This is the first part of a new series on SoCalRegion where we will discuss various topics related to roadways, their design, signage, as well as other features to help assist all road users in traveling throughout California. Many of these features exist in other states, but some have a different take on things.
Roadway striping comes in a few different colors and designs. Each of these have a meaning. Even without using signs, you can use striping to help determine what is going on with a roadway. Using these clues can also help aid with navigation in unfamiliar areas.
Let’s start with the basics. Two basic elements of striping are common throughout the United States – yellow means dividing opposing traffic and white means same direction of traffic. These colors remain nearly universal throughout all 50 states. Double striping, no matter the color, denotes a “no passing” or “no crossing” location. Passing, assuming the roadway is two lanes wide, can be done when the stripe on your side is broken. When the whole stripe is broken, both sides can pass.
Multilane highways are divided in a variety of ways. When it comes to striping, there are three main types. The first is still the basic double-yellow striping. When a roadway needs a bit more of a divider, two sets of double yellow stripes are placed. These are considered “painted barriers” and are not to be crossed in any way. Some of these roadways have breaks in the striping, usually on one side only, to allow for turns onto side streets or driveways.
Common center turn lanes are another way to divide a roadway. These can exist even on two lane roadways but are more common on multilane roads. These center lanes are striped with a solid yellow line on the outside and a broken yellow line on the inside. These lanes allow both directions to make left turns.
Freeways, while the striping is color coded the same way as regular roads, do have some different styles and meanings. Exit Only lanes, meaning lanes that will exit a freeway shortly, have something Caltrans calls – Elephant Tracks. When a lane is going to leave the freeway, the striping changes in thickness and frequency. These stripes are wider and a little more frequent than regular lane striping. It is one of the visual cues that is designed to help motorists determine if they are in the correct lane, regardless of signage.
At the exit itself, the shoulder striping in California has a unique modification. Designed to aid motorists in times of reduced visibility, the shoulder stripe has a break at the exit and flares out to mark the exit. In areas subject to heavy fog, there is an additional exit cue – reflectors. These are off to the side of the shoulder striping at intervals and are in rows of three, two, then one at the exit.
HOV lane striping is another variation found on California freeways. Until a few years ago, these lane were, in general, striped with a double set of double yellow lines, acting as a painted barrier. There were variations based on available space as well. Specific entry/exit points where marked with broken white striping. These stripes are now being changed to double white lines with broken striping at the entry/exit points.
As you can see, there are many ways to determine what is going on with a roadway without looking at signage. Striping help guide road users in ways signage cannot. So, when you are in unfamiliar territory or in conditions where you can’t see the signs, use these clues to help direct you to where you are going. The stripes are there to help!
After doing a bit of thinking, I came up with an idea of a new regular feature for the site. I will be posting, with some regularity but no set interval, various topics of regarding highway features. An example, explanations of various types of striping and what they mean. These topics will be California-specific, but some things are more “universal”. Look for the first post in the next few days.
Today, myself and three others cleaned my portion of I-8 and the western US 80 adopted sections. Temperatures were a bit warmer than planned, but still not that bad. A bit more of a breeze would have helped though. We all met at 9 am at Laguna Summit and started with cleaning I-8. There ended up being a bit more trash than I expected, which is ok for a first cleanup. We managed to fill six large bags with trash and left the highway quite clean. US 80, however, was much easier. What little was there only filled one bag halfway. I do with to thank the volunteers for coming out. It was quite helpful and made the cleanup go fairly smoothly. I do plan another cleanup in a couple of months, this one will include I-8 and both sections of US 80 (Laguna Summit and Jacumba). Temperatures should be nicer by then as well.
On October 8, I am planning another highway cleanup. This one will be in eastern San Diego County and cover two sections of highway, I-8 at Laguna Summit (Sunrise Highway) and US 80. My section of I-8 runs from the summit to two miles east with about 1/2 of it able to be cleaned. The section of US 80 runs from just below Laguna Summit to two miles east as well. Both roadways should be a fairly easy cleanup. The plan, thus far, is to meet at I-8 and Sunrise Highway / Old Highway 80 at 9 am. Safety equipment, such as hard hats and vests will be supplied. There will be a safety meeting for all the volunteers as well before the cleanup begins. Bring plenty of water and snacks as we will be out there a while. Only those 18 and over can volunteer. Please RSVP as so I can get an idea of how many to expect. So, come on out and help clean some of our counties roadways.
I’m not quite sure when the sign went up, but it was most likely in the last few weeks. My newest section of Adopt-A-Highway, here in San Diego County, is finally signed.
Now that it is signed and I have a permit in hand, it is time for a cleanup. Unless temperatures exceed 85 F, I am planning a cleanup of the adopted sections of I-8 and US 80 in the area on October 8, 2017. If you’re interested in joining, let us know!
There is a group in Bakersfield trying to get historic route signs posted on the original alignment of US 99 through the Bakersfield area. They could use your support. Check out the site below for more information.
Roadways and their right-of-ways are marked in various ways. Originally, roadway rights-of-way were poorly marked, and as a result, changed quite a bit. These changes made travel sometimes rather confusing the roadway path may have changed before the map the traveler used changed. This sort of problem also cost the State quite a bit of money as they had to not only correct the problem, but also deal with the potential land costs of a new alignment.
Starting in 1914, the California Highway Commission came up with a plan to mark the right-of-way in a more permanent manner. Their solution – a “C-Monument”. While not the official name, which is simply “survey monument”, it aptly describes the marker. These monuments would be placed at the edge of the right-of-way at intervals along tangents (straightaways) and at curve points (BC and EC or Beginning of Curve and End of Curve). Optimally, these monuments would project about 6 inches above the ground with the C facing the roadway. At the top of the monument, a copper plug was placed to help guide surveyors.
The C-monument was actively placed and used for many years, though when it finally was out of use seemed to vary between districts. In San Diego County in District 11, for example, they were used along freeways constructed in the mid to late 1950’s. Los Angeles County, within District 7, seemed to stop using them sometime in the late 1930’s. Today, the monuments that remain are still valid survey monuments. While not placed anymore, Caltrans, as well as local agencies, still use them. As such, please do not disturb or collect them if they are still in place. Finding them along a roadway also doesn’t automatically make it an old State Highway. Some counties also used these monuments as they were a part of the standard plans for any project that involved state or federal dollars.
Finding these monuments is actually quite simple. Typically, roadway rights-of-way ranged anywhere from 100′ to more than 300′. Find a curve in the roadway you are looking at and look for one on either side of the roadway about 50 to 150′ away from the centerline of the roadway. In mountainous areas, the uphill one tends to be easier to spot than the downhill side. Fence lines, power lines, and other similar features can be used to indicate the right-of-way edge. As they can still be used today as survey monuments, some are marked with paddles or other objects to make a surveyors job easier when locating them. Placer County uses a white “R/W” paddle. Caltrans District 9, at least in Inyo County, uses orange poles as location markers.