September 27, 2000
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
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
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.
CC.: John Woolley (with enclosures)
The Cal-Transmogrification of Bridge Railings
An Annotated Chronology of the New
Noyo Bridge and Scenic Railing Design
[An early version, now replaced and
Letter from Sara Wan to Jeff Morales, Director, Caltrans, August 10,
Letter from Steve Scholl to John Allison, Caltrans, August 14, 2000.
Letter from Vince Taylor to Coastal Commission, July 14, 2000.
Letter from Vince Taylor to Steve Scholl, April 6, 2000 (w/o