Improving traffic safety

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Improving safety and preventing cross-median traffic collisions
are the main goals for Caltrans’ proposed project to construct a
concrete median barrier near the U.S. 101 and Highway 156
interchange.
Maintaining the rural and historical character of San Juan
Bautista is also a major consideration for the project.

We want the barrier to meet safety requirements, but also be
visually pleasing and compatible with the natural environment,

said Richard Rosales, Caltrans project manager.
Improving safety and preventing cross-median traffic collisions are the main goals for Caltrans’ proposed project to construct a concrete median barrier near the U.S. 101 and Highway 156 interchange.

Maintaining the rural and historical character of San Juan Bautista is also a major consideration for the project. “We want the barrier to meet safety requirements, but also be visually pleasing and compatible with the natural environment,” said Richard Rosales, Caltrans project manager.

The estimated $1.9 million concrete barrier would be located on Highway 156, beginning less than a quarter mile east of the U.S. 101 and Highway 56 interchange and ending less than a quarter mile west of Washington Street.

The nearly two-mile long barrier would be 32 inches high with a rock masonry-type texture. The concrete would be colorized in earth tones reflecting surrounding landscape. It would also simulate historic outdoor walls built early in the last century in the San Juan Bautista area.

Caltrans worked with the Citizens Advisory Committee, a volunteer community group, to select the aesthetic treatments for the project. The group expressed concern that a concrete barrier would be incompatible with the local rural environment and scenic highway – as designated by the city.

Instead the committee recommended installing a thrie-beam barrier – compromised of wooden posts and metal guard rail. They also circulated a citizen petition opposing the concrete barrier.

Essentially, the 22-ft. wide median is too narrow for a thrie-beam and would compromise safety for both the traveling public and Caltrans maintenance personnel, according to Rosales.

Overall, the concrete barrier requires less maintenance and fewer lance closures , elements that make the facility more cost effective and safer for all users, he said.

Caltrans follows strict guidelines in identifying the needs for barrier and installing them, Rosales said. These are based on the number of accidents, traffic volumes and the median size or width.

Caltran’s values community involvement on all of its major projects, he said, but motorist safety is the No. 1 priority.

The Citizens Advisory Committee also made the following recommendations, which Caltrans is incorporating into the Highway 156 median barrier project:

– The median would be graded with a depressed area to further reduce the profile height of the barrier.

– The portion of existing concrete barrier – located at the project’s east end – would be cleaned and colored in earth tones to blend with the new one.

– The section of the median between the barrier and the paved shoulder would remain unpaved. It would also be seeded with low-growing, native grasses and wildflowers.

– The barrier’s end treatments would be metal-beam type.

– For improved visual effects, yellow reflectors would not be installed atop the barrier.

– Two openings would be provided within the barrier, allowing larger wildlife to cross the highway. Smaller animal crossings would be accommodated through the drainage and culvert system.

Cindy Utter,

Caltrans Community Planner

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