Monthly Archives: April 2012

SR4 Bypass Update – Laurel Road to Sand Creek Road

This SR4 Bypass project will widen the SR4 Bypass from 2 to 4 lanes (2 in each direction) from Laurel Road to Sand Creek Road, including the construction of Sand Creek Road Interchange.

The SR4 Bypass Authority (SR4BA) has completed the Plans, Specifications, and Estimate for the State Route 4 Bypass: Widen to 4 Lanes – Laurel Road to Sand Creek Road, and Sand Creek Road Interchange project. The project design has been completed and has been reviewed and approved by Caltrans. The SR4BA requested the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to take the lead in advertising, awarding, and administering the project per a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was executed in November 2011. In February of 2012 bids were solicited for the project. Nine were received. Last Wednesday night the Contra Costa Transportation Authority awarded the contract to the lowest bidder, Bay Cities/Myers JV. Construction is scheduled to begin in June of 2012 and should be substantially completed in early 2014.

Antioch Bridge Seismic Retrofit Completed

The nearly two yearlong project to seismically retrofit the 1.8 mile long Antioch Bridge has been completed. The bridge, opened in 1978 using the current earthquake safety technology, was originally thought to be adequately protected from earthquake damage. Upon further review Caltrans and the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) evaluated the seismic safety of the bridge and determined it required seismic retrofit work to make the bridge safe during a major earthquake. The $47 million project was paid for by the BATA using your bridge toll dollars.

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to tour what had been done. For the first part of the tour we climbed up the scaffolding to view the seismic isolation bearings that were installed at each of the 41 piers. These bearings use a sliding mechanism to control the bridge’s seismic response and to dissipate earthquake energy and will allow for up 26 inches of movement in any direction. The bearings were installed using jacks to separate the bridge from the pier and then sliding in the bearing. A total of 82 bearings were installed without affecting the nearly 15,000 vehicles that cross the bridge each day.

You’ll notice that 21 pier columns have been strengthened by the addition of cross braces and strengthening hinges. Additionally 116 columns supporting the nearly 800-foot-long concrete slap approach on Sherman Island were enhanced with steel casing jackets.

From Conception to Birth Visualized

Alexander Tsiaras presents a powerful visualization, based on MRI data, of the miraculous development of a human being, from conception to birth, with a focus on the amazing developments that occur in the first nine weeks, as cells divide to become the highly specialized structures of brain and heart.

Wanting more of a good thing: water subsidies, cotton subsidies, and the corporate agribusiness elite 1%

This post is from the Restore the Delta Newsletter

Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta – a coalition of Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community groups, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen, and environmentalists – seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary and the well-being of Delta communities. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Restore the Delta has been thinking a great deal lately about who receives water exported from the Delta and how these recipients use this exported water. The more we learn about how exported water is being used by the corporate agribusiness growers on the west side and southern San Joaquin Valley, the more convinced we become that exported water supports a business model that is bad for tax payers, and completely antithetical to the hope of a sustainable economy and environment for the Delta and for California

This week’s case in point: the growers of Semitropic Water Storage District. According to its website:

Semitropic Water Storage District is one of eight water storage districts in California and is the largest in Kern County. The District delivers water to nearly 300 customers for the irrigation of approximately 140,000 acres for agricultural uses. Semitropic also supplies energy to a variety of users and provides groundwater banking and storage services.

Established in 1958, Semitropic Water Storage District covers an area of more than 220,000 acres. It began as an irrigation district for the purpose of securing State Water Project supplies to reduce groundwater overdraft….

The development of the Semitropic Water Storage Bank was based on three primary objectives:

•Increase water supply reliability.
•Decrease the cost of water for irrigation.
•Correct overdraft in the groundwater basin.

In other words, Semitropic from the beginning, as a recipient of State Water Project water, was created to improve water supply reliability for a fairly arid region, to make water cheaper for big growers, and to fix the groundwater basin which had been overdrafted.

We, therefore, decided to look at the business models for some of Semitropic’s growers. This week we focus our attention on Todd Tracy. Mr. Tracy’s family is part of the historic Tracy family, a pioneer farming family that operated Buttonwillow Land and Cattle. So far, so good. Large tracts of semi-arid land, with just enough rain to support grazing — end result cattle production. It makes sense to us.

