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Posts from the "Caltrans" Category

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SFMTA Installs Bike Lanes With Road Diet on Section of Outer Sloat

The SFMTA installed bike lanes on outer Sloat Boulevard last week, re-purposing two of the street’s six traffic lanes between the Great Highway and Skyline Boulevard next to the San Francisco Zoo.

This one-mile redesign was one of the latter projects to be installed as part of the SF Bike Plan. There’s still a gap between these bike lanes and the buffered bike lanes that run on Sloat between Everglade Drive and 19th Avenue, which were installed in January 2012 by Caltrans. Between Skyline and 19th Avenue, Caltrans has jurisdiction over Sloat because it’s part of Highway 35. Word from SFMTA staffers, however, is that they’re working on a plan with Caltrans to close the gap.

With plenty of room for protected bike lanes, there seems to be a major missed opportunity on this stretch. But the Bike Plan was finished in 2005, when the SFMTA wasn’t generally as ambitious as it might be today (though the agency has upgraded a number of other Bike Plan projects since it was approved).

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Improving Daly City’s “Top of the Hill” for Walking and Transit

John Daly Boulevard and Mission Street are still car-centric roads, but that is starting to change for the better with the completion of the Centennial Transit Plaza, shown here under construction earlier this year. Photo: City of Daly City

Last Saturday, Daly City officials and residents convened to celebrate a newly built transit plaza, the centerpiece of the long-awaited $3.4 million Top of the Hill project, which includes a series of pedestrian and streetscape improvements along three blocks of Mission Street between John Daly Boulevard and Parkview Avenue. The project was constructed with $2.3 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and $700,000 from the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans).

Wider sidewalks, curb extensions, and new red-brick crosswalks on Mission Street at Vista Grande Avenue in Daly City. Photo: City of Daly City

Top of the Hill is the most significant street re-design project carried out to date as part of the Grand Boulevard Initiative, a collaboration between 19 different public entities that seeks to improve walking, biking, and transit, and to enable transit oriented development that can help reduce traffic congestion along El Camino Real from Daly City to San Jose.

Because San Mateo and San Francisco counties operate separate transit systems, bus riders traveling between Daly City and San Francisco are forced to transfer at the county line (except those riding SamTrans Bus 391, which serves downtown San Francisco). The new Centennial Transit Plaza, named in honor of the city’s 100th anniversary in 2011, is located on the northwest corner of John Daly Boulevard and Mission Street. It’s one of two important transfer locations in Daly City, serving 600 to 800 SamTrans bus riders every day. The other transfer location – between the SamTrans, Muni, and BART systems – is the Daly City BART Station, located a half-mile to the west.

People can now walk across Mission Street on the north side of the intersection, where a red-brick crosswalk replaced "No Ped Crossing" signs, to access the new transit plaza. Photos: Google Maps (left), City of Daly City (right).

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The Sorry State of Caltrans’ Dumbarton Bridge and Bay Trail

Debris on Dumbarton Bridge

Garbage and debris on the Dumbarton Bridge frequently reduce the usable width of the mixed-use path from eight feet to six feet. Photos: Andrew Boone

The Dumbarton Bridge, which connects Menlo Park in southern San Mateo County with Fremont in the East Bay, remains the only bridge that allows bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the San Francisco Bay from east to west, with an eight-foot wide path on its southern side. From the bridge, the path continues for three miles along Bayfront Expressway (Highway 84) through Menlo Park to Marsh Road. It’s an important biking and walking connection for both commuting and recreation.

Longitudinal cracks on the Bay Trail.

Longitudinal cracks on the Bay Trail near Marsh Road. These cracks can easily catch the front wheel of a bicycle, causing over-the-handlebars crashes.

Poor maintenance of the bridge path and Bay Trail by Caltrans, however, continue to discourage use. The bridge path is not swept often enough to keep it free of glass and other debris, which reduces the usable width of the path from the minimum eight feet required by Caltrans’ own Highway Design Manual. Occasionally, large objects such as car bumpers and plastic buckets litter the path. From mid-May to mid-June, large piles of highway debris blocked a two-foot section of the path. The culprit? After the roadway was cleaned, the garbage that had accumulated there was dumped onto the car-free path. Though the large items littering the path have been removed, glass shards and dirt remain.

