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Archive for the 'Caltrans' Category

the government deserves more credit

OK, so I was hasty after all. Seems that my last post did not give enough credit to the Bush Administration’s attempts to help improve intercity passenger rail. I suspect its efforts have more to do with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ pragmatic approach to funding, i.e., we can do more with less if we channel more into public transportation.

Today I got another note from the Federal Rail Administration, which falls under USDoT’s umbrella:

I saw your blog entry.  I am glad my message was of use to you.  Your main point seems to be that $30 million is not enough.  We agree.  As I wrote in my email cover message to you, the Bush Administration had requested $100 million for this grant program for the current FY08 budget, but Congress Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Caltrans, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, rail, Transit vs. driving | 4 Comments »

burning bridges at Caltrans

richmond-bridge-bike-lane2.jpg

Normally, when Caltrans talks about safety, I’m inclined to take what they say at face value. But when they start messing with my compagni di biciclette, I have to wonder.

Thus it was this week when I heard that Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi explained to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that a bike lane across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was, in a word, impossibile.

Why?

It’s too dangerous. Cars might run into the moveable concrete barrier separating the bikes and pedestrians from traffic lanes and they might bounce back into the other traffic lane, creating worse accidents.

I can see that. As a matter of fact, this morning on my way down I-80 in Albany, I not only put my anti-lock brakes to the test when traffic suddenly went Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008
Under: Bay Bridge, Bicycling, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Environment, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | 6 Comments »

clairvoyant traffic reports?

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I get a fair number of calls from people with wacky stories or ideas, like the guy who called the other day and thought that BART’s computers were under the control of evil hackers. I wanted to tell him that evil hackers only subvert sophisticated, post-1990s software.

Today I got a call from somebody whom I could believe, although I have no solid foundation to do so or not. Still, what he said makes sense and I’ll let that be the blog’s verification standard for today.

As so often happens with these calls, he’d gotten my number from a story, this one about a U.C. Berkeley test on I-880 of a real-time traffic reporting system that relies on cell phones with GPS. It’s a tidy little concept: No sensors except the satellites for the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
Under: 511, BART, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, technology | No Comments »

for whom the debt tolls

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In his first report on the California’s indebtedness, state treasurer Bill Lockyer’s graphic artist elicited a few chuckles at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a.k.a the Bay Area Toll Authority.

The Debt Affordability Report has a lovely picture of hands holding binoculars, the right lens containing the Bay Bridge’s $1 billion skyway section and the left fitted with the $1.43 billion Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 1st, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls | No Comments »

the real change on the Bay Bridge

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Throughout last weekend and the week before, I was constantly shaking off attempts to write anything about FasTrak changes on the Bay Bridge.

Why? Because it’s boring. Moving a 6,700-ton slab of earthquake-stressed concrete two stories in the air is a lot more compelling. At any other time, I would have been all over the FasTrak story.

It’s not just that I had better things to do. It’s that it’s difficult to look at that map and say what’s so different about it. They’ve moved some lanes around, they’ve added one and they’ve made the approach lanes longer by 2,000 feet.

The latter change I think most regulars will agree is a big improvement. I’m a Carquinez user myself, and I was positively bubbling Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2007
Under: 511, art, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Funding, maps, tolls | No Comments »

Caltrans’ finest two hours

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What a difference a weekend makes. Who said Caltrans was risk-averse? They daren’t say it to Will Kempton’s face tomorrow at 5 p.m., or maybe 4 p.m., to quote contractor C.C. Myers, the “patron saint of Bay Area Commuters.”

After being on my feet for 10 hours watching and listening to the demolition of the Yerba Buena Island Viaduct and having to file an unsatisfying story saying that job had gotten slightly bogged down, I had to stay for a few more hours to see if something else was going to happen.

It really wansn’t as spontaneous as all that, to be honest. I had my sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the family Toyota, and was looking for a chance to hop a Caltrans shuttle across the closed and severed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans | 1 Comment »

Caltharsis

never-get-to-work-sign.jpg I hate making commitments. Never mind that I’ve been married for 19 years and four months, I just don’t like to say yes to something and then find out that something else is more pressing and disappoint someone.

Still, I found myself exiting the Montgomery St. BART/Muni station this afternoon, doing the “talk to the hand” gesture to someone who was trying to hand me a leaflet of some sort. I felt slightly guilty, having once handed out leaflets myself back when I was a starving student.

I had committed to sit on a panel discussing transportation in California. That I would be invited to share my opinion about something I know very little about was sure to be an ego boost, so I jumped at the chance. Accepting the $175 stipend (to cover one’s expenses… BART fare, $5, parking, $6, lost speaking engagement fees, $164… hmm… that works out perfectly) was regrettably Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2007
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, connectivity, driving, Freeway collapse, Freeways, Retrofitting | No Comments »

ok, i’ll say it: stay home on Labor Day weekend

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We journalists are fond of disseminating news, or information that is new or previously unknown.

But today I’m going to tell nearly every one of you something that we’ve known for some months now, on the theory that one or two of you will be backing out of your caves on Labor Day weekend with the intention of driving somewhere.

Just to get your attention, I’ll put it the way Caltrans does on its variable message signs on all routes leading into the Bay Area:

The Bay Bridge is closed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, Buses, Caltrans, connectivity, driving, ferries, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »

gold and silver we have none, have we none …


I wanted to believe that the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis would spark a renaissance in infrastructure maintenance.

 To any causal observer, it has. There are bills in Congress, inspections by Caltrans and panel discussiosn on the radio talking about this terrible problem of how our highways, bridges, levees and aqueducts are so badly looked after that a major bridge can pitch commuters into the Mississippi during rush hour.

Silly me.

It isn’t the first time a big bridge has collapsed, and legislatures have been spurred to action, boldly proclaiming their Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
Under: Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Funding, Safety, tolls | 3 Comments »

my 15 minutes


As if all my histrionics over the MacArthur Maze collapse weren’t enough, someone is making a movie about the April 29 gasoline tanker truck mishap.

I know this because they interviewed me today for the movie, and it was so cool.

The short movie, with the working title of “Amazing,” is being done by the same people who brought us the Emmy Award-winning “The Bridge So Far,” which featured my predecessor, Sean Holstege, as one of two journalist talking heads for the comedic documentary.

Sean, alas, has Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2007
Under: art, Bay Bridge, Caltrans, driving, Freeway collapse, Freeways, Funding, Safety | No Comments »