Showing posts with label highways. Show all posts
Showing posts with label highways. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sanger mayor excited that highway expansion will boost sprawl

Over the past decade, California has passed various laws and initiatives aimed at decreasing driving, carbon emissions, and sprawl.

No one has told the Central Valley, which is celebrating the groundbreaking of yet another highway expansion project. 
“This will connect us all in a more meaningful way,” said Henry Perea, chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and one of many speakers at a ground-breaking ceremony Friday. “When I see this freeway, I see a gateway to economic prosperity.”

Read more here:
This week the Fresno Bee announced that yet another round of highway expansions would kick off in the rural parts of the county. The expansion plan will take a two-lane road, and make it four lanes, with a median wide enough to support two more.

Everything you see marked as 180 was built over the past decade, and there's more to come.

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 Image: Fresno Bee

That "gateway to economic prosperity" has the mayor of Sanger seeing dollar signs. For him, the highway means people can choose to live further and further away from Fresno, where most of the regional jobs are. With a four-lane expressway, one can comfortably commute at 80mph, rather than having to suffer the indignation of being stuck behind a truck doing 55.
Since the first phase of the expressway was built, Sanger’s Mayor Joshua Mitchell said that “more families bought homes in Sanger month after month than any other city in the Fresno area.”
The last round of expansion finished up about a year ago. The speakers at the groundbreaking to this new phase were thrilled to talk about the many changes that have come to the area.
Speakers applauded the Kings Canyon Expressway project for helping with the movement of goods and services, improving traffic congestion and driver safety, and connecting communities.

Read more here:
Improving traffic congestion! Ah yes, those massive backups in unincorporated Fresno County are infamous. Google's satellite service captured the hustle and bustle of 180 in this image taken almost exactly a year ago.

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But wait! We musn't look at the section that's been "improved," what of the area that will see expansion? Surely it must be drowning under the stress of congestion? Why else would those orchards be asked to make way for highway lanes?

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The extensions and widening of 180 have been ongoing for over a decade. Like all highway expansions, it doesn't come cheap. 
About $24 million of the current $41.6 million project is funded by Measure C, first passed by voters more than 25 years ago as a half-cent sales tax to improve transportation for Fresno County’s 15 cities.

Read more here:
$41.6 million to widen a road in the middle of nowhere?

The last round of widening clocked in at a little under $40 million. That last widening project is marked in red.

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To put that in context, Fresno's bus system has seen four routes completely eliminated, headways increased to no better than 20 minutes, and fares hiked over the past five years. There hasn't been an improvement in service in over a decade, and none are planned until 2015 - maybe.

This isn't the only bit of construction on 180. The "braided ramps project" costing a cool $67 million, has been under construction for over a year.

The folks at Caltrans are downright giddy.
Freeway construction included the 41/180 interchange with three levels of four bridges — the highest and longest bridges at that time between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“It’s exciting to see,” said Joe Kosko with Caltrans construction. His work on 180 dates back to the completion of the 180 connection between Highways 41 and 99 in the early ‘90s, which improved circulation downtown. “There are hundreds and hundreds of people working on these jobs to make them work.”
Well if you put it that way, it all makes sense!  With an unemployment rate of 12.6% (PDF), it would be FOOLISH not to spend $41 million to hire "hundreds and hundreds"! If the project employs 500, that's only $82,000 a job! The median household income for Fresno, by the way, is $32,236.
Thinking of all the 180 improvements, Hall said, “It’s one of those things that you look back in hindsight about and say, ‘Thank you.’"

I wonder if the property owners feel the same way?

We always hear of how rail construction might "devastate" acres upon acres of farms.... but we've never heard a peep about how the ongoing 180 project has turned farmland to concrete.

Some of my first posts on this blog were about the last round of expansions.

From 2009 to 2010

I can't see that these farmers were impressed. Their isolated homes now front an expressway.

Does this project look any different? Nope, it's more farmland and some pretty, rural groves.

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If you're not familiar with the area, you might suspect I'm cutting out some major trip generator just to the east. Some major attraction that warrants a wide expressway. Another large city? A military base? Some kind of industrial facility? Surely there's something all these extensions are reaching out to, right?

Nope. 180 takes you into a National Park. That's it. If you keep driving, you enter the beautiful park, and then come upon a dead-end.

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The project connects Fresno to nothing. For now anyway - if the mayor of Sanger's dreams come true, one day the highway will be lined with tract homes and strip commerce, where orchards and farms used to be. Only then will there be demand for the highway - because building the highway created it.

This latest round of expansion isn't the last. The poor town of Centerville seems to have gotten itself in the way. The next round - scheduled for 2016 - will probably involve demolishing this entire village. I'm sure that groundbreaking ceremony will be just as joyous.

