Progress Report: Hunts Lane overpass now open

Well, SanBAG had a Halloween treat for San Bernardino/Colton residents: they opened the Hunts Lane overpass to traffic. An official dedication is scheduled for Thursday morning, but it will occur in a parking lot directly east of the bridge. Still, attend if you can. It’s nice for citizens to show up to these sorts of things every once in awhile.

Existing conditions on Waterman Ave. south of the tracks.
Existing conditions for peds on Waterman Ave. south of the tracks.

Anyway, a little bit of info about the project. Located in the southern end of San Bernardino/eastern edge of Colton, this $29mn project means that the dozens of Union Pacific trains and a smattering of Amtraks (but unfortunately no daily passenger service to the Palm Springs area) that pass through this route no longer result in Hunts Ln. being blocked for any lengths of time. It will also be a massive improvement for pedestrians compared to Waterman Avenue, especially for those living in the neighborhoods directly south of the tracks who need to access the bus. The Hunts Lane sbX station is located approximately half a mile directly north.

Here’s what SanBAG had to say about it:

The last two sentences of that tweet are quite appropriate as the final design leaves much to be desired and includes a fair amount of built-in danger.

Of course, given the name, the accommodations for bikes are of great interest to this blog. Unfortunately, the current outlook is dismal. Since neither Colton nor San Bernardino has a bike master plan, Hunts Ln. is not a designated bikeway in either city either. Therefore, it also never made its way up to the SanBAG NMTP and thus missed this project. Although cycletracks weren’t yet approved when this project was hatched and started, they could’ve still built the bridge a little wider to accommodate some decent bike lanes. Especially considering the cliff faces curbs that border the roadway on the bridge.

That boat has now sailed, so re-adapting what we’re stuck with will have to be the way to go. There is still room for accommodating bikes a little better by way of the striping. It appears that the current design is for 12′ inside lanes and 17′ outside lanes. That presents a quandary to those pedaling along because CVC 21202 could be used against riders who are “impeding” traffic while controlling the outside lanes. However, both inside and outside lanes can be slimmed down a bit to accommodate a striped Class II bike lane. Using 10′ inside lanes and 13′ outside lanes leaves enough room to stripe a 6′ bike lane. Additionally, the slimmer lanes will encourage lower speeds. Currently, Hunts Lane is signed for 45 MPH, but initial observations show that some people think that is only a suggestion.

Speaking of striping, there are a couple of noggin scratchers there too. The most glaring error in that regard is the installation of ‘shark teeth’ upside down. A ‘pork chop island’ and right slip turn were included from Hunts Lane south to Oliver Holmes Rd. west with the requisite ‘YIELD’ sign and line. Or what was supposed to be a yield line. Per Section 3B.16 of the CA MUTCD, yield lines (aka ‘shark teeth’) are to be installed in this manner:

You had one job! But seriously. These 'shark teeth' are backwards.
You had one job! But seriously. These ‘shark teeth’ are backwards. This is how it should be done.

07 Yield lines (see Figure 3B-16 3B-16(CA)) shall consist of a row of solid white isosceles triangles pointing toward approaching vehicles extending across approach lanes to indicate the point at which the yield is intended or required to be made. – CA MUTCD 2012 Section 3B.16

Why so far?
Why so far?

They clearly missed the mark on that one. Another striping quirk was the limit line at Oliver Holmes Rd. It was set a ways back (22′ to be exact) from the intersection itself for all lanes. Oliver Holmes does see a fair amount of truck traffic, so the intent is likely to not have any turning conflict between trucks and vehicles at a limit line at the intersection. But perhaps staggered setbacks would be better? Currently, ALL lanes have their stop lines the same distance from the intersection itself. That distance may be fine for the left turn lane, but the inside lane could probably be brought up another 6′ and the outside lane a good 14′ and still not intrude into the area necessary to complete at turn.

The visibility is constrained from behind the line.
The visibility is constrained from behind the crosswalk.

But the real dangerous part of the whole project is on the south side of the tracks. While the intersections on the north side have signals, those on the south side don’t. As a result, people are left to their own devices and due to the proximity of Riverwood St. and Commercial Rd. to each other, it appears that one continues into the other. However, they’re just far enough apart that it’s not a straight shot. Added to that is the fact that visibility from behind the crosswalk on Riverwood is lackluster. A couple of hairy situations were observed in just the 15 minutes of taking pictures. As more people realize that Hunts is open and start using it, nothing good will come of this hodgepodge of intersections.

This island...
That island (not to be confused with Dhat Island)…
...should be here.
…should be here.

Most peculiar was the island located slightly south of Riverwood to delineate the left turn pocket from Hunts Ln. onto Riverwood. It has no obvious practical purpose. Given the propensity for dangerous crossings at Commercial Rd. and Riverwood St., the concrete would’ve seen better use creating an island restricting left turns off both of those roads. Nothing good will come of the current setup.

All that aside, the end of major construction will certainly be appreciated, even if there is still stuff to be done. At the same time, SanBAG needs to step back and take a long, hard look at their design of grade separation projects. These are the types of facilities that are quite expensive to build and cost-prohibitive to retrofit, especially for bike/ped needs. With several under construction and more in the planning phases, it is imperative that they be done right from the very beginning. There is hope for this project, but what is really needed will likely never happen.

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