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SLOCOG tells Caltrans to shift gears 

Caltrans promised earlier this year--contingent on available funds--to fix rough conditions on a stretch of Highway 1 near Cambria that the agency paved with a particularly coarse blend of chip seal in September 2012. Although Caltrans continues to report progress, the prime season for regional bicycle events looms on the horizon.

click to enlarge HEADSET LOOSENER :  Cyclists complain that Caltrans’ 2012 chip seal job made riding an iconic stretch of Highway 1 with road bike tires prohibitively uncomfortable. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CALTRANS DISTRICT 5
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CALTRANS DISTRICT 5
  • HEADSET LOOSENER : Cyclists complain that Caltrans’ 2012 chip seal job made riding an iconic stretch of Highway 1 with road bike tires prohibitively uncomfortable.

The timing of the situation worries some local officials eyeing the potential loss of tourism revenue. Among the critics is Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose county district includes the north coast communities that benefit most directly from the iconic cycling route.

“Caltrans has not been moving as fast as I would like them to,” Gibson wryly remarked during a public meeting on April 2.

The San Luis Obispo County Council of Governments (SLOCOG) responded the following day to concerns raised by Gibson and local cyclists over the past several months. The SLOCOG board passed a resolution April 3 to continue badgering the state agency about restoring Highway 1 to bicycle-friendly conditions by June.

During the meeting, SLOCOG board member Paul Teixeira described his feelings when it comes to Caltrans as “anger, disappointment, and disillusion.”

The vote proved largely a symbolic gesture, according to SLOCOG executive director Ron DeCarli, who said local governments can do little to hurry Caltrans along.

“Our board has continued to question why it takes four to six weeks to test and assess the pavement,” DeCarli wrote in an e-mail.

Caltrans spokesman Colin Jones told New Times the agency has already cleared most of the loose rocks off the shoulder. The agency recently test-rolled a stretch of Highway 1 using heavy equipment and is waiting for the results of that experimental solution. Caltrans will soon collect data and hand it over to researchers at UC Davis who are expected to publish a report sometime in May.

“We acknowledge that it’s definitely a rougher ride,” Jones said. “But it’s not hazardous.”

Caltrans uses chip seal as a preventative measure to keep roadway wear and tear from ripening into a need for expensive resurfacing projects. The agency’s tentative approach to finding a solution flows from underlying budget limitations that prompted officials to use chip seal in the first place.

Caltrans states that no major cycling event has cancelled yet because of the rough riding conditions. Tom Fulks of the Slabtown Rollers Cycling Club considers that statement a slap in the face to the Country Coast Classic, which organizers recently postponed.

“It’s a grave insult,” Fulks said during the April 3 public comment.

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