September 26, 2000
Humboldt County Board
825 Fifth Street,
Eureka, CA 95501
Thank you for
helping to inform Senator Chesbro about the status of the Commissionís and
my efforts to obtain a good scenic railing for use on California bridges.
Iíve prepared a package for Wes that includes several documents and
letters. I have also enclosed a copy of the package for you. I would have
like to do more, but time ran out.
These should give
him a good idea of the possibilities that exist for a better scenic
railing, as well as the apparent resistance of Caltrans to accepting the
Wyoming Rail as designed. This resistance is difficult to understand,
given that the railing has passed current crash tests and is accepted for
use by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
modifications that Caltrans has made to the Wyoming Railing have
transformed an aesthetic, highly transparent rail into an ugly, opaque
railing. Getting a real
dialogue with Caltrans over this issue is central to the goal of obtaining
a truly scenic railing for California.
The immediate need
is to get Caltrans to respond to the letter from Steve Scholl to John
Allison of Caltrans dated August 14, 2000. The first item asks them to
explain how they reached the conclusion that the Wyoming Rail, as accepted
by the FHWA, does not meet certain other (AASHTO) standards and needed to
be modified. My own calculation (which took about 15 minutes to make)
shows that it does meet AASHTO Standards. Iíve received the same
assurance verbally from the Wyoming Highway Department.
combined efforts of the Coastal Commission and Senator Chesbro can cause
Caltrans to cease its efforts to deny California the best available scenic
I also want to take
this opportunity to inform you of another aspect of the Noyo Bridge
design: its excessive width. The views from the proposed bridge will be
greatly degraded by its excessive width even if a good scenic railing is
Because you were
not a Commissioner at the time, you may not know that the proposed bridge
is 87 feet wide, wider than the Golden Gate Bridge. Its proposed 8-foot
shoulders and five-foot sidewalks will put motorists so far from the edge
of the bridge that they will have a very shallow downward angle of view.
Given the height of the bridge, motorists will be unable to see down into
the scenic harbor and will have a limited view of the harbor entrance.
I intend to ask the
Commission to request Caltrans to revisit: the width of the bridge. It is
now appropriate for the Commission to raise the issue of bridge width with
Caltrans because: 1) the width of proposed bridge was determined by a
questionable construction-method assumption by Caltrans, and 2) Caltrans
and the contractor are now engaged in a major re-examination of
questionable assumption was that a crane would need to placed on one of
the newly constructed outer bridge sections during part of the
construction period. This assumption forced the other new bridge section
to be wide enough to carry two-way traffic while the crane was being used.
If it were not for this assumption, the new bridge sections would have
needed to carry only one-way traffic, and the bridge could have been
significantly narrower. (A fuller description of this issue is contained
in my testimony on the Noyo Bridge permit application. Iíve enclosed a
copy for you.)
crane-rental companies with which I talked stated firmly that there were
alternatives to placing the crane on the bridge. The contractor for the
bridge could and should be requested by Caltrans to determine whether
there is a feasible alternative to the crane on the bridge. If it is
feasible, then Caltrans could use the current delay to redesign the bridge
to make it narrower.
Thank you for
helping to preserve the scenic resources of our wonderful state. I
appreciate the great amount of time and effort required to make informed
decisions about the multitude of issues that confront you monthly.
Two packages of information
on bridge railing design, for Wes Chesbro and John Woolley.
Testimony on the
Proposed Noyo River Bridge To the California Coastal Commission (Re:
Permit Numbers A-1-FTB-99-06 and 1-98-100)