In September of 2015, the City of Oakland installed bike lanes on Chetwood Street, a local road that includes an overpass over a Caltrans highway. Oakland’s project design included six-foot wide bike lanes and 10-foot mixed traffic lanes, meeting local standards for bike safety and comfort. When they applied for the encroachment permit for the portion of the street that passed over the Caltrans freeway, Caltrans rejected the city’s design—just because Caltrans’ less bike-friendly standards required only 5-foot bike lanes and 11-foot mixed traffic lanes.
The City of Oakland conducted a traffic count in order to apply for a design exception from Caltrans, and elevated the issue locally to debate with Caltrans over most of the year, until finally Caltrans relented and Oakland got to design the street as they wanted. Bike safety was delayed and costs increased because Caltrans wanted to enforce its bad standards even on a street that didn’t affect a state highway. This happens all over the state.
SB 760 will fix this. This legislative effort, led by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and our transportation allies in the State Legislature, specifies that when a local agency wants to redesign a road that goes over or under a Caltrans state highway, for example, those local agencies are in complete control of design as long as the proposed changes don’t affect the state highway. The bill states, “If the improvement would not affect the operation of the state highway and the associated work would be performed in accordance with local… specifications, the department shall not deny… a permit solely because the associated work is not… in accordance with… specifications approved by the department.”
“Although Caltrans has made some great improvements in its processes in the past few years, we have a long way to go, so at the very least the department can allow for better design by local agencies through this reduction of red tape,” said Linda Khamoushian, CalBike’s Senior Policy Advocate.