Q I become infuriated whenever I drive the length of Highway 87 at freeway speeds. It’s one of the newest freeways in the Bay Area, and it’s a shameful, bouncy mess. Did they actually lower the speed limit to 55 mph to keep drivers from going out of control?
At this point I guess it can’t be fixed, so my question is “Who was responsible for this mess?” Was it a crooked politician? An incompetent contractor? Was there ever any accountability? I’d feel much better knowing who to curse next time I’m driving that awful stretch of road.
A You can blame the geography, a rush to open the freeway south of Interstate 280 and faulty pipes. This freeway opened in 1993 and in less than a year huge dips began to appear between Highway 85 and 280. It took more than 10 years and $25 million to fix the problem.
Or so it seemed.
But in 2011 a large sinkhole developed on southbound 87 near the Alma offramp in San Jose. And more problems popped up last winter.
Engineers knew the mushy soil under the concrete would shift, as the highway is located near the Guadalupe River in an area prone to flooding that was once a swamp. They even packed an extra 10 to 20 feet of dirt on top of the elevated roadway and waited a year before removing the dirt and opening the freeway, giving it what they thought would be enough time to settle.
But when parts of it sank as much as 21/2 feet, crews then punched pipes through the highway up to 27 feet deep, using grout to fill in voids below the surface where drains collapsed.
State engineers let the pavement on other sections of 87 settle longer, which is why the stretch north of 280 is a smoother ride. Caltrans says it has plans to permanently address the settlement issue perhaps next year.
Q My son-in-law and daughter tried bicycling on Skyline Boulevard, but when they finished all I heard from them were complaints about the rough pavement. What is going on?
A Caltrans performed a chip seal job two years ago that drew a ton of complaints from bicyclists when some of them broke up. The state now says it will apply sand seal next summer that it believes will improve the mountain road.
Q In response to the reader who wants to be giving but worries that the offramp panhandler is not really in need, there is a beautiful solution, which I discovered accidentally while on a grapefruit kick.
Offer them a grapefruit. The phonies will frown and decline, saying they don’t care for them, and weeding themselves out for you. The truly hungry will leap to it, thank you profusely with great big warm eyes, and clasp your hand in gratitude, their heart warmed by your clear desire for their good health and warming yours in return.
In my experience you keep the grapefruit as often as not.
A I hate grapefruit, so I understand.
Gary Richards is recovering from surgery but welcomes your questions and comments while he recuperates. Write him at [email protected] or call 408-920-5335.