Cyclists rejoice: Rough stretch of Hwy 1 getting repaved

Highway north of Cambria to Monterey County scheduled for smoother sealant

ktanner@thetribunenews.comOctober 5, 2013 

The bumpy Highway 1 surface from north of Cambria to the Monterey County line is to be resurfaced starting in about a week, Caltrans officials said, and the $1.5 million project should be finished by early November, weather permitting.

The surface is expected to be sand sealed — a sprayed application of asphalt emulsion followed by a covering of clean sand or fine aggregate.

That’s good news for bicyclists, drivers and others who travel along the scenic stretch of the federally designated All-American Road. A year ago, a 20-mile stretch was treated with a chip seal that combined layers of asphalt with larger-than-usual aggregate. Since then, cyclists have dealt with hazards and discomfort ranging from small rocks flung up by passing traffic to tense shoulders, sore hands and stiff legs from wrestling to keep a bicycle moving forward on the rough roadway.

A test section is to be recoated by CalPortland of Santa Maria as early as mid-October, and resurfacing the entire rough stretch of two-lane road is to be completed “this fall,” Caltrans Deputy Director Aileen Loe told members of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) Wednesday.

This is the first time Caltrans has given to the county’s regional transportation planning agency a full-fledged commitment to fix the problem along with a tentative schedule.

Sand sealing was the treatment that got the thumbs up from Caltrans, the UC Davis Pavement Research Center and bicyclists who took a test ride in July on variously treated segments of chip-sealed portions of Highway 198 south of King City. At Wednesday’s meeting, those Caltrans promises earned the agency cautious praise and thanks from council members and bicyclists alike.

Tom Fulks, representing Cambria’s Slabtown Rollers Cycling Club, said, “It feels pretty good to come up here and say ‘thanks a lot’ … to not have to complain about something.”

Dave Albrecht, advocate for the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club, thanked SLOCOG members for their actions in the last year, for “displaying some political courage to really hold Caltrans responsible … You guys did the heavy lifting, both publicly and privately.”

Supervisor Bruce Gibson said, “I look forward to the successful completion of what’s been a long and rough road, metaphorically and literally.”

He said he is in contact with promoters of the Amgen Tour of California, and “Amgen wants to come back to San Luis Obispo County in 2012. They want to ride Highway 1. I think this will be a centerpiece experience” for the riders.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx said statewide implications of the resurfacing studies are “very important” and requested that “Caltrans really pay attention to scenic highways and byways,” and roads where bicycling events are held.

“This region worked very hard to get those designations,” Marx said. “They’re very special places and may require a different kind of attitude, approach and strategy.”

Gibson and Marx are SLOCOG board members.

Loe said results from the year-long study-and-repair process will affect how Caltrans manages its paved areas statewide, especially in areas popular with cyclists. “I felt a sense of relief in showing people that we’d persevered and will continue to persevere” in solving the problem, she said. She touted a team effort with UC Davis that bridged the gap between Caltrans construction standards and “what cyclists were saying about the ride quality.”

If sand sealing does correct the Highway 1 surface, work would proceed immediately after the test section’s surface is verified as being smooth enough, Loe assured SLOCOG.

Cambria bicyclist Tom Parsons and Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham, who is vice-president of the SLOCOG board, asked what happens if sand sealing isn’t successful. Loe said there is a plan B treatment that could be within the same time frame.

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