Caltrans hires company to test repairs for rough pavement on Hwy. 1

ktanner@thetribunenews.comMay 8, 2013 

Caltrans has taken another step to smooth out a bumpy surface on 20 recently chip-sealed miles of Highway 1 north of Cambria by awarding a contract to test possible solutions to the problem.

In doing so, it hopes to repair the equally rocky relationships the agency has with bicyclists and others who travel the roadway.

Caltrans said Wednesday it has hired CalPortland of Santa Maria to test different fixes on eight sections of recently chip-sealed Highway 198 pavement in Monterey County “as part of a comprehensive effort to determine both short-and long-term improvements to the Caltrans chipseal program statewide, particularly as it affects bicycle riders on the state highways.”

Money for the contract will come from the department’s maintenance budget, a spokesman said. However, the cost for that work likely won’t be known until it’s complete, according to spokesman Jim Shivers.

Highway 198 recently received the same chip-seal topcoat as the Highway 1 stretch near Cambria did this past fall. The treatment uses larger, less expensive rocks, chips or “aggregate” than usual, producing a rougher, bumpier ride and causing many loose rocks to pelt bicyclists and vehicles.

The state road agency, which is partnering with the UC Davis Pavement Research Center to fix the problem, said the test treatments are to include “different applications placed over the existing chip seal, as well as modified construction practices for future chip seals.”

At least one fundraising bicycle event has canceled its 2013 ride because of the rough Highway 1 surface, and some drivers with treasured antique, classic or sporty vehicles have declined to drive them on the rough surface.

The Caltrans Materials Lab is evaluating materials to be used in the resurfacing tests to make sure they meet state specifications. Those evaluations are estimated to be complete later this month. Then CalPortland is to apply the approved materials and treatments to eight sections on the Monterey County road.

After that, bicyclists — including some from San Luis Obispo County familiar with how the Highway 1 roadway was before and now — will be invited to take a test ride in June on the treated segments.

“The cyclists will not be told what specific treatments have been applied and will be asked to provide feedback that will be critical to the success of this effort,” according to an email from Caltrans.

Tom Parsons of Cambria’s Slabtown Rollers, among those invited, said Wednesday that UC Davis has asked him for a list of possible participants, which he sent.

Parsons and Sharon Evans have both been active in pressuring Caltrans to fix Highway 1 north of Cambria, which has the highest federal designation for a scenic highway.

The duo reportedly had a “very positive meeting” with Tim Gubbins, director of Caltrans District 5, for 45 minutes Monday.

Sharon Evans said in an email to fellow cyclists Tuesday that “we have a common goal with Tim — improve this road for all users.”

She added that “while we hoped for a crystal-clear statement about Caltrans’ intentions to fix Highway 1, we now at least have a much better notion of how complex this issue really is and what Tim’s constraints really are,” especially in the area of funding.

The issue is expected to again be on the discussion agenda for the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments at its meeting June 5.

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