblock in May 2019 when U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco rejected the state Department of Transportation’s conclusion that it would cause “no significant impact” to the environment. Alsup said there was evidence that the road-widening could suffocate some of the 300-foot redwoods — some of them 3,000 years old — cause root disease in others and worsen damage to trees hit by trucks that skidded off the highway.

But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Caltrans had conducted an adequate review, and found that the construction would not threaten the life of any old-growth redwoods. The court also accepted the department’s findings that the project would not diminish visitors’ enjoyment of the park by increasing traffic or noise from the highway.

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Kurt Reinhold was the black man shot dead on Sept 23rd by Orange County Sheriff deputies — for the crime of jaywalking. One unanswered question about this deeply troubling incident is: what was the OC Sheriff doing patrolling a commercial district in San Clemente?

According to the official narrative, the deputies were part of a homeless outreach task force responding to a report that Kurt was walking in the street. Another possibility is that they were participating in a State-funded jaywalking sting. Here is an announcement the OC Sheriff released two days prior to the shooting:

This blog has long criticized the OTS safety enforcement program, because it hassles pedestrians over picayune violations of the vehicle code. The video recording of Reinhold’s murder begins with him being visibly agitated over his minor “jaywalking” transgression, and asking where he was supposed to cross given the street’s lack of crosswalks. This has all the hallmarks of a classic OTS sting operation: pick a location with dysfunctional traffic engineering and then write lots of jaywalking tickets.

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Well ok then

If you are a police driving instructor, you can do anything:

A police driving instructor who clocked 122mph in an unmarked patrol car on the way to a private meeting was cleared of 11 speeding offences today.

PC Paul Brown, 48, also jumped red lights and used the powerful BMW X5’s sirens and lights intermittently during the 17-mile round trip to discuss his son’s education at a college.

But in court today, the officer claimed he was practising his driving skills to ensure they were “up to scratch”.

Anne Walker, chairwoman of the bench at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court, said there was no agreed policy or rules for how police instructors should do their own training and record it. “We cannot be sure that Mr Brown did not undertake these two journeys while carrying out his own CPD (Continued Professional Development),” she added.

But Harry O’Sullivan, prosecuting, said the dad, a Norfolk Police driving instructor since 2016 and an officer for 18 years, had not been authorised to use the car for his training while driving alone to and from the college. “PC Brown was late for a meeting and drove the way he did, not out of concern to keep his driving up to scratch and perform CPD, but because he was late.

101mph in a 30mph zone…

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Another mind boggling metric of our dangerous roadways: over 500 Americans are killed each year from cars crashing into buildings. There are over 3,600 serious injuries from such crashes. Federal road “safety” agencies don’t bother to measure the problem let alone propose solutions (which is probably just as well as they would have restaurant patrons wear helmets and bright colors).

So it is left up to private groups, such as the Storefront Safety Council, to highlight the issue and propose solutions.

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After months of construction, the new 2-block $10 million Shattuck “reconfiguration” project is now operating in downtown Berkeley. Whereas Shattuck used to split into a northbound and southbound leg, the road now makes the old southbound section two-way. The northbound leg is turned into a giant turn pocket:

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If you find the above diagram confusing, the red arrow indicates the old travel path for northbound traffic (Shattuck West used to be one-way). So $10 million was spent just to streamline northbound car traffic at the Shattuck/University intersection.

The reconfigured Shattuck is now more of a traffic sewer (even the left-turns were eliminated). For drivers, this is really great because they can blast through downtown. For bicyclists though, the new road is stressful. To fit 4 lanes in this section, the traffic lanes were narrowed. While narrow lanes can sometimes serve to calm traffic, in this case the result is impatient motorists passing bicyclists with mere inches to spare.

The Shattuck reconfiguration project is one piece of a package of projects to increase automobile access to the downtown, including a new $40 million parking garage (LEED Certified of course), and additional “back-in” parking spaces along Shattuck East. While other cities are creating cycletracks and even eliminating car traffic in their downtowns, Berkeley is moving in the opposite direction.

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Mayor Arreguin at the ribbon cutting for the new Center St. parking garage

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Shattuck construction

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Four car lanes, wider sidewalks — but no bike lanes or cycletracks

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City of Fremont will spend another $150,000 on radar speed feedback signs:

Veloso said the new signs — which flash car’s mph back to drivers and display a white strobe when speeding is detected — will be installed on “high-speed” arterial streets where the city has seen the highest numbers of “severe injury and fatal collisions.”

A staff report indicates some of those streets will include Niles Boulevard, near where a woman was killed in a hit-and-run in late November, as well as other spots on Fremont Boulevard, Paseo Padre Parkway, where a couple of signs are already posted, and Thornton Avenue, among others.

Since the city began implementing its Vision Zero plan in 2016, staff says major crashes through November 2019 are down 46 percent on roads with speed limits above 40 mph compared to 2013 to 2015 numbers. However, the numbers of fatalities from collisions are mixed, hitting a low of four deaths each in 2016 and 2018 to a high of 10 in 2017 and seven in 2019.

The problem in Fremont is that the posted speed limit on major arterials is 35 mph and higher. So even if all drivers were to comply with the speed limit, the road would still be too dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.

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Fremont Blvd near the Warm Springs BART station, where a cyclist was killed. Posted speed limit is 45 mph.

 

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This is my car. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My car is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my car is useless. Without my car, I am useless. I must drive my car true. I must drive faster than my enemy who is trying to pass me. I must pass him before he passes me. I will …

My car and I know that what counts in driving is not the gas we burn, the noise of our exhaust, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the speed that counts. We will speed …

My car is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its accelerator and its wheels. I will keep my car clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will …

Before God, I swear this creed. My car and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of the highway. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no traffic, but peace. Amen.

 

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