John Fox, who has commuted by bike from Fremont to Stanford University for the last 13 years, finds the bumpy, pothole-filled conditions of Marshlands Road, used to access the bridge from the East Bay, a greater challenge. “That road is horrible, it’s like a cheese grater,” he said. “In the winter time a lot of us ride until dark, and then it’s pretty dangerous.”

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Park Areas Under Central Freeway Downsized to Retain Caltrans Parking

Left: The original vision for the conversion of a Caltrans parking lot into a dog run, basketball courts, and a playground. Right: The final plan, which will build only the dog run in order to retain most of the parking lot. Images: Department of Public Works

A plan to convert parking lots under the Central Freeway near Duboce and Valencia Streets into a skate park and dog run is moving forward, but it won’t include basketball courts or a children’s playground as originally envisioned by residents.

Because the city will have to lease the land from Caltrans, which owns and collects revenue from the existing parking lots, city officials involved in planning the long-delayed parks projects say budget constraints left them with no choice but to allow the state department of transportation to retain a large section of the parking lot at the expense of park space.

“The City Parking Area is a vital revenue component to making the entire lease structure with Caltrans feasible; thus helping to fund the projects and keep them moving forward,” wrote Gloria Chan, a spokesperson for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, in a February email to residents. ”Without this revenue, we would not be able to plug the funding gap needed for these projects.”

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim introduced legislation this week to establish agreements between Caltrans and city agencies to move the project forward, and construction on the skate and dog parks are expected to begin this summer. She praised the project planners, but made no comment on the downsizing.

The SF Examiner reported details of the deal last month:

Under the terms of the lease deal, Caltrans will receive $10,000 a month for 20 years, with rent increasing by 2 percent every year. The Recreation and Park Department — the agency in charge of maintaining the park — will pay $85,000 a year for the site. Public Works will pay $66,000 a year.

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After Death of Hanren Chang, Meager Safety Fixes May Not Come for 2 Years

Friends and family mourning the death of Hanren Chang, a 17-year-old Lowell High School student who was killed on Sloat Boulevard last Saturday night by driver 29-year-old Kieran Brewer, are calling for safety fixes to prevent future deaths on the excessively-wide speedway. Brewer was arraigned yesterday on felony charges of DUI and felony vehicular manslaughter.

Hanren Chang. Photo via Change.org

Some safety improvements are already in the works for three intersections on Sloat, including the one where Chang was killed — but they’re not scheduled to be implemented for at least another 18 months, according to a memo from the SF County Transportation Authority [PDF]. The Board of Supervisors coincidentally approved a $797,000 federal grant on Tuesday to plan and construct sidewalk bulb-outs and flashing pedestrian beacons, and adjourned the meeting in honor of Chang. But as the SF Chronicle reported today, the plan is only set to be designed by the end of the next fiscal year — June 2014 — and built within a year after that.

Caltrans, which has jurisdiction over state Highway 35 (which includes Sloat), did implement a road diet in January 2012 on the stretch where Chang was killed, converting two lanes to buffered bike lanes and installing more visible crosswalk designs and signage.

But Sloat, where drivers are invited to speed on an excessively wide roadway, remains a deadly place for pedestrians, as Anyan Cheng, a close friend of Chang’s who launched a petition for safety improvements, told the Chronicle. ”It’s like a freeway in a residential area,” she said. “People don’t stop for you. Drivers don’t see you.”

As Streetsblog has reported, 54-year-old Feng Lian Zhu was killed by a driver in January 2010 on Sloat near Forest View Drive — the same intersection where Chang was killed. In 2011, 33 traffic crashes occurred at Sloat intersections, according to police data. In those crashes, two pedestrians were injured at Everglade Drive and 44th Avenue, and two bicycle riders were injured at 19th Avenue, also a state highway.

