Dharma Cloud Foundation

P.O Box 1066
Mendocino, CA 95460
Tel 707 937-3001   Fax 707 937-3192

April 6, 2000


Steven Scholl
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Avenue, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

Dear Mr. Scholl:

Enclosed is a copy of a letter to the Wyoming Department of Highways.  This letter follows up a phone conversation with Mr. Frederick in which he stated that he believed that the TL-4 Wyoming Railing was designed “very rigorously” and that it met the AASHTO LFRD standards.  If his response confirms his recollection, it is important that Caltrans show the Commission and the public an un-modified Wyoming Railing, because this railing offers  the best scenic visibility to motorists.

Also, the Commission should see these railings without any modifications for pedestrian and bicyclist safety protection.  Caltrans is asking to receive an exception to the bicyclist standards for rural roads, and most rails in rural areas are not designed to protect pedestrians.  If the exception is granted to Caltrans, most bridges on Highway 1 could use the Wyoming Railing without modification.

Further, the Commission should understand that even in more developed areas, such as Fort Bragg, Caltrans could use a different approach to pedestrian railings than the only one it presented to the Commission.  I presented to the Commission the alternative of a “two-rail system.”  A traffic barrier, such as the Wyoming Railing, would be placed between the traffic and the sidewalk.  A light weight, traditional style of pedestrian railing could then be used on the outer edge of the bridge.  It would need only to meet static load requirements for pedestrian safety.  Compared to the all-purpose, “combination rail” presented by Caltrans, the two-rail system offers substantially greater safety to pedestrians, better esthetics, and greater visual transparency  Also, the Commission should be aware that the two-rail system is required by AASHTO standards whenever traffic speeds exceed 45 mph.

The Commission should also be aware that the Golden Gate Bridge has designed a new railing for the inner edge of the sidewalk to protect bicyclists from falling into traffic.  This railing meets all California and federal standards for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Yet, this railing is almost completely visually transparent.  The design achieves this by using thin, horizontal metal cables as barriers, rather than thick, closely spaced, vertical rods.  The Commission should request Caltrans to show it combination railings that use the Golden Gate design approach.

I would also request that the Commission use its good offices to get Caltrans to use one of the newly approved, metal scenic railings on the Noyo Bridge.  As shown by Caltrans’s ability to get the alternative railings put up on bridges already under construction, there is no obstacle to putting a better railing on the Noyo Bridge.  Construction of the roadways of the Noyo Bridge will not begin until Spring of 2001; thus there is more than sufficient time to qualify the Wyoming Railing and use it in a sensible, two-rail system.

Finally, I would request that you forward to me any information that Caltrans provides to the Commission on the breakdown by cause (railing or other) of tort liability payments by Caltrans. I also request, if this was not done, that Caltrans be requested to provide information on the railing type involved in those instances where the judgements were based on failures of bridge railings to meet safety standards. This latter information would be helpful in determining whether improving railings have reduced liability payments. .  All of this information should be provided to the Commission for at least five years of history, to ensure that the Commission is not looking at an unusual year’s data.

I request that you distribute this letter to all of the Commissioners, with special attention to seeing that Commissioners Desser and Detloff are aware of it.

Thank you  for you assistance.




Vince Taylor

Encl.:  Letter to Greg Frederick, Wyoming Department of Transportation, April 6, 2000 (with partial Attachments).