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

October 3, 2000                                                         Re:  Bridge Railing Subcommittee

Peter Douglas, Executive Director
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Avenue, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219
Tel: (415) 904-5200
Fax: (415) 904-5400

Dear Mr. Douglas:

I understand from Steve Scholl that you have taken staff responsibility for the Bridge Railing Subcommittee. I appreciate that this signifies the importance that you and the Commission attach to getting the best possible scenic rail for California.  I also realize that this responsibility adds to your already overwhelming responsibilities.  I want to offer you my assistance at any time it can useful to you. 

To help the Subcommittee understand why getting Caltrans approval of an unmodified Wyoming Rail is so important, I have attached a sheet showing three alternative “scenic” railings.

I urge the Subcommittee to make the number one priority of the upcoming October meeting to get Caltrans to provide a full justification, with analysis and numerical calculations, for their modification of the Wyoming Rail.  My own analysis and conversations with the Wyoming Transportation Department and Richard Powers of the Federal Highway Administration have convinced me that there is absolutely no technical, safety rationale for modifying either the Wyoming Rail TL-3 or TL-4 rail.  Both fully meet the Report 350 crash-test standards and the AASHTO LRFD standards.  

The Commission asked Caltrans for this justification in an August 14, 2000 letter from Steve Scholl to John Allison.  As of a few days ago, it had not been received. The calculations required to answer this request could be made by a Caltrans engineer with the Wyoming Rail specifications in fifteen minutes (the time it took me).  There is no engineering reason why Caltrans cannot make this justification available to you before the Subcommittee meeting. 

If, as I believe, Caltrans is unable to justify modifying the Wyoming Rail, the Subcommittee should request Caltrans to construct two examples of railings that incorporate the unmodified Wyoming Rail:

·         A Wyoming Rail as a traffic barrier on the outside of a bridge.  This would be a “standard” rail for bridges without sidewalks, assuming that Caltrans determines that rural bridges on Highway 1 do not require modifications to protect bicyclists. 

·         If bicyclist protection is required, the standard Wyoming Rail would need light-duty rails added to the top to extend the height to 55 inches.  If the spacing between the lower rails needs to be narrowed, this should be done using thin steel cables.  The designers of the proposed bicycle rail for the Golden Gate Bridge should be consulted.

·         A two-rail system, incorporating the Wyoming Rail as a barrier between the traffic and the sidewalk and a light-weight, traditional style of pedestrian railing on the outer edge of the bridge.  The outer railing would need only to meet static load requirements for pedestrian safety.

Compared to the all-purpose, “combination rails” shown to the Commission by Caltrans, the two-rail system would protect pedestrians from out-of-control vehicles, be more aesthetic, and provide greater visual transparency.

The Commission should know that the two-rail system is required by AASHTO standards whenever traffic speeds exceed 45 mph.  In such situations, the combination rails shown the Commission are not allowed by AASHTO.

Additionally, the Bridge Railing Subcommittee should request Caltrans to respond to the other questions in Steve Scholl’s letter of August 14, 2000.  Question 3 in that letter should first be clarified as I outlined in an August 17, 2000 letter to Steve Scholl (attached).

Please call if you have any questions.


Vince Taylor
Executive Director

Encl:    1) Vince Taylor, Alternative Scenic Bridge Railings for California,  October 2, 2000.
            2) Vince Taylor, letter to Steve Scholl, August 17, 2000.

            Cc:      Sara Wan
                        Shirley Dettloff 
Chris Desser