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Another View: Caltrans – a groovy thing

By: Denis Golemis, Special to the Herald
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Caltrans is doing some surprisingly groovy things with highway engineering. One such groovy thing is the short latitudinal grooves in the right edge of the roadway that act as a noisy rumble strip if you inadvertently drift onto the shoulder.

There is a new grooving technique being introduced on Interstate 80 with exactly the opposite effect of the rumble strip. Caltrans is putting longitudinal grooves in entire concrete lanes that run for various distances. The grooves are about ¼-inch deep and ½-inch apart all the way across the lane. You can see them on I-80 and Highway 50 between here and Sacramento.

Those grooved lanes are obviously there to prevent hydroplaning in wet weather, and an Internet search reveals that Caltrans is doing exactly that. A serendipitous thing occurs as soon as you leave an ungrooved concrete lane and roll onto a grooved section. The noise level drops significantly. It’s so quiet that it rivals the sounds of silence from a freshly paved asphalt lane.

I’ve never actually seen the Caltrans workers putting in the grooves, but I imagine they have phalanxes of people, with hammer and chisel in hand, banging out the grooves – probably at night. They have to be quick too, for traffic flows really fast. In the past when I have dealt with chiselers, something crooked was involved, but these chiselers chisel straight and true.

If you see phalanxes of chiselers on the side of the interstate in the early morning hours, that’s probably them. Drive carefully, for if you’re driving in a lane that they’re grooving on, they won’t hear you coming. Then again, maybe Caltrans uses machines to do the job.

Denis Golemis is a Rocklin resident. Look for more from him in future editions of the Herald.