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\Sanger mayor excited that highway expansion will boost sprawl
Read more here:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bakerfield: Goodbye neighborhood, hello highway

If you thought the era of plowing through an established neighborhood to build a brand new highway was over, then Bakersfield and Caltrans would like to have a word with you.

I've often said that Fresno is a lot like Los Angeles of 20 years ago; mimicking many of the bad choices, eventually receiving many of the trends (yay froyo, when will cupcakes hit!?) and having a downtown that will hopefully follow the path of redevelopment that LA eventually took.

Bakersfield, smaller and less developed than Fresno, is a few years further behind. Fresno made the decision to bulldoze neighborhoods over a decade ago, when highway 180 was erected through the area between downtown and the tower district. Now it's Bakersfield's turn to do what their cool peers Fresno and LA did, and put highways before people.

The Bakersfield California reports:

After years of being in the dark, residents and business owners in the Westpark area of Bakersfield finally have some idea as to whether their homes and buildings could be torn down to make room for the Centennial Corridor highway project.

Caltrans said Thursday it is recommending the Alternative B route for what will link Highway 58 to the Westside Parkway and eventually Interstate 5.

The Centennial Corridor is the biggest and most expensive of the Thomas Roads Improvement Program projects Bakersfield has been undertaking to upgrade and expand its roads.

Alternative B would ease traffic congestion along Highway 58 from Cottonwood Road to Interstate 5, Caltrans said in a press release. It would extend Highway 58 west from Highway 99 for about half a mile along the south side of Stockdale Highway. It would then turn northwest through the largely residential area known as Westpark, thread through the commercial areas along California Avenue and connect to Truxtun Avenue and the Westside Parkway between AAA offices and the retail center that contains Paragon Salon and Moo Creamery, just east of Mohawk Street.

Caltrans estimated that Alternative B would cost $570 million

Alternative B would take out 310 residences and 121 commercial properties.
Bakersfield Californian

Only $570 million to bulldoze through established businesses and residences? What a bargain! And all to reduce Bakersfield, a city where congestion means you got a red light and must stop for it.

The article provided an image of the proposals. Before looking closer at option B which was the chosen one, take a gander at the rejected option C.


For option C, there were proposing a brand new highway....directly adjacent to the existing six lane highway 99! And I do mean directly adjacent. C was rejected because it would completely destroy this park located by 99.


Did they propose some kind of system where drivers had to, I don't know, use what already exists, to continue their east-west route? Nope. Adding a lane to 99? Nope. Maybe even decking 99 as to not impact any businesses or residences? Nope. The proposal was to plop in a new 6 lane highway right next to an existing 6 lane highway, for about a mile and a half.

Alternate B isn't much smarter. It also covers the same north-south path that 99 already does, but on a diagonal, thus impacting even more properties,  and creating a neighborhood bounded by two highways. Check out the path of destruction.



Detailed map (PDF)

The path of destruction has a much larger effect than you might think. Naturally, many families don't want to move, as they've spent many years in the same home, and might have invested thousands in upgrades that may not be fully pay paid if the state takes their property.They're not just losing sentimental value, they're losing real money.

Cadena said she's made major improvements to her home, including adding a backyard pool just a few years ago when she thought the house would avoid demolition. Now that the California Department of Transportation has said it's recommending Alternative B as the route for the project, she knows her house is on the list of those to be bulldozed.
Bakersfield Californian

It also goes beyond the homes under the path of the bulldozer. For one, the neighborhood will see immediate negative affects. How many of those homeowners do you think will pay money for maintenance or improvements, with this project looming?

And then we have the homeowners whose properties don't get taken. Suddenly, they're living right by many years of construction, and then an eternal highway. Their home values will plummet. Their quality of life as well. They already live in one of the most polluted cities in the country, and now the highway is coming straight at them.

That's not all. It will hurt the homeowners that live blocks away, who can't hear (or smell) the highway. When they look to sell their home, they'll find their value has fallen as well, as people use neighborhood benchmarks. When your neighborhood sees a large drop in values, you drop with them.

The sentimental value can't be discounted either

Cherie Cadena grew up in the house on La Mirada where she now lives with her teenage daughter, 2-year-old son and her mom. Several of her neighbors also inherited their homes from their parents, and Cadena knows them from her childhood days. But Cadena's house and 26 others on her street would come down if the Centennial Corridor Alternative B is built.

"It sucks. We've been established here for many, many years," Cadena said while taking a break from putting up lavish Christmas decorations Friday afternoon. "This neighborhood especially -- it doesn't have that high a turnaround. ... There's just a huge group of people who've been here for years. ... It's sad."

Naturally, the homeowners will do their best to fight it off. California has a long history of highway opposition.....just not in the valley, where there can never be too many lanes.

