Ryan C. Smith
US-395 Widening Project Receives $24 Million - Don't Celebrate Too Soon...
On April 30, 2018 San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) announced that they had received nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in state grant funding for transportation improvements within the County. Of that amount, they are allocating $24 million to the "U.S. 395 Widening Project." What does that mean to the Save Lives on 395 campaign?
Going by their press release, it doesn't mean a whole lot... SBCTA has not directly disclosed to the public where exactly they plan to 'widen' 395 this time around. We have seen numerous proposed projects over the years, none of which are recent.
In the sense of adding additional lanes, SBCTA has made it abundantly clear that the section of Highway 395 that runs from Adelanto to Interstate 15 is first in line to receive 4 lanes. This is mostly a suburban area of Victor Valley. Just to clarify, this entire project IS NOT actually on the docket. It is merely their dream for the future. They have estimated that it will cost $435 million to widen it to 4 lanes, and it’s only a 12 mile stretch. That figure makes the $24M that they are now allocating to 395 look like pennies.
A potential candidate for some of the 24 million dollars is project EA-0N972; we'll refer to it as "Project Rumble Strips," Part 3
Information about Project Rumble Strips can be found on Caltrans, District 8's website. It is 3.6 miles in total (Mile 35.5-39.1) South of Route 58 (Kramer Junction). Caltrans shows it in “Ready-To-List” status which means that it has the green light.
The term "widening" in the "US-395 Widening Project" is very misleading to most people. It is common to assume that if they are widening 395 that there will be more lanes. This is not the case with Project Rumble Strips. The description states that they will “construct a 4’ median buffer & widen [the] existing shoulders to 8’, [Then they will] install centerline & shoulder rumble strips.” The end result will be a much wider road; however, it will remain a 2 lane highway. This is a problem because when they install a median buffer with rumble strips they usually remove all passing opportunities to do so.
Rumble strips are often referred to as “sleeper lines.” They were created to alert drivers who are starting to drift out of their lane. Highway 395 is dangerous because drivers pass on purpose.
Trucks can only drive 55 MPH and there is rarely a place where smaller vehicles can safely/legally get around them. Removing passing opportunities in favor of rumble strips only makes a bad situation worse. When drivers are stuck going 55 behind a semi for 20 miles straight the solid lines start to mean less and less to them. Overly impatient drivers will just cross over the rumble strips and quad yellow line to pass anyways.
"Accidents within the limits of Project Rumble Strips P.3 are nearly 40 TIMES more likely to result in death than the average of similar highways."
Highway 395 may not have the highest number of accidents, but even Caltrans’ assessment for Project Rumble Strips P.3 acknowledges that the likelihood that an accident will result in fatality between these mile markers is much higher than average… accidents here are nearly 40 times more likely to result in death.
SBCTA has already invested millions and millions of dollars to install over 40 miles of rumble strips, between Johannesburg and Adelanto, but it has not reduced the number of accidents. In fact, we've seen a steep increase in fatalities on 395 in San Bernardino County. There have already been 14 deaths in 2018 alone, as of May 9th.
I am a real estate investor & developer and, financially, this doesn’t make any sense to me. If they are already spending millions to widen 395 so it can accommodate a 4’ median buffer and 8’ shoulders on each side, why not make it a 3 lane road?... Both layouts take up exactly 44’ in overall width. If they were to add a 3rd alternating passing lane, and use k-rails instead of rumble strips, the Highway would be much safer and it would be able to handle the annual increase in traffic volume for much longer than their current layout.
Twenty miles of Highway 395, exactly two-thirds of the stretch between Kramer Junction and Adelanto, is already wide enough for 3 lanes. All Caltrans would have to do is remove the rumble strips and repaint the lines!
Having a passing lane every 3 to 5 miles would take the edge off of drivers immensely. Even without a concrete road divider, few people would risk their life by entering 2 lanes of oncoming traffic when they have the promise of a passing lane up ahead.
We need to be proactive. Rumble strips DO NOT work! Its time to try something new. We need to #SaveLivesOn395!!
Source of Accident Data Table: Caltrans Initial Study for EA 0N972 published April 2016 (page 45 of 268)