Upgrades On California’s Historic Route 66

A section of Historic Route 66 in San Bernardino County, Calif., is getting an upgrade this summer that should improve safety and convenience for motorists and pedestrians alike.

A Ditch Witch JT2020 Mach 1 directional drill bores under Foothill Boulevard (Historic Route 66) in San Bernardino, Calif., for a traffic signal upgrade project. Don Betsworth photo
A Ditch Witch JT2020 Mach 1 directional drill bores under Foothill Boulevard (Historic Route 66) in San Bernardino, Calif., for a traffic signal upgrade project. Don Betsworth photo

The Caltrans project, awarded to PTM Engineering Services Inc. of Riverside, Calif., on a bid of $489,489, will update existing obsolete traffic signals at three intersections and install new American Disabilities Act-approved handicapped ramps at those intersections plus seven others. Of the 10 intersections, eight are on Foothill Boulevard (Historic Route 66) and two are on nearby roadways.

Long’s Directional Boring operates a Ditch Witch JT2020 Mach 1 directional drill for a project on Foothill Boulevard in San Bernardino, Calif. Don Betsworth photos
Long’s Directional Boring operates a Ditch Witch JT2020 Mach 1 directional drill for a project on Foothill Boulevard in San Bernardino, Calif. Don Betsworth photos

The stretch of Foothill Boulevard affected by the project runs through an area of mixed residential and industrial properties. The roadway includes one lane of travel in each direction, plus a center turn lane and pedestrian islands in places. With moderately heavy traffic and a speed limit of 45 mph, safety is an issue.

“The work on this project is scattered and based upon the current condition of the streets,” said Peter Kobus, superintendent for PTM Engineering. “Caltrans builds these ramps on a critical-need-to-be-done basis. All locations are getting new ADA upgrades, but there is scattered work according to the plans.”

The crew feeds conduit into the bore.
The crew feeds conduit into the bore.

Caltrans awarded a contract for the project to PTM Engineering in February 2009. Bidding for the project was extremely competitive, with the winning bid coming in at less than half of the engineer’s estimate.

The contractor broke ground and began installing the construction signs on July 13, Kobus said, adding that the lead time required for taking delivery on the steel utility poles needed for the project was a factor in determining the start date.

The JT2020 packs 20,000 pounds of pulling power.
The JT2020 packs 20,000 pounds of pulling power.

PTM, an electrical/general contractor, is self-performing work on the streetlights and traffic signals, along with associated concrete work.

“The traffic signals are really old, and the electrical system is aging,” Kobus said.

PTM will move crosswalks, replace wiring and upgrade the signal controllers. The controllers will be synchronized via GPS to allow for a smoother traffic flow with less stop-and-go caused by changing signals.

In addition, left-turn lights mounted on poles in the median islands will be removed as a safety measure and replaced on long arms extending from the side of the roadway.

Caltrans requires the installation of conduit under its roadways with directional boring, only allowing a contractor to trench if boring won’t work for some reason. PTM subcontracted the directional drilling to Long’s Directional Boring.

The Ditch Witch JT2020 Mach 1 directional drill that Long’s Directional Boring is using will make a total of 20 boring shots among the three locations.

Pedestrian Ramps

Kobus said the installation of the ADA-compliant ramps is very exacting work. The grooved ramps must be a certain width, and their downgrade can’t exceed 8.33 percent. In addition, the push buttons must be within five feet of the ramp and be installed low enough for a person in a wheelchair to reach.

Workers break up sidewalk to make way for installation of crosswalk ramps.
Workers break up sidewalk to make way for installation of crosswalk ramps.

The ramps consume 2 cubic yards of concrete each. The subcontractor for the concrete work on the ramps is B&T Works of Murrieta, Calif.

Seven of the 10 locations included in the project are receiving two or more new concrete ramps, Kobus explained, and each location also receives a detectable warning surface (truncated domes) on the ramps. All new ramps get the truncated domes, but there are existing ramps that only get the truncated domes upgrade, with no new concrete.

The location at Route 66 and Cedar Avenue is getting three ramps, but they are on the same side of the street. Starting at the southeast corner of Route 66 and Cedar, a new ramp will be placed and the sidewalk will be extended east to an existing bus stop pad, then continue east to an existing driveway. Two more ramps are to be installed at the driveway.

The other two locations that are not on Route 66 are at Interstate 10 and 6th Street in Redlands, Calif. These locations receive two new ramps only, one at the I-10 Westbound exit ramp at 6th Street and the other at the I-10 eastbound entrance ramp at 6th Street.

Kobus said the project is scheduled for completion in 60 to 90 days and was on time when he talked to CB&E in late July.

“We’re keeping the guys out there working,” he concluded.

Sidebar:

On The Mother Road

The mention of “Route 66” might conjure up memories of a long-ago television show in which two young men travel the West in a new Corvette, but the history of the route dates from long before that.

A sign on Foothill Boulevard notes the status of Historic Route 66.
A sign on Foothill Boulevard notes the status of Historic Route 66.

Officially, the numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926, a year after the federal government executed its plan for national highway construction.

From the outset, public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: Most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, thousands of people from virtually every state were put to work as laborers on road gangs to pave the final stretches of the road. As a result of this monumental effort, the Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway was reported as “continuously paved” in 1938.

In his famous social commentary, “The Grapes of Wrath,” author John Steinbeck proclaimed U. S. Highway 66 the “Mother Road.” An estimated 210,000 people migrated from the Midwest to California on Route 66 to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl.

The stretch of Route 66 that passes through California extends from the Colorado River, near Needles, to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica some 320 miles away.San Bernardino was made quite famous by all of the excitement of the “Mother Road.” Foothill Boulevard is old Route 66 and is marked as “Historic Route 66” along the route.

Foothill Boulevard continues west arrow straight towards Arcadia. The old road had several alignments along this stretch. At one point the road went through Glendora, Monrovia and Sierra Madre. But as Los Angeles County became more populated, the decision was made to bypass these towns in favor of a less congested route to the coast.

Note: This article ran in the September 2009 issue of California Builder & Engineer, an ACP magazine.

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