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Archive for the 'Retrofitting' Category

for whom the debt tolls


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 »


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


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 »

seismic safety: a laugh riot


It should come as no surprise that in an era where “The Daily Show” is the main source of news for a plurality of Americans, that I should get my best lesson yet on the history of the new Bay Bridge from a comedic documentary commissioned by engineers.

 Shot in 2005 but first broadcast last September on public TV station KQED, “The bridge so far: A suspense story,” milks the ongoing earthquake retrofit-reconstruction saga for every possible laugh it can squeeze into 55 minutes.

I’d heard of several documentaries about the bridge and its troubles, but this one came to my attention this week when I found out it had been nominated for Northern California Emmy awards in both Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Caltrans, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety | 1 Comment »

it’s a date: Bay Bridge is closing

new-plans-for-yerba-buena-island.JPGWhen it comes to rebuilding the eastern span of the Bay Bridge (price: $5.6 billion), there are three main agencies that need to sign off on changes. Today the directors of those agencies met to determine your commuting future.

At issue is the expected Labor Day weekend closure of the entire bridge.

Last Labor Day, the lower (eastbound) deck had to be Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, April 6th, 2007
Under: AC Transit, BART, Bay Bridge, Buses, driving, Environment, Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 7 Comments »

what to do with $12.7 billion


I’ve pretty well covered what Gov. Schwarzenegger is doing with public transportation funding in next year’s (starting in July) state budget, so I won’t re-hash that here.

The question I’m going to nibble at, after enduring six hours of legislative budget subcommittee meetings this week, is what’s going on with the rest of the state’s normal transportation budget.

I’m not talking about the $20 billion Prop 1B transportation bond, which I’ve also spilt considerable ink over. That’s separate, or at least it was until the governor’s fiance people decided to snag Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2007
Under: Bay Bridge, Caltrans, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Freeways, Funding, rail, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »

10 things I learned in a year by the Bay

arriving-at-platform.jpgOn March 20, 2006, I arrived in Oakland to set myself up as an expert on Bay Area transportation. I’m still working on that, but I’ve learned a few things since then.

The first lesson, after living and working in the wilds of Central Maryland, remote Long Island and Southern California, was learning just what Bay Area commuters had to complain about.

I mean, this place has a mass transit system like no other west of the Mississippi, freeways that don’t back up at midnight and commuter trains that run after 7 p.m. Not to mention, its denizens make their homes in tight valleys that make perfect little transportation corridors, like, you know, the Livermore Valley.

Ok, so I had a lot to learn about Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2007
Under: 511, AC Transit, BART, Bay Bridge, Buses, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, Fare systems, ferries, Freeways, Funding, parking, rail, Retrofitting, Safety, tolls, transit equity, Transit vs. driving | 1 Comment »

power play across the Bay

sign_overhead_lines.gifIn one short lesson, I learned this week why it has taken so long to build the new Bay Bridge.

It seemed like such a small thing, a new cable to bring extra power to future development on Treasure Island.

Then it seemed an outrage: Metropolitan Transportation Commission members, sitting with their Bay Area Toll Authority hats on, were going to use bridge toll money to pay for this cable.

Adding to the outrage was that a representative of Pacific Gas & Electric showed up, dramatically offered to put in the cable and held up a check for $3.4 million that Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
Under: Bay Bridge, Funding, Retrofitting, tolls | No Comments »

“it is a practice likely to cease”

I received an interesting bit of e-mail today with the clever subject line, “Double-Decked Capriciousness?”

Reader John G. took issue with my story about the 50th anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, in which I attempted to put the freeway system into perspective with the help of Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute:

“The real crisis we’re facing is that coming in and out of our metropolitan areas,” he said. Interstates are “all built out to the sound walls,” and solutions like double decking aren’t viable after the deadly collapse of Interstate 880 in he 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

I-880 collapse.jpg

“We will need every bit of highway capacity that we can get our hands on … but at the same time, the population is going to double by 2040 and we’re never going to be able to sustain the trip requirements on available highways.”

John defended the double-deckers thusly:

The 280 extension immediately north of US 101 in San
Francisco is a seismically-sound double-decked freeway
with modern box girders, etc. Even the much less sound double-decked Central Freeway didn’t Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 15th, 2006
Under: Freeways, Funding, Retrofitting, Safety | No Comments »

stop hating Caltrans for a moment

It isn’t easy being Caltrans.

Like most state highway agencies, Caltrans has a reputation that lies somewhere between used-car salesmen and Darth Vader.

It’s to be expected, when your agency provides a service that most people take for granted (Do you ever think, “Wow, I’m so grateful that there’s a slab of asphalt, sand and gravel under my tires.” I didn’t think so.), worry about the damage it causes to the environment and are always mindful when it doesn’t perform up to unreasonable expectations (“Darn that Caltrans! Late for work again!”).

We journalists tend to have an even more jaundiced view of the agency, seeing as how we channel all of those negative vibes and stoke them to boiling whenever possible. The agency often exacerbates its unenviable position by doing what most of us would do when everyone hates us: Stonewalling. The sometime have the impression that anything they say can and will be used against them (And yes, oftentimes it’s in a court of law.).
smiley Caltrans West Approach.JPG
But along with the fish kills, the eminent domain property-seizing and the shoddy concrete contractor hiring, there is a Caltrans we couldn’t live without. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2006
Under: Bay Bridge, Caltrans, Freeways, Retrofitting, Safety | No Comments »