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Mayor’s Transpo Chief: “Let’s Be San Francisco and Take Down the Freeway”

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The 280 freeway looking from Potrero Hill, where it divides the neighborhood from Mission Bay. Photo: Michael Patrick/Flickr

The idea of removing the northern section of Highway 280 near Mission Bay is gaining more traction as planners look for ideal ways to usher in high-speed rail and transit-oriented development in downtown San Francisco.

At a SPUR forum yesterday, Mayor Ed Lee’s transportation policy director, Gillian Gillett, sketched out a proposal to follow in the footsteps of the removals of the Embarcadero Freeway and a section of the Central Freeway, which revitalized the neighborhoods the roads used to divide. As Adina Levin at Green Caltrain reported, Gillett argued that replacing the elevated portion of I-280 with a street-level boulevard, from its current terminus at 4th and King Streets south to 16th Street, would improve the livability of the area, open up land to develop new neighborhoods, provide funding through real estate revenue, and open up engineering solutions to facilitate the extension of Caltrain and CA High-Speed Rail to the planned Transbay Transit Center.

If the freeway is left to stand, its pillars would present an engineering obstacle to running the train tracks undergound, meaning the only other feasible way to allow rail tracks to safely and expediently cross 16th Street would be to dip 16th underneath the tracks. And that would make the intersection — a gateway to Mission Bay — even more hostile for people walking and biking than it already is.

As past cases have shown, creating a surface street where that part of I-280 now stands and integrating it into the neighborhood would actually reduce overall car traffic. In a moment that would make the city’s mid-20th Century freeway protesters proud, Gillett told the crowd, “Let’s be San Francisco and take down the freeway.”

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe called the proposal “an exciting opportunity to re-orient our city around sustainable public transportation and create a more walkable city.”

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Mapping a Fully Transit-Connected Bay Area

Brian Stokle's map envisions how the Bay Area region could possibly be connected by future transit projects -- some planned, some only envisioned -- including high-speed rail, BART extensions, and BRT lines. Image via The Atlantic Cities

Imagine the freedom of being able to hop on a nearby train or bus to reach virtually any place in the Bay Area (and beyond) on an integrated network of reliable transit.

That’s the vision cartographer Brian Stokle sought to lay out in a map featured in the latest issue of SPUR‘s monthly magazine, The Urbanist. In a recent article in The Atlantic Cities, Urbanist editor Allison Arieff says that the map, along with another map of existing regional transit that Stokle created, “have generated a lot of conversation (and some controversy) — which is exactly what they were meant to do”:

The majority of the projects, routes, and modes shown in Stokle’s proposed “Future” map (or some might argue, “Utopian”) reflect current Bay Area planning. However in some cases, the mode or route has been changed. In other instances, some new routes have been suggested. For example, BART to Livermore and Dumbarton Rail are two projects that are not included in this map. Instead, access to Livermore from BART is provided by bus rapid transit, and the Dumbarton corridor is served by rapid bus service. New projects that are not currently part of planning, or are in their early phases include projects like the Oakland Emeryville streetcar down Broadway, Capitol Corridor crossing at Vallejo, and 101 Rapid in the Peninsula.

Some ideas are old, some more novel. In San Francisco, the controversial Central Subway (now under construction) is shown extending all the way to Lombard and Van Ness to meet the coming BRT line, which is also extended to connect the Transbay Terminal to Marin County via the Golden Gate Bridge (where a BART line was fought off in the 60′s).

What would it take to bring a comprehensive vision like this into reality, and which projects could be feasibly built? Regional planners are currently figuring that out as they develop the Bay Area’s 25-year Sustainable Communities Strategy and Regional Transportation Plan. Next month, staff from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s transportation financing agency, will present a list of the transit projects they determine to be the most beneficial and cost-effective to build in the coming years. Stay tuned to Streetsblog for more on that.

In the meantime, check out Stokle’s map of the existing regional transit network — one of SPUR’s ideas for saving transit – after the break.

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Commentary: Caltrans Pulls the Rug Out From a Block of Cesar Chavez

The new plan for this block of Cesar Chavez, which includes an additional lane on the north side rather than a parking lane on the south side. Image: SF Dept. of Public Works.

