Independent review calls Caltrans ‘out of date’ and cites ‘culture of fear’

By Charles Piller : sacbee – excerpt

An independent review of the California Department of Transportation, released Thursday, called for sweeping reforms of the department to improve mobility in the face of environmental challenges and a decline in the number of miles driven by Californians.

An independent review of the California Department of Transportation, released Thursday, called for sweeping reforms of the department to improve mobility in the face of environmental challenges and a decline in the number of miles driven by Californians.

Gov. Jerry Brown had ordered the $270,000 review – conducted by the State Smart Transportation Initiative at the University of Wisconsin, Madison – last May.

Joel Rogers, an author of the report, said in a news conference that his group found long-standing problems in Caltrans operations, including “a mission, vision and set of goals that are not well aligned” with current needs, such as legislation that mandates improved mobility while reducing traffic demand and greenhouse-gas emissions…

Brian Kelly, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, which includes Caltrans, agreed that culture change would be key to getting better results from Caltrans, including a new emphasis on keeping highways in good repair.

“It’s not OK to have highways ranked 48th nationally in terms of pavement condition” yet still prioritize new construction, he said. “ ‘Fix it first’ makes sense,” given current resources, he said… (more)

Witnesses tell lawmakers Caltrans compromised quality in Bay Bridge construction
Senate report: Caltrans ignored shoddy work on Bay Bridge in China and U.S.
Independent Transportation Review

San Francisco residents, businesses upset over proposed changes to Muni along Lombard St.

We are going to start demanding proof of service to the community of the notices they claim they are putting out. We need to see some proof that the notices were sent out. When they were sent out and signatures of the parties who posted the notices. No more “we posted notices on poles around the area and that suffices for public notice. We want legal
documentation to back up the claims.
Monday, August 31, 2015 – A new program has just been launched to make an iconic San Francisco street safer, in the wake of a recent shooting. (Protesting started a while ago.)

Bay Bridge builder in black despite penalties

Former SF Mayor Says Muni Is A Lost Cause

sfist – excerpt

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s love affair with the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency is clearly at an end, after an up-and-down romance that’s spanned decades. What’s replaced Muni in the mayor/lobbyist/Chron columnist’s heart? Driverless cars.

It’s been a long time since then-mayor Brown raced an Muni Metro down Market Street, at the conclusion of the 12-day-long Muni Meltdown of 1998. Back then, problems with the light rail system’s new automated control system led to what the SF Chronicle described as “the biggest fiasco in the railway’s history…[that] approached low comedy,” with “trips that were supposed to take 34 minutes took two hours, and thousands of patrons in the Muni Metro subway gave up on the trains and walked.” Though Brown and then-Muni-director Emilio Cruz vowed that things would improve, the Chron concluded that “though the train control system has been performing better, Muni is unable either to meet schedules or provide a minimum level of service.”…

Thought the Ex reports today that the (buggy to this day) train control system is finally getting an upgrade, Brown seems to think that Muni might get more milage out of the money put into those repairs if they burned the cash for heat.

Brown crapped all over Mayor Ed Lee’s recent announcement that San Francisco would be putting $48.1 million into the transit agency next year, saying in his weekend Chron column, that “Mayor Ed Lee just announced that we are going to spend $48 million to try to fix Muni. What a waste.”

“It’s time to accept the fact that Muni will never run on time spend enough to keep the system from collapsing and start thinking about alternatives like driverless cars.”…(more)

All it takes is a ride across town in any mode of transit to recognize that Muni is rigged to fail. Muni is not the only problem. It doesn’t take any union interference to take down BART. That aging system takes itself down. The Bay Bridge may be the costliest mistake of the decade. Taxpayers should demand recovery of funds on that one. The tests should be charged to the manufactures, contractors and/or engineers who accepted the rods.

On the political front, does this mean Brown will support an alternative Mayor in November? Is he joining Rose Pak and other political foes to oppose Ed Lee and the Ed Reiskin runaway team of street thugs?

E2 Anchor Rods – on the Bay Bridge

baybridgeinfo – excerpt

BATA Presentation on Bay Bridge Delay July 2013


The eastern pier of the Self-Anchored Suspension Span contains seismic devices called bearings and shear keys. The bearings allow the road-decks to move slightly during a seismic event, while the shear keys prevent the decks from moving too much. The four bearings (two beneath each deck) and four shear keys (one beneath each deck and two beneath the cross beam connecting the decks) are bolted between the roadways and a concrete cap beam with steel anchor rods. When 96 rods were tightened to connect two shear keys to the cap beam in March 2013, 32 broke.

The rods could not be tightened until the completion of load transfer, the process of shifting the weight of the suspension span from the temporary supports to the main cable. The process was completed in late 2012.

