Dharma Cloud Foundation PO Box 1066                                   Tel: 707 937-3001
Mendocino, CA 95460                       Fax: 707 937-3192

September 27, 2000

Senator Wes Chesbro
California Senate
Sacramento, California

Dear Senator Chesbro:

Thank you for your interest in better railings for California scenic highways, both inland and on the coast.  Mr. Woolley has attended several Coastal Commission meetings in which scenic railings have been discussed.  He can give you a feeling for the difficulty in getting Caltrans forthright cooperation in approving the best scenic railing that is available Ė the Wyoming Rail.

The Wyoming Rail has passed rigorous crash tests, the same tests Caltrans uses to develop railings, and it has been accepted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for use on the Interstate Highway System.  Based on Caltrans own statements to the Coastal Commission during permit hearing for the Noyo Bridge, the Wyoming Rail meets the safety criteria that Caltrans applies in approving railings for use in California.  Why then is Caltrans refusing to accept the Wyoming Rail for use in California?  I hope you can help to find the answer.

To understand the current situation, some history will be helpful.  Iíve enclosed a paper entitled, The Cal-Transmogrification of Scenic Bridge Railings.  I prepared this to give the Coastal Commission a context for a Caltrans Bridge Rail Workshop presented in December 1999.  If you take a few minutes now to read it, you will see that the aesthetics and transparency of bridge railings in California have steadily declined since the early, grand days of California bridges.  The standard bridge ďrailĒ of Caltrans today is a solid concrete barrier that completely blocks views.

One of the outcomes of the controversy over the proposed Noyo Bridge and its degrading of views has been the beginning of an effort to qualify a better scenic railing for California.  Unfortunately, rather than working enthusiastically to approve the best available railing, Caltrans has resisted the desires of the Coastal Commission, ignored information that Iíve provided as long as possible, and raised one unfounded reason after another to reject the Wyoming Rail. 

Iíve included an annotated chronology of the Noyo Bridge replacement project and related railing design developments.  This chronology details how Caltrans has gone from one rationale to another for its rejection of the Wyoming Rail.  None of its rationales have stood up to analysis, yet as of the date of this writing, it continues to push for building a sample of what it inappropriately calls a ďmodified Wyoming Rail.Ē  Its rail bears no resemblance to the simple, visually transparent, aesthetically pleasing Wyoming Rail. 

What Caltrans needs to do is build a true Wyoming Rail for Commissioners and other interested parties, such as you, to see for themselves.  There is no doubt in my mind which of the available alternative railings you would prefer.

Iíve enclosed copies of several of the letters that have passed among the Commission, Caltrans, and me.  These show that the Commission has been trying to get Caltrans to explain why it doesnít approve an unmodified Wyoming Rail.  To date, no response has been forthcoming.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have.  I didnít want to overwhelm you with information, but I can supply additional documentation on all of the matters considered in the enclosed material.

Thank you for your interest and help.




Vince Taylor

Executive Director


CC.: John Woolley (with enclosures)


1.      The Cal-Transmogrification of Bridge Railings

2.      An Annotated Chronology of the New Noyo Bridge and Scenic Railing Design [An early version, now replaced and updated.]

3.      Letter from Sara Wan to Jeff Morales, Director, Caltrans, August 10, 2000.

4.      Letter from Steve Scholl to John Allison, Caltrans, August 14, 2000.

5.      Letter from Vince Taylor to Coastal Commission, July 14, 2000.

6.      Letter from Vince Taylor to Steve Scholl, April 6, 2000 (w/o enclosures)