Cyclists unhappy with a resurfacing job on Highway 1 north of Cambria they say left the road unsafe are mounting additional pressure on Caltrans to do something about it.
An online petition has garnered hundreds of signatures, more than 60 disgruntled cyclists turned out to air their grievances at a meeting in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday, Jan. 8, a bicycling organization with over 45,000 members has sent a stern letter to Caltrans and the North Coast Advisory Council intends to air the issue at a meeting in Cambria next week.
CalPortland Construction of Santa Maria was paid $1.9 million to resurface 23 miles of the Highway from Weymouth Street north to the Monterey County line near Ragged Point last fall.
Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers said the chip-seal coating is settling in as expected, helped along with weekly sweeping by large machines. He said chip sealing embeds finely graded 3/8-inch aggregate into a thin base of hot asphalt on existing pavement. The chip sealing is then rolled into a smooth pavement surface.
Bicyclists and others say the resurfaced roadway is too rough, uneven and unsafe, and that sweeping just moves the small rocks to the road shoulder, making it worse for cyclists who ride there. The pebbles, moved out of traffic lanes by vehicle traffic, also accumulate near the center stripe, where they’re kicked up by vehicles passing others, kicking them up and potentially damaging the cars being passed.
Shivers replied that the sweepers cover the road’s entire surface and that loose rocks are collected and hauled away.
Local drivers who use the road frequently have reported windshield and paint damage to their vehicles, including contractor Jim Glitch; kayak entrepreneur Carl “Cubby” Cashen; nonprofit volunteers with the Friends of the Elephant Seal, which staffs the overlook at Piedras Blancas; and some State Park employees working at Hearst Castle.
Some comments on an online petition begun by the Slabtown Rollers, a Cambria bicycle club, are blisteringly critical, calling the resurfacing a “big mistake,” a “travesty,” “unacceptable” or “a disgrace.” The petition, which had nearly 500 virtual signatures Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 8, will ultimately be presented to Caltrans. Most signers are from California, but some are from Canada, Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom and states across the U.S.
About 60 riders from the Slabtown Rollers, Old Farts Bicycle Club of Cambria and San Luis Obispo Bike Club and others turned up Wednesday, Jan. 9, to air their complaints at a meeting of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG), which deals with regional transportation planning. Board members indicated they, too, are concerned about the issue and hope to hear back from Caltrans about what can be done about it.
Larry Newland of Caltrans attended the meeting and said Caltrans is looking into it at the state level.
Caltrans staffers in San Luis Obisipo had already met Tuesday, Jan. 8, and concluded that “the roadwork meets Caltrans standards and is not hazardous for cyclists,” Shivers said in an email. “The present condition of the highway might be uncomfortable for cyclists, but we don’t believe it is in an unsafe condition.”
He said the highway currently “is rougher, but with additional sweeping and with more of the small rocks becoming embedded in the pavement in the coming months, conditions should be greatly improved … we are also fixing shoulder areas along Highway 1 where some potholes and uneven areas have developed.”
The district, which covers five Central Coast counties, maintains about 3,000 lane miles with an annual maintenance budget of $3 million, Shivers said. A complete resurfacing of the 23-mile section, including scraping off the current surface, would cost about $8 million, he estimated.
Coastal communities depend on all kinds of tourism, and some pedalers say various biking tours won’t return if the road’s surface isn’t fixed.
Sharon Evans of Cambria said riders in the Wounded Warriors Ride 2 Recovery in October “were pelted by the sharp aggregate. They had support vehicles driving slowly alongside them to try to protect them” (to shield them from small rocks kicked up by passing vehicles).
“Conditions have made the road extremely dangerous for cyclists,” according to a letter from Jim Sayer of the Adventure Cycling Association to Gubbins dated Tuesday, Jan. 8. “We request you reconsider this position and remedy the conditions immediately.”
The association, based in Missoula, Mont., sells thousands of maps for cyclists, and reports the section including the North Coast is the most popular seller of the Pacific Coast Route, its most popular route out of 41,420 miles across the U.S. and “one of the most cycled roads in North America”
“Touring cyclists spend almost $100 per day,” Sayer writes in the letter, “and stay in a region longer than motorized travelers.”
“The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the premier bicycle routes in the world,” he concludes. “We request that Caltrans do their part to make sure it is safe for all users.”
Advisory council meeting
The North Coast Advisory Council intends to discuss the highway resurfacing issue during its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, at Rabobank, 1070 Main St., Cambria. Arrangements are in the works for a Caltrans representative to attend.