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Hwy 1 median barrier replaced because it was unsafe, Caltrans says
Dear Street Smarts, Q: I truly enjoy your column, I look forward to it every week. My question is why Caltrans removed a good concrete center divider on Highway 1 between State Park Drive and Rio del Mar Boulevard, and replaced it with another at the same location. It surely wasn't a safety factor. With our state finances in disaster mode, how in the world do they justify those expenses? Those funds could have been used for other projects. I need an explanation that justifies them spending our monies in that way. Whose in charge? George Medeiros, Corralitos A: According to Caltrans, that median barrier was not good and actually posed a safety hazard to motorists. The barrier there went in about 10 years ago. Through those years, Caltrans has been paving Highway 1 to maintain a smooth road surface, said Susana Cruz, Caltrans spokesperson, while noting that the agency is replacing the entire barrier from Aptos to the Pajaro River. With each overlay, the pavement gets higher and the guardrail gets shorter. That short guardrail means that if a large vehicle hits it, that vehicle could go over the wall, striking oncoming motorists on the opposite side of the freeway, she said. “The old barrier – a type 50 – was originally 32 inches high,” she explained, noting that the barriers are crash tested based on national standards. “The new standard – a type 60 – is 36 inches high and that allows for more overlays before it must be replaced.” Being that the higher wall allows for more overlays, means this wall will stay for awhile, said Cruz “By the way, the median here is only 14 feet wide including the barrier and about 84,000 vehicles pass each day,” she added. While Cruz could not provide the number of times the barrier has been hit over the years, the numerous tire and paint parkings along that stretch of Highway 1 indicate it takes quite a beating. Are you a smart driver? I've always heard that I should drive with my hands at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock position on the steering wheel. I was told it's the safest position for maintaining control of my vehicle. But when I picked that as my answer to a question on this topic on AARP's online “Are You a Smart Driver” quiz, it said I was wrong. The correct answer is 8 o'clock and 4 o'clock or 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock position. Why the change? Today's vehicles have airbags. “The 8 and 4 o’clock — or 9 and 3 o’clock — hand position can prevent injury to your hands, arms and face if an accident causes the airbag to inflate,” the quiz said. Find out if you are a smart driver by taking the quiz at http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/info-11-2011/quiz-are-you-a-smart-driver.html.