Road Update Contra Costa County

Wildcat Canyon Road, the shining example of road budgets gone in the toilet, has just been repaved. Wildcat is one of two major cycling connector roads from Berkeley over to Orinda (the other being Tunnel Road). If you’ve ridden the Fall Social ride over the Three Bears, then you had to endure traversing Wildcat to get there. Despite being in tenuous shape even 25 years ago, it had not been repaved until now. Finally. I had long ago given up hope that the City of Berkeley was ever going to scrape up the money to fix Wildcat’s horrendous condition–rough, eroded asphalt with constant gaps and cracks that had one hunting for relief from the incessant juddering. Ironically a cut made in the road a decade or so ago for a sewer or water line–and thus “newer” pavement–was the smoothest part of the tarmac one could find. Unfortunately it was often smack-dab in the middle of the lane. Riding Wildcat on a stiff, rigid frame with 23mm tires was guaranteed to be an unpleasantly memorable experience. Despite it being in our backyard, Roger and I had given up riding Wildcat in disgust because, well, it’s literally a pain. In fact, the reason we changed the Pool Party route last year to go further south on Skyline was specifically to avoid riding on Wildcat. But with the new road surface, this year’s Pool Party ride is going back to Wildcat! Roger and I rode it a few days ago and the road crew still had not striped the median divider and the shoulder lines. What was it like? Like buttah! You wouldn’t recognize it! And this was no cheap slurry seal job: Berkeley did the right thing and actually covered the entire width of the roadway with new asphalt. With Grizzly Peak Boulevard having been repaved last summer (and still in excellent shape), this year’s ride is going to be smoooooth! See you there next week.

In other road news Alamo Boulevard, which is the section of Danville/San Ramon Boulevard in the unincorporated town of Alamo, has also just been repaved. About 12 years ago Contra Costa County slurry-sealed it and did, at least by cycling standards, a barely adequate job. Prior to its remediation it was typical suburban pavement: basically smooth but full of slowly growing cracks. The county did the minimum to seal the cracks–it simply slapped down a thick layer of slurry on top. It didn’t even try to cover the full width of the roadway and worse it was lumpy and rough. It was as if they rolled it with chains; it was “distressed” in more ways than one. I’m not really sure why the county decided to repave it because the slurry job had held up fairly well (by automobile standards). But like Wildcat this time it was done right: a chip-seal surface with a final fine asphalt on top to give it a very smooth surface. And, they did it the entire road width. A few days ago the striping was completed. Note that this is only on the Alamo section, i.e. not in Walnut Creek or Danville. But those cities maintained their stretches and the roadway was in excellent shape. Now when you hammer down to Danville for an espresso and panini, you’ll be able to enjoy the smooth ride as you dodge the ninnies in SUVs. Like buttah!

Finally, the other major section of road recently being repaved is Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Lafayette. The section that has just been completed runs from near the Lafayette Reservoir into downtown. The roadway was generally in decent shape but a series of construction projects over the past decade had degraded the roadway with cuts, erosion due to heavy truck traffic, and debris. The worst of it was, of course, the bike lanes and shoulders.

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