Caltrans should repair highway at full speed

A Caltrans worker waves to cyclists as he rolls over the bike lane north of Cambria on Highway 1 on Tuesday.
A Caltrans worker waves to cyclists as he rolls over the bike lane north of Cambria on Highway 1 on Tuesday. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

It’s been four months since complaints surfaced about the dangerous condition of the chip-sealed stretch of Highway 1 north of Cambria. Four months, and still the road is in bad shape, left rough and rocky following the chip sealing that was supposed to improve it.

Unfortunately, the wait isn’t over; Caltrans is now saying that Highway 1 may not be fixed until the fall.

SLOCOG — the San Luis Obispo Council of Governmentswill ask Caltrans to elaborate on its plans when it meets today. The SLOCOG board also will consider making a formal recommendation that Caltrans “implement effective smoothing techniques” prior to June.

We agree that it’s high time to give Caltrans a nudge; it shouldn’t take several months and multiple studies to figure out how to smooth over a rough, rocky road.

Local governments — in fact, the entire Central Coast community — should urge quick action and should continue pressing Caltrans until something is done.

Highway 1 is too important to local and regional tourism to allow this to drag on for several more months while we wait for the results of this or that study to roll in.

This scenic coastal highway is one of the premier cycling routes in the state, yet its reputation has been damaged.

The dangerous condition of the road has been described on bicyclists’ blogs, in letters to the editor, even on YouTube, where a video shows a cyclist trying to maneuver over arock-strewn stretch of pavement.

And it isn’t just cyclists who are complaining. Motorists have been reporting damage to their vehicles. The president of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce told Tribune reporter Kathe Tanner that his windshield was damaged as recently as March 19, when he stopped to check out the road.

In response to the complaints, Caltrans contracted with UC Davis to study the issue. And last month, it conducted a pilot project that used a heavy roller to smooth out a small section of pavement.

Yet there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency.

For instance, data from the roller test won’t be available until May. That seems like an awfully long time to wait. And do we really need reams of data to tell us whether or not the road is in any better shape after the rolling? Cyclists who tested the surface following the pilot project could already tell that it hadn’t improved much.

While we don’t expect a fix to occur overnight, we do expect Caltrans to accept responsibility and make things right as quickly as possible. That means expediting the testing and research phase and moving on to implement a solution.

June may be an ambitious deadline, but given the importance of Highway 1, both to the North Coast and to the entire county economy, we urge Caltrans to step up to the challenge.