Caltrans Hwy. 1 fix might be down the road

ktanner@thetribunenews.comJanuary 24, 2013 

In which we respond to the new ‘cheap seal’ paving job.

ART VAN RHYN

Caltrans is going to fix the bumpy, recently chip-sealed pavement surface from Cambria to Ragged Point, but it’s not yet known how or when those repairs will be made, according to representatives who went face to face Wednesday, Jan. 16, with a roomful of people concerned about a rough, 20-mile stretch of Highway 1.

Rocks used in the sealing continue to come loose. They can pelt bicyclists and vehicles in traffic, especially when one vehicle passes another. Results can range from chipped paint and broken windshields to injuries, especially to bicyclists.

Timothy Gubbins and Eileen Loe, respectively the director and deputy director of Caltrans District 5, repeatedly said they’re listening and responding to comments from angry bicyclists, vehicle owners, tourist-related businesses and others locally and “around the world” about how a chip-sealing process designed to prolong pavement life on the All-American Road has made the surface unsafe.

It had been 20 years since the roadway there was resurfaced, the two officials said.

University of California Pavement Research Center at UC Davis will study the situation to find the best repair procedure to use, but most attendees at the meeting of the North Coast Advisory Council said they’d prefer repairs be done sooner rather than later.

Gubbins and Loe didn’t say how much the UC Davis study will cost, how long it will take to complete it, or when the roadway would be fixed. The study is to provide third-party assessment of the road’s condition along with options available for fixing it, in the short and long term. The report also is expected to have statewide ramifications for future chip-seal projects, especially in high-usage biking corridors.

Loe said Caltrans is hesitant to make interim fixes that might wind up making the situation worse. The Caltrans officials did say frequent passes by a street sweeper will continue. Loe also said potholes are to be filled, and some repaving will happen in the northern area where the work didn't meet contract specifications.

Speakers at the meeting said that, while they appreciate the study, they want the problem rectified now.

Tom Fulks of Morro Bay, a former RideShare coordinator, said the latest resurfacing has “rendered the road unusable by a large group of people.” He said “this stretch of road is a national treasure for all Americans,” and “someone made the judgment that the treatment of the road was more important than the treatment of the people and these communities … students from UC Davis will not be able to solve the problem.” 

He added that Caltrans leaders are “out there promoting bicycling. Then someone comes along and negates those policies” with this kind of situation.

Council Chairman Tom Gray said there are two issues, the roadway itself and the shoulder, where bicyclists ride. “The shoulder needs an earlier fix … because it’s not able to handle cyclists at this point,” he said.

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