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