However, between 1995 and 2010, Buttonwillow Land and Cattle received $11,666,428 in cotton subsidy payments according to the Environmental Working Group. To see the data click here.

Water exports from the Delta (which is subsidized water as the State Water Project has never paid for itself) were used to produce these cotton crops that had to be subsidized by our Federal tax dollars. Meanwhile between 1995 and 2010, coastal fishing industries declined significantly, water quality worsened for beneficial use in the Delta, Delta fisheries collapsed, and Delta farmers spent millions of dollars in litigation to protect their water rights and access to good water quality.

These cotton crops do nothing to increase national food security, which an argument can be made for, for other subsidized crops. And while Restore the Delta does complain frequently about San Joaquin Valley almond exports to China, the argument can be made that those almonds are at least feeding people in other nations.

But what troubles us the most is that we are still subsidizing cotton with Delta water and Federal payments, when it can be grown cheaper in other parts of this country. This public policy model is unsustainable – for both our economy and the environment. But it continues because it enriches a small group of corporate agribusiness, who rake in private profits with socialized losses, who then have money to influence the political process.

Oh and by the way, the Semitropic Water Storage District supports the peripheral canal.

We guess that their growers simply want more of a good thing.

April 2012 Update – SR4 Widening: Somersville Road to SR 160

This project will widen State Route 4 from two to four lanes in each direction (including HOV Lanes) from Somersville Road to Hillcrest Avenue and then six lanes to SR 160, including a wide median for EBART. The project also includes the reconstruction of the Somersville Road Interchange, Contra Loma/L Street Interchange, G Street Overcrossing, Lone Tree Way/A Street Interchange, Cavallo Undercrossing and the Hillcrest Avenue Interchange.

The project is divided into four segments: 1) Somersville Interchange; 2) Contra Loma Interchange and G Street Overcrossing; 3A) A Street Interchange and Cavallo Undercrossing and 3B) Hillcrest Avenue to Route 160.

Segment 1: The Somersville Road Interchange project was awarded on December 23, 2010 to R & L Brosamer, Inc. for the bid price of $35,727,083.49 (25% below Engineer’s Estimate). The total project allotment is $39,641,000.00. Construction started on March 16, 2011. The anticipated completion date is August, 2013.

During the month of March, construction work continued along both the north and south sides of the freeway on sound walls and finishing work on retaining walls that have the Delta Region Native Landscape Architectural Treatment. Also, along both the north and south sides of the freeway, construction work has continued with mainline pavement widening and other preparations that were needed for completion and opening of the new off-ramps and on-ramps. The new off-ramps and onramps, in both directions of the freeway, were opened in March. The opening of these ramps was intended for February. However, due to wet weather and Contractor delays in completing all of the preliminary work, these ramps were opened in March instead. Drainage systems and electrical work was ongoing. Temporary paving and other stage construction work was completed in order to move westbound traffic over for construction of the new SR4 mainline bridge in that direction. This traffic switch was also scheduled to occur in late February, but was moved to March.Segment 1 construction is approximately 45% complete.

Segment 2: The Contra Loma Interchange/G Street project was awarded on October 11, 2011 to CC Myers, Inc. for the bid price of $42,380,000 (16% below the Engineer’s Estimate). The total project allotment is $48,718,000. Construction began in March 2012 and is anticipated to be completed by spring 2015. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 9th.

Segment 3A: The CTC allocated State Proposition 1B Bond funds in January 2012. This segment of SR4 was advertised for construction bids on February 27, 2012. Bids are scheduled to be opened on April 18th and construction is anticipated to start this summer.

Segment 3B: This segment, Hillcrest Interchange area, was delayed due to coordination issues related to the future eBART station and geometric approval by Caltrans of the proposed Hillcrest Interchange. A combined 95% roadway and structures package was submitted to Caltrans on November 29, 2011 and is currently under review. The Ready-To-List (RTL) date for this segment is targeted for June 2012.

April 2012 – Update SR4 Widening: Loveridge Road to Somersville Road

The project will widen Highway 4 from two to four lanes in each direction (including HOV Lanes) between Loveridge Road and Somersville Road. The project will provide a median for eBART. Construction of the SR4 mainline and Loveridge Road widening began in June 2010. It is estimated that the project construction will be completed in late 2013 or early 2014.

