Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

When San Francisco removed the Embarcadero and Central freeways, it helped launch a property boom that made the city’s real estate some of the most valuable in the country. Across the Bay, Oakland is seeing a similar renaissance with the removal of Lake Merritt’s 12th Street Viaduct and the Cypress freeway relocation. Oakland (yes Oakland) has now passed San Jose to become the nation’s 4th hottest rental market. There is now talk in Oakland of removing I980 as well.

Inner-city highway removal has been so successful, you have to wonder why many cities cling to their outdated design. A really awful example of this backwards thinking can be found in Sacramento with the Capital City freeway:

It’s the Sacramento region’s worst freeway bottleneck, by far. Every day, traffic comes to a standstill on the Capital City Freeway near the American River. The snarls are even worse some Saturdays.

Now, after years of debating what to do, state and local leaders say they’ve reached a resolution: It’s time to drop the small-town mindset and go for a big fix.

Caltrans has begun laying the groundwork for a $700 million freeway widening from midtown to the junction with Interstate 80. That includes widening the American River bridge to add a new multi-use lane in each direction, as well as building wider shoulders for stalled cars to pull over, a separate lane on the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, and other improvements. The proposed project area is 8 miles long.

The questions: Where will the money come from, and how long will it take to get done?

Caltrans officials say the project is so big and the funding sources so uncertain that it may not happen for a decade. That timeline is typical for major transportation projects in California.

But the region’s population is expected to grow in that time, including new housing adjacent to the Capital City Freeway at McKinley Village, putting more pressure on an already failing freeway. That section of the Capital City Freeway accounts for one-third of the Sacramento Valley’s freeway delays, which state highway data pegs at 3 million wasted hours.

Some history: The Capital City freeway formed the original I80 alignment through Sacramento. It is one of those notorious 1960’s projects, which blasted highways through the middle of cities. Because it did not meet modern interstate standards, it was replaced by a new I80 beltway that went through north Sacramento. At that point, the Capital City freeway had largely outlived its original purpose — and yet the ugly elevated structure has remained.

Underneath the elevated structure, the old street grid remains. The neighborhood retains some of the classic craftsman houses. There is now light rail and a respectable amount of pedestrian activity from the nearby government office buildings.

Replacing the freeway with an at-grade boulevard would transform the neighborhood. And it would move the car traffic more efficiently. That is a much better outcome than spending $700 million and 10 years, just to make traffic worse.

sacr2

Caltrans headquarters on the left, Capital City freeway on the right. Streetcar tracks running under and across the highway.

sac_aerial

Aerial view

sac_widen_map

Read Full Post »

When a celebrity crashes a plane, or is rear-ended by a truck, the NTSB will make a thorough investigation. But for the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists killed and injured each year, the NTSB has no interest in researching the cause of the collision.

A review of this year’s archive of accident recommendations shows the NTSB made dozens of recommendations for aviation, railroads, pipelines, and highways. But there is nothing related to non-motorized road users.

In fact, the last time the NTSB looked at a bike or ped issue was way back in the year 1972. Apparently, the NTSB believes the US has the most perfect infrastructure for bikes and peds.

When Congress created the NTSB, the purpose was to provide outside, independent guidance to transport planners. And since traffic engineers have such a huge blind spot for bikes and peds, one would think that a Vision-Zero policy would be the top high priority for the NTSB. Unfortunately, there is nobody at the agency, either at the staff or Board level, that seems to have any awareness of the issue.

Read Full Post »

rob_fordToronto has two systems of justice. One for normal folk, and another for crack-smoking drunk-driving Mayors:

Toronto police officers helped Rob Ford on “multiple occasions” after stopping his vehicle while he was still mayor, rather than charge him with driving impaired, his former chief of staff says.

The allegation emerged Saturday in an excerpt from a soon to-be-released book by Mark Towhey titled Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable. “Two senior members of the Toronto Police Service had told me officers had pulled over the mayor’s car late at night on multiple occasions and driven him home rather than charging him for driving under the influence.”

Read Full Post »

Justice is Blind

Here is another one of those outrageous cases, where a driver can hit and kill a cyclist without consequence:

The felony conviction for an attorney who killed a Chinese tourist in a hit-and-run crash in 2011 was reduced to a misdemeanor by an Alameda County judge on Friday over “strenuous objection” by prosecutors, according to the district attorney’s office.

Hayward Judge Michael Gaffey also changed the terms of the sentence he handed down to Spencer Freeman Smith just two weeks ago, much to the chagrin of an American friend of the man Smith killed.

“Obviously, I am not a judge or a lawyer but, for me, using common sense, it’s an outrageous decision,” said Dr. Arnold Owens of Oakland. “Everything has gone so much in favor of the defendant, it seems like some shenanigans are going on.”

Smith, 36, was living in San Ramon working as a San Francisco labor attorney on March 12, 2012 when, after a night of drinking with a paralegal from his firm, he fatally struck 57-year-old Chinese financial adviser Bo Hu on Dougherty Road in Dublin, prosecutors say. Hu was in the country for his fiancee’s relative’s graduation and was killed while he was walking a bicycle.

Smith did not stop or even brake at the scene and was apprehended by Dublin police investigators after they matched broken vehicle parts left at the scene to his brand new Mercedes-Benz sedan.

Oh, did I mention that the driver is blind in one eye? Incredibly, that fact worked in his favor:

“Anyone driving down that dark roadway could have hit Mr. Hu; it just happened to be Mr. Smith,” he said. “The judge recognized that this was a tragic accident and Mr. Smith was in a more vulnerable situation because he is blind in his right eye.”

The Judge did not even take away Smith’s driving license. Though I suppose the real question is why the California DMV gives out driving licenses to people blind in one eye.