There are a total of 288 3-inch diameter rods, which range in length from 9 to 24 feet, anchoring the bases of the seismic devices to the top of the cap beam. Each bearing has 24 rods, and each shear key has 48.

Broken rods

On March 1, workers began stressing the 96 rods fabricated in 2008 for the two shear keys; between March 8 and March 15, 32 fractured rods were discovered.

Engineers and metallurgists have determined that the bolts broke due to hydrogen embrittlement, which requires a source of excess hydrogen, susceptible material and tension. Ongoing metallurgical analysis revealed that the bolts were susceptible due to the steel being harder on the outside than in the middle, or a lack of uniformity in the steel’s microstructure. The steel also showed low toughness and marginal ductility (the ability to stretch).

The excess hydrogen caused the threaded areas to become brittle and fracture under high tension when the bolts were tightened. An ongoing investigation is looking into the source of the excess hydrogen, which may have been both internal (i.e. residual from production) and/or external… (more)

CalBike Pushes for Protected Bike Lanes, Vulnerable User Laws in Sac

by Melanie Curry : – excerpt

The California Bicycle Coalition held its Advocacy Day this week in the state capitol to lobby legislators on several key policy reforms to promote bicycling.

Joined by local bicycle groups from around the state and participants who finished the California Climate Ride in Sacramento, CalBike met with state legislators and staffers and urged them to support two bills currently in play: one that would codify “separated bikeways,” or protected bike lanes, into state law and another that would increase penalties for drivers who injure vulnerable road users, primarily bicyclists and pedestrians. Advocates also urged lawmakers to support increased funding for projects that promote “active transportation,” a.k.a. walking and bicycling.

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) showed up to stump for his bill, A.B. 1193, which would require Caltrans to develop standards for protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks” or “separated bikeways,” which are not currently defined by statute in California. The state’s Streets and Highways Code defines three types of bike facilities: “paths,” “lanes,” and “routes,” each of which provide bicyclists with a different level of physical separation from motor traffic, and thus a different level of comfort and safety. “Cycle tracks,” which are on-street bike lanes separated from traffic by landscaping, parking, or a wide painted divider, don’t fit easily into any of the existing categories.

Although Caltrans recently endorsed the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide, which does include guidelines for creating cycle tracks, no standard for them currently exists in California law….

Advocates also sought support for A.B. 2398, the Vulnerable Road Users Protection Act, from Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). The bill would raise the penalties when a driver is convicted of causing injury to vulnerable road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. The idea is not only to deter reckless driving, but to spark a cultural shift away from assumption that drivers have more of a right to the road than other users… (more)

It is time to let our State Representatives know how we feel about all the new laws they are pushing. Let them know how you feel about the Restore Transportation Balance Initiative and how you feel about A.B. 1193 and A.B. 2398.

Even Bay Bridge Bike Path Was Overbudget, Flawed

By Chris Roberts : nbcbayarea – excerpt

Not even the bikes get a break.
The cost overruns, design flaws and faulty materials that have plagued the new Bay Bridge’s $6.4 billion eastern span also extend to the two-mile long bike path, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Problems with the railings on either side of the bike path — which today stops short of its future terminus on Yerba Buena Island; it is not slated to be completed until 2016 — were found in 2007 and 2008, the newspaper reported…
An extra $3.8 million was spent on fixing the problem — but one expert said that the headaches with the bike path are more proof that the bridge has not been built properly…
Caltrans inspector Greg Roth documented all the problems with the bridge, the newspaper reported, including emergency access gates which didn’t open properly, and flawed parts anchoring the fences….
These were determined “design flaws,” which meant the contractors did not need to fix them, the newspaper reported. This, Roth said, “displayed a total disregard” in fixing the problems.
Caltrans assures the public that the problems have been fixed and that the bike path is safe… (more)

Bay Bridge Official: “We see no reason to delay the opening of the bridge before the shear key fix is completed”

by – excerpt

Top state transportation officials today approved a plan to open the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge on Sept. 3, saying that it’s important for the public’s safety that the new bridge be in operation as soon as possible.
The unanimous vote by the state Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee at a meeting at the MetroCenter in Oakland ends five months of uncertainty about the fate of the bridge after nearly one-third of the 96 bolts that secure earthquake shock absorbers known as shear keys to the deck of the bridge failed when they were tightened in March… (more)

2013 has not been a kind year to San Francisco. Nothing seems to be going well and of all the things that are bad, the Bay Bridge Bolts story may be the most unsettling. Nothing the officials can say will make us feel safe at this point. The running joke in may office is, “where would be rather be in a major quake? The new Bay Bridge, the old Bay Bridge, or the BART tunnel?” The answer is, “Neither.”