Snowballs are piling up in hell. I’m about to defend car parking.

The rug has been pulled out from under those living on the nastiest block on Cesar Chavez between Hampshire and York, closest to the 101 highway ramps. With only a belated chance to weigh in on changes to the design that never underwent the public scrutiny of the rest of the plan, a decision to add a one-block westbound traffic lane and remove a parking lane on the south side to make room for a curbside bike lane was made at the behest of Caltrans (which is providing $5 million for the project).

Since 1997, the southernmost lane on that block has been a part-time bike lane, part-time parking lane — a compromise that never satisfied anyone. Through the recent five-year redesign process, the plan shifted to include a full-time bike lane next to a full-time parking lane. Residents who had opposed the bike lane back in the 90s applauded that plan.

Although the change was originally scheduled at an SFMTA engineering hearing on January 6 along with several other improvements on the street, it was postponed until February 17 because the legally required postings were not done on the affected block. However, several residents never got the message. They learned about the January hearing only the night before and hastily took off work to testify. I went to City Hall, too, to testify in their support while wearing full cyclist regalia.

Why should I care about these car parking spaces? Several reasons, in addition to the lousy hearing notification:

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Engineers Unveil Designs for Bike/Ped Path on Bay Bridge West Span

The long-sought addition of bicycle and pedestrian access across the length of the San Francisco Bay Bridge is one step closer to fruition. Last night, engineers presented the first design proposals for a pathway for bicyclists, pedestrians and maintenance crews to the west span, but they say the funding and technical challenges that lie ahead mean the project is still in its infancy.

Images: MTC

For more than 15 years, bicycle advocates in San Francisco and the East Bay have pushed for a west span path to connect bike commuters to the east span path expected to open between Oakland to Yerba Buena Island by 2014.

“We’re very encouraged that Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) have come up with a design that works for the west span and the touchdown on either end,” said Dave Campbell, the program director for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

“This new study not only affirms the feasibility and benefits of the pathway, it also puts this important project in line for funding,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. “Now, the city and the region are showing their commitment to connect not only the East Bay and San Francisco, but also San Francisco’s own neighborhoods, which is critical as Treasure Island is developed. This is an exciting step for a much-needed bridge between communities.”

The project would still take up to ten years to plan and construct once the estimated $500 to $550 million in funding is secured, said John Goodwin, spokesperson for the MTC, which manages regional transportation funding. Last night’s presentation of the project study report, funded by toll revenue, was just one step in developing the project initiation document, expected to be completed next summer, which will allow agencies to begin the funding search. After that, roughly five years of planning and five years of construction lie ahead.

The study report “shows that the project is possible, but not that it’s affordable,” said Goodwin.

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Commentary: Caltrans Should Relinquish Local Main Streets

Photo: pbo31

City planners have been talking about Complete Streets for awhile now. I half expected it to go the way of the Transit First Policy wave that swept California and the U.S. a decade ago; that is to say, a lot of talk, many well-intentioned policies, but mostly business as usual for transportation priorities. I am pleased to say that I think this one is really taking hold.

San Francisco has been at the forefront of this trend with the preparation of the Better Streets Plan, which despite lack of a capital improvement program or implementation actions, has been used very effectively by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) to exact improvements from developers and assure that city-funded/built roadway projects comply with best practices for accommodating transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

But you would expect such things from San Francisco. How is the auto-dominated Caltrans doing?  Caltrans first adopted something akin to a Complete Streets Policy in 2000 – Deputy Directive 64 – and updated that directive in 2008 [pdf].  Highlights are:

•    “The Department views all transportation improvements as opportunities to improve safety, access, and mobility for all travelers in California and recognizes bicycle, pedestrian, and transit modes as integral elements of the transportation system.
•    The  Department  develops  integrated  multimodal  projects  in  balance  with community  goals, plans, and value”

Caltrans has also developed the Smart Mobility Framework, California Blueprint for Bicycling and Walking [pdf] and Complete Intersections [pdf].  More recently, Caltrans has updated its Highway Design Manual1 to, among other things:

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