A large group of residents decided Monday night that they will fight the building of the Centennial Corridor freeway through their Westpark neighborhood. The community meeting organized by the Westpark Home Owners Association at the First Assembly of God church drew more than 250 people, so many that the meeting was moved from a room off the sanctuary to the sanctuary itself.

Brian Self, one of the organizers for the meeting, said residents in other California cities have effectively opposed Caltrans' highway projects. "It can be done," Self said. He added that the home owners association had consulted with attorneys who successfully fought Caltrans' projects. A legal defense would cost $100,000 to $300,000, including hiring experts to rebut Caltrans' environmental document once the agency releases it.
 Bakersfield Californian

Caltrans doesn't think that's going to be an issue. Doesn't matter if you like it or not, they've got asphalt to lay.

The option to not build the project is unlikely, Milton said. It would happen, for instance, if Bakersfield were to lose the funding.

Other sections of the highway, that didn't require demolishing a neighborhood, are well under construction. Of course, sacrifices were made.

Bakersfield decided that riverfront property was best set as a highway corridor. While other cities are looking to demolish highways that ruin rivers, build beautiful parks, and then reap the benefits of high property values, in Bakersfield, they've decided to convert industrial land to highway. Instead of fixing past mistakes, they're going to make it worse.

Like in Fresno, Bakersfield has brand new satellite imagery. Let's take a look at what the project was doing in August.



The good news is, this freeway which will head directly west to land that has yet to be sprawled on, will not induce any demand at all.

9.   Won’t this project induce growth?

Studies done nationally to evaluate this issue indicate that most projects are not growth inducing, but would accommodate planned growth. Growth areas are based on community planning documents, and this project would help facilitate the planned growth in designated areas. A growth inducement study will be done for the Environmental Document.

That's a clever way to put it. You're not inducing sprawl if you have it in a document that sprawl would happen anyway, so might as well build.

Incidentally, I've yet to come across an article protesting the $570 million cost. I guess cost only matters if the project involves trains.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mexico City Periférico construction in pictures

Besides expanding their transit system, via the Metrobus system and a brand new subway line which is currently in the final stages of construction, Mexico City has embarked on some highway expansion, but on a vertical scale.

Known as the second floor of the Periférico (ring road), this new structure towers above the existing 6 lane freeway. Access points are limited, giving the new highway an express characteristic. Supposedly, once it's all done, the upper level may be tolled.

Here are pictures from last week of the extension of the 2nd level.

We started in the far south of the city, heading north. You can see how progress is completed in stages.




Monday, July 11, 2011

Concerning the cover of the GOP transportation bill

Much has been said about the newly announced GOP transportation reauthorization proposal, but I don't think enough attention has been paid to the cover of their bill.

This thing.


It's an enormous WTF. Should be in a modern art museum even.

First a quick summary of what's inside:
-33% cut to transportation (even though as the country grows, any rational bill would increase with inflation, at least)
-Elimination of funding for pedestrian/biking and HSR
-Massive cuts to Amtrak
-"Back to the basics" 80/20 funding split between highways and transit what exactly does that have to do with this?


A new direction? How can something be both new and "back to the basics"? How exactly does the picture of a sprawling highway interchange, one likely built 50 years ago, in anyways be new? Is the title suggesting that highways are the future? What is being changed here? Are we supposed to be impressed? This picture may have impressed America in 1948....but today?

I mean, yes, the inside of the bill is all about highways, so it makes sense to highlight that...

But why is the highway so empty?

Are highways not well used? And if not, why are we funding them? Seems like a waste? But we know that's not true, highways are always full of why on earth show a completely desolate piece of roadway?

Is it attractive? Who looks at this cover and says "yes, government should be doing THIS!" I mean, we've built plenty of attractive highways, well, bridges usually. If you want to say "this is good", why not show a modern bridge with impressive architecture and lighting? At least pick a photo with SOME color. Look at the trees, they look dead! Hell, it looks like a black and white image where someone added the blue back in, but only the blue.

Or essentially, why use a picture that looks like it was taken 65 years ago?

Or is it some kind of meta-commentary?

The bill is all about slashing spending. Anyone who follows infrastructure maintenance can tell you that this country has not been doing it's job when it comes to maintaining roads (it's easy to find stories about bridges closed do to being unsound, lanes blocked off due to erosion, etc)

So perhaps the cover is saying this:

"If you approve our bill, then our highways will look like this....because we won't be able to maintain them, and engineers will have to close them off because the overpasses are structurally unsound"

I guess that makes sense.

On the plus side, thousands of miles of (mountain) bicycles routes will be opened up. Can't let all that empty (crumbling) pavement go to waste.