Current construction activities include sound wall construction, traffic barrier constructions, and work on the new southbound Loveridge Road Bridge over SR4. Concrete for the new bridge deck was placed in early March. The new southbound Loveridge Road Bridge is anticipated to be completed in April. At that time, all Loveridge Road traffic will be temporarily switched onto the new bridge so demolition of the existing bridges over SR 4 can take place as well as construction of the new northbound Loveridge Road Bridge. While the new northbound Loveridge Road Bridge is being constructed, temporary access for the North Park Plaza shopping center will be via a temporary access point at California Avenue behind the shopping center. Westbound SR4 traffic from the eastern end of the project limit to just east of Loveridge Road has been switched to the newly constructed outside concrete pavement lanes and over the newly constructed westbound bridge over Century Boulevard. Eastbound SR4 traffic in this same vicinity is expected to be switched to the newly constructed outside concrete pavement lanes and over the newly constructed eastbound bridge over Century Boulevard at the end of March. The switch of both eastbound and westbound traffic to the new outside lanes in this vicinity will allow for the demolition of existing bridges and construction of the freeway median and eBART bridges over Century Boulevard. The project construction is approximately 43% complete.

Hummingbirds and Spiders – A Unique Bond

I was out in the backyard Sunday continuing the spring cleanup. The backyard was active, birds flying between the feeders and baths, lizards sunny themselves on the fence and hummingbirds drawing nectar from the red salvias that start early and last through the summer. Towards the evening I watched the hummingbirds behaving in a peculiar manner. They were hovering at the fence and appeared to be pulling at old spider webs that littered the fence line just under the top board.

I went back inside, logged onto the computer, and confirmed what I thought. She is building a nest. From the World of Hummingbirds.com: “Female hummingbirds will need nesting material to make her nest. She likes to use nice soft material like moss and lichen. She also likes to use cotton fluffs, bits of willows, soft plant pieces, dryer lint, and leaf hairs. She will bring these items back to her nest a little at a time, gluing it all together with spider webs. The spider webs make terrific glue for the nest, allowing the nest to stretch and be flexible as the baby hummingbirds grow. The spider webs also make it easier for the mother hummingbird to repair the nest when damaged or when kids do what kids do. While building the nest, the female hummingbird will try to camouflage it as much as possible by using small sticks, seeds, and plant pieces to shade the outside of the nest. She will make sure the lighter parts of the nest are in the sun, while the darker parts of the nest are in the shade, blending it in with the surroundings.”

BART to Provide Riders with a Glimpse into the “Fleet of the Future” by Replacing Cloth Seats with Easier-to-Clean Ones

BART’s new fleet of train cars may still be 5 years away, but starting today, many BART riders will be able to commute every day on easier-to-clean seats that will resemble those on the “Fleet of the Future.”

More than 5,000 riders who participated in the “Fleet of the Future” seat labs last fall overwhelming let the agency know that they wanted easier-to-clean seats in the new fleet. The BART Board decided that instead of waiting 5 years for the new fleet to arrive, the agency will throw out the cloth seats in up to 100 cars beginning tomorrow and test new vinyl seats. If the public responds positively to the change, the agency
will replace another 100 seats.

BART is replacing existing wool seat assemblies with brand new easier-to-clean material. BART will conduct a media event Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 10:00am to showcase a whole trainful of new seats. This special
train will begin its journey at BART’s 19th Street Station in Oakland, head to Montgomery Street Station then return to 19th Street, picking up passengers along the way.

Before BART commits to making over more than the first 100 cars, the agency will survey customers for their feedback on the new seats later in April. Surveys will be conducted on board the cars outfitted with new seats, with on-board survey-takers who will ask riders for their feedback. Trains with new seats will have a decal to identify which cars have the new seats on board.

WHAT: BART Showcases New Seats

WHEN: 10:00am on Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WHERE: BART’s 19th Street Station – Meet at Richmond/Bay Point Platform
closer to the 20th Street Access 1900 Broadway, Oakland 94612

WHO: BART Board President John McPartland, Board Members Gail Murray and
Bob Franklin; and BART General Manager Grace Crunican

VISUALS: 4-car train outfitted with new seats; passengers trying out new
seats, sample survey forms, time lapse video of seat installs (provided as
DVD)

BART has the oldest fleet of train cars in the country. Learn about BART’s plans to replace aging train cars with the Fleet of the Future: www.bart.gov/cars