Caltrans to smooth resurfaced Hwy. 1 on North Coast

ktanner@thetribunenews.comDecember 20, 2012 

Caltrans has extended a contract to allow for additional “sweeping” of a newly resurfaced section of Highway 1 that extends from approximately Weymouth Drive in Cambria to the Monterey County line.

Some bicyclists told Supervisor Bruce Gibson, his North Coast advisers and others that recent resurfacing work produced rough, dangerous conditions on the nationally honored and internationally known scenic highway.

The two-lane but heavily used rural road was chip sealed, a process in which a 3/8-inch layer of small rocks are embedded in oil atop the previous surface. CalPortland Construction was the contractor on the $1.9 million job designed to extend the life of the highway. Funds came from Caltrans’ maintenance program.

Members of two bicycle clubs — Cambria’s Slabtown Rollers and the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club — say the resurfacing left behind:

• Pebbles and chips that pepper riders, especially those traveling on the bike lanes

• Sections of thin paving over unfilled potholes

• Some areas where the white line was repositioned closer to the edge, essentially removing the bike lane, and

• Steeply uneven transitions between old and new pavement surfaces, which, according to background information sent to Gibson, can “cause a cyclist to take a nasty fall … An auto could also flip due to a person trying to recover should they have a tire slip over the drop-off,” some of which are as described as 3 inches deep.

The cyclists say the loose rocks are “sharp-edged gravel, sized from three-quarters to 1 inch.”

Gibson met with the bicyclists Dec. 7 and toured the area. He said later that there definitely appeared to be a problem with the paving and he’d already begun pressuring Caltrans about the issue. “I don’t have any jurisdiction over this,” he said, but was willing to twist some arms to get things done sooner rather than later.

Caltrans

Caltrans representative Jim Shivers said Monday, Dec. 17 that the job’s contract was extended to allow for more “sweeping,” a process in which a machine brushes the new surface to remove loose materials. He called the sweeping “a very thorough process to remove very small pieces that accumulate on the roadway,” and said “Conditions will improve each time we go out.”

Workers reswept the roadway Thursday and Friday, Dec. 13 and 14, he said, and would be returning to do it again.

Shivers said the agency hadn’t received a lot of calls or comments about the condition of the roadway.

Bike club members say the two kinds of sweepers don’t do much on the bike lane, and tend to move around rather than remove the gravel.

Bob McLaughlin, a member of the North Coast Advisory Council, brought up the topic at the council’s Nov. 28 meeting. Since then, he’s sent several emails, hoping to get the public involved and the situation fixed. He wrote that “all in all, it’s a very unpleasant experience and very negatively affects this community,” which depends on tourism.

The SLO Coaster, the San Luis bike club’s newsletter, described the post-paving ride on what previously had been “one of the best cycling routes in the county” as now a “very unpleasant, teeth-rattling, vision-blurring, hand-numbing, bike-breaking experience.”

The newsletter described an accident believed to be attributable to the new surface: On Nov. 12 about a half-mile north of Piedras Blancas Light Station, a solo rider’s front wheel slipped on loose ground camouflaged by the chip sealing. He was thrown from the bike, injured and knocked unconscious, according to the newsletter, which said there had been other close calls.

The club’s president wrote that he recently had ridden from Shamel Park to the elephant-seal vista point. “It is terrible. The vibration broke my Garmin mounting bracket,” throwing his computer to the ground. He called the situation “unacceptable.”

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