Bridge Rail Subcommittee
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Ave, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219
Fax: (415) 904-5400
I was delighted to receive a copy of the letter from Rich Land to you in
which he enclosed a photo of the proposed California ST-10 Railing
(April 10, 2001). This railing appears to be based on the Wyoming TL-4
railing and has much the same degree of visual transparency. I commend
Caltrans for its willingness to present the Commissioners and the
California public with this superior alternative.
ST-10, as shown, is a wonderful starting point for developing a scenic
railing. I have additional points to make about this railing and its
use in different applications:
I can’t tell
from the photo if the vertical posts are solid or are composed of two
parallel steel plates as in the Wyoming rail.
of steel plates as opposed to solid posts makes the railing visually
more transparent and “lighter,” both desirable attributes of a scenic
railing. The Wyoming Rail has been safety tested and there is no safety
question about their use of parallel steel plates for the posts. If the
ST-10 does not use parallel plates, I suggest that you recommend to
Caltrans that this be done.
For use on
scenic bridges with sidewalks, the preferred visual solution is a
two-rail system, which I described fully to you and other Commissioners
on December 13, 2000.[i]
The ST-10 would form the inner (traffic-side) rail, replacing the CA
Type 2 rail in the photo on the left. Please request Caltrans to commit
to this configuration for bridges with sidewalks.
Commission should begin to focus on modifications of the basic rail to
meet pedestrian and bicycle safety:
bridges with sidewalks, the two-rail system is strongly preferred.
bridges that need pedestrian protection but don’t have sidewalks (will
this happen in practice?), the basic ST-10 will need an additional
horizontal rail to bring the total height up to 42 inches. Request
Caltrans to provide the Commission with alternative designs that
incorporate a pedestrian rail.
least visually disruptive way to meet the minimum openings for pedestrian
safety within the horizontal steel rails is to use thin metal cables, as
is done in the proposed bicycle barrier for the Golden Gate Bridge.
Request Caltrans to provide the Commission with a design that incorporates
steel cables to provide pedestrian safety with the ST-10.
Safety: Apparently AASHTO Standards will require all bridges on Highway
1, which is a designated bicycle route to have a railing height of 54
inches. If this is required, the railings will be much more visually
obtrusive than if a lower railing is used. A rail at 54 inches is also a
visual barrier for bicyclists and opposed by some bicycle groups. The
54” height is currently the subject of controversy from a number of
parties involved with designing new bridges in scenic areas.
The material provided to me by Caltrans in response to a public record act
request suggests that AASHTO may have misinterpreted human-body
center-of-gravity information in setting the 54-inch height. The
Commission should request Caltrans to work with state bicycle groups to
further analyze the physics of bicycle safety and to develop tests
that will determine what is required to provide bicycle safety. The
results of these tests can then be brought to AASHTO to develop a more
valid standard for bicycle safety. I believe that such empirical testing
will show that a lower railing height, perhaps the pedestrian standard of
“42”, will suffice. This result would simplify railing inventory for
Caltrans and provide more visually appealing railings for the public.
Bridge Railing: If Caltrans begins construction of the Noyo Bridge this
summer, the Commission must resolve details of its railing design
quickly. Based on my long study of this bridge and it scenic vistas, I
recommend the following:
Use of a
two-rail system for the Noyo Bridge, with a traditional spoke railing for
the outside of the bridge. The outer rail should be painted the same
green as the existing railing to provide a degree of continuity in
sidewalk should be at the same level as the traffic deck of the bridge.
The curb of the ST-10 will provide protection from rain runoff onto
the sidewalk. As compared to a raised sidewalk, a flush sidewalk will
lower the outer edge of the bridge by 6 inches. Although this may seem
small, it translates into many feet of additional downward view into the
harbor for motorists. The added width of the new bridge, its wide
pedestrian shoulders and sidewalk will greatly impair the downward view
into the harbor, preventing motorists from viewing the harbor waters.
Everything should be done to provide as much downward view as possible.
from Caltrans if the ST-10 can be used as the inner (traffic-side) rail
without modification for pedestrian protection. Given that the current
design has no inner rail at all, the ST-10 unmodified would provide
significantly greater pedestrian protection. Also point out to Caltrans
that there is an 8-foot safety lane outside of the sidewalk, so
pedestrians who went over or through the rail would not land in a traffic
If the rail must be modified to provide pedestrian protection, please have
Caltrans provide you with the specific standards that require this
modification of the ST-10. Note that this modification would
significantly impact the aesthetics of the overall railing. Note also
that the bridge photo on page 1 of this letter has an inner rail that is
not modified for pedestrian protection.
the Wyoming Rail as an interim scenic rail: If crash testing of the ST-10
is required (it might not be if it is substantially a Wyoming Rail with
minor modifications), and it is required to fix on a scenic rail for a
bridge soon to be constructed, Caltrans should use the Wyoming Rail on an
exception basis. This rail meets all current safety standards, releasing
Caltrans from tort liability concerns. The parts to construct this rail
would be readily available. It meets the aesthetic and visual concerns of
Thank you for the opportunity you have provided to work with you to
achieve a scenic railing of which everyone can be proud. We are
approaching achievement of this goal. Let us take the last steps as
carefully as the first.
CC: Steve Scholl, Peter Douglas, Sara Wan