Read Full Post »

Blame the victim

A driver illegally crosses a double yellow line to pass, and fatally hits a bicyclist coming the other direction. Of course, the CHP says the driver was not at fault:

The accident unfolded after a vehicle moved toward the center of the road to pass one of the racers, CHP Sgt. Andy Hill said. As the driver moved to pass, she failed to see a second racer, riding near the middle of the road in the opposite direction, Hill said. The car was traveling about 35 mph and the bicyclist about 30 mph when they collided, according to the CHP.

“Unfortunately the (victim) was not riding on the far right side of the lane. He was riding in the middle of the road where the yellow line is,” Hill said. Hill said both parties contributed to the collision. Cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible, he said, while cars are required to have appropriate space before passing. Authorities have not identified the driver, a 35-year-old woman from Esparto. No charges or arrests have been made.

It is disappointing (but not all that surprising) that the CHP misinterprets both the 3-foot passing law and CVC 21202. CVC 21202 permits cyclists to move to the center of the lane for any number of reasons: to avoid hazards, or when the lane is substandard width. As in so many car-bike collisions, the police in this case found creative legal interpretations to absolve a driver of her dangerous and illegal behavior.

Read Full Post »

The dreaded 85% rule strikes again:

Princeton residents spoke sharply against a Caltrans proposal to raise the speed limit on Highway 45 through the town at a meeting on Thursday.Representatives from Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, along with Colusa County authorities, staged the meeting at Princeton High School’s cafeteria to explain the proposal to raise the speed limit from 35 to 40 mph.

Many residents at the meeting were not persuaded. They said the increase would only encourage travelers to speed even more through their community. Residents said the stretch of road in question has blind left turns, unprotected pedestrian crossing and no sidewalks, and and they said they’ve seen people driving up to 80 mph through the area.

One reason for the speeding is that CHP rarely patrols the highway. The result is a downward spiral: lack of enforcement leads to speeding, whereupon the CHP just raises the speed limit:

Caltrans representative Don Rushton said, a speed limit set too low causes frustration, road rage and other unreasonable driving conditions. “Arbitrarily low limits become speed traps,” he said. That comment drew a laugh from many in the crowd, who said the CHP rarely enforces the speed limit in the area. CHP Lt. Etic Walker, Williams area commander, said that since the economic downturn, the CHP’s office has been sorely understaffed.

Caltrans will also be raising the speed limit through Willits:

Caltrans is planning to raise the speed limits on Highway 20 by 5 miles per hour in the stretch immediately approaching the city of Willits from Fort Bragg, as a result of regularly mandated engineering and traffic surveys. The speeds will be raised from 30 to 35 mph, from 40 to 45 mph, and from 50 to 55 mph between post markers 32.5 and 33.0, a zone which includes three local road intersections and one route to Blosser Lane Elementary School.

Caltrans officials also met with Willits city officials including Chief of Police Gerardo Gonzalez, who expressed their concerns about maintaining adequate safety measures on the 20, particularly to protect pedestrians and bicyclists who may be crossing at the Blosser Lane intersection.

“I think locals tend to avoid that route,” said Gonzalez, “you’re not seeing kids walk there the way they used to.

Pedestrian accommodation is needed. But in order to secure Caltrans approval there needs to be sufficient pedestrian traffic. Again, it is a downward spiral — higher speeds means fewer pedestrians:

Hill said the survey did not demonstrate enough pedestrian volume to consider greater pedestrian safety measures such as a “pedestrian refuge,”

Schoolkids running across Hwy 20

Schoolkids run for their lives across Hwy 20

Read Full Post »

Parking garages are wasteful and environmentally damaging. So of course the industry has invented a greenwashing campaign, called the Green Parking Council:

LAS VEGAS – July 1, 2015) — The Green Parking Council (GPC) today announced the first seven parking facilities in the U.S. to achieve Green Garage Certification, a comprehensive sustainability standard for existing and new parking facilities evaluating 48 elements of garage operation, programs, structure, and technology. The Green Garage Certification program will be delivered and promoted globally by the Green Business Certification, Inc., the certification body for the U.S. Green Building Council’s global LEED® green building rating system.

“Cars are getting smarter, people are getting smarter, and parking garages are getting smarter,” explains Paul Wessel, executive director of the GPC, an affiliate of the International Parking Institute. “The greening of parking facilities transforms them into enablers of sustainable mobility. Certified Green Garages offer significant benefits for drivers, tenants, building owners, property managers, and society overall.”

When parking garages are built with green elements, it is often to mitigate stupid planning decisions. That is certainly the case with the 7 “winners”. In a way, we can thank the GPC for finding the country’s most ridiculous parking garages — a list which includes the following:

  • Silver Spring Metro Plaza – parking garage built at a Washington Metro “intermodal” station.
  • Bank of America Plaza – situated in downtown Los Angeles, near several Metro stops, and dozens of bus lines.
  • Westpark Corporate Center – another facility near the Washington Metro, and located in a Tysons neighborhood that certainly doesn’t lack for parking.

Also on the list is the Corrnell University Forest Home Garage. It deserves special recognition for most ironic location of a “green” parking garage. The 3-level facility was built (at considerable expense) under the new Human Ecology building, in a prime lakefront location:

Constructed in 2009, Forest Home is a 254-space garage located under the LEED Platinum-certified Human Ecology Building. Electric vehicle charging stations, building systems commissioning, nearby public green space and a highly efficient LED lighting system contributed to the certification. “Cornell’s pioneering efforts toward greening parking facilities is a tremendous source of pride for us” Bartt Smith, Transportation Services’ project specialist for GGC. “Progress continues toward the certification of the Hoy Field Garage.”

Congratulations to this year’s winners! And looking forward to learning about other sustainable, green parking garage from the GPC in the years to come…

forest_home_garage

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 90 other followers