Friday, April 20, 2018

Hundreds gather to honor and pay their respects to fallen Caltrans workers at annual Workers Memorial

On April 28, 1993, the lives for the friends, family and co-workers of Juan "John" Thome changed forever.

Thome was struck and killed by an errant driver simply for doing his job. The Maintenance Landscape Leadworker was checking on a landscape crew along State Route 60 (Pomona Freeway) in the city of Diamond Bar when he was hit by a vehicle.

Sadly, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) employees put their lives on the line every day to maintain and repair our state highway system. And since 1921, Thome and 187 other Caltrans employees have paid the ultimate price.

On April 18, hundreds of employees, family members and guests took a moment to recognize and remember workers like Mr. Thome that were killed at the annual District 7 Workers Memorial.
Among the attendees was Chrstine Thome, the widow of Juan "John" Thome, and her family. Since 1993, and every year since, they have come to the District 7 Workers Memorial to pay their respects to Thome and the 36 other Caltrans employees in District 7, which covers Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, who have been killed on the job.

Christine Thome, the widow of Juan "John" Thome, outside the Diamond Bar Maintenance Station
April 18 before the 2018 District 7 Workers Memorial. Mrs. Thome placed a wreath on sign honoring 
her late husband, who was killed by errant driver while checking on landscape crew April 28, 1993.
Since 1921, 37 Caltrans District 7 (Los Angeles and Ventura Counties) employees
have been killed on the job.
This year's memorial was held at the South Region Maintenance Station under the Interstate 105 (Glenn Anderson Freeway) in the city of Los Angeles.
Held every year in April and May at the 12 Caltrans districts statewide, the Workers Memorial is a time to honor Caltrans workers who lost their lives helping drivers get where they need to go efficiently and safely.

"Every day, Caltrans employees go to work knowing that they face real risks," Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen said during the District 7 Workers Memorial April 18.

"Remembering our fallen coworkers is a sober reminder that we must continually recommit ourselves to safety every day," said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman. "I would like to appeal to those who use our travel-way, if you speed, text drive impaired, distracted or aggressively, you are putting your life at risk and you are putting others in serious danger."

Pictured from left to right at 2018 District 7 Workers Memorial: Vince Mammano with 
Federal Highway Administration; District 7 Deputy District Director Maintenance Deborah Wong; 
Caltrans Director Laurie Berman; California Highway Patrol Captain Mark Garrett; 
Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen; Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) 
Planning Director Kome Ajise; and Caltrans Maintenance Chief Tony Tavares.
The last District 7 employee killed while working on a state highway was in 2016. On Sept. 1, 2016, Electrician Jorge Lopez was killed when a big rig crossed onto the shoulder while he was standing outside his vehicle on State Route 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) near Palmdale. Prior to that, District 7 went 11 years without a work-related fatality.

Caltrans District 7 electrician Jorge Lopez was struck and killed on State Route 14 near Palmdale
when a big rig crossed onto the shoulder while he was standing outside his vehicle.

The statewide Workers Memorial ceremony will be held April 26 at 11 a.m. on the West Steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento.


This year, Caltrans is paying special tribute to Si Si Han, a Toll Collector who was struck and killed Dec. 2, 2017 by a driver allegedly under the influence who crashed into a Bay Bridge toll booth.

Si Si Han, a Bay Bridge Toll Collector, was killed Dec. 2, 2017 when a box truck collided with the toll booth
she was working in. She is survived by her husband, Ryan, and their 10-year-old daughter, Ashly.

Caltrans will also honor Annette Brooks, a District 4 (Bay Area) Structure Steel Painter Supervisor who was shot and killed April 24, 2017 at the Rio Dell, Calif. Maintenance Station. 
Caltrans Structural Steel Painter Supervisor Annette Brooks worked for the state of
California for more than 36 years when she was shot and killed at the Rio Dell
Maintenance Station, approximately 25 miles south of Eureka.
Caltrans is committed to proving safe and efficient work zones, both for the traveling public and employees working on state freeways and highways. Safety is our number one priority, and honoring our fallen workers is a tragic reminder of the risks workers face every day.
Drivers can prevent tragic outcomes both to themselves and highway workers by slowing down in work zones, keeping their eyes on the road, avoiding texting and other distracted driving habits, as well as complying with the Move Over Law. Passed in 2007, it requires drivers to move over if it is safe to do so, or slow down when approaching vehicles displaying flashing amber warning lights, including Caltrans vehicles.

Together, we can make sure Caltrans employees and other highway workers are able to get home to their families every night.

"Highway worker safety is everyone's responsibility...Be patient. Don't speed. Be Work Zone Alert," said Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Update on Long-Term Reconstruction of Northbound I-405 Connectors to Eastbound & Westbound I-105

HAWTHORNE - The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has reconstructed the following two connector ramps:
The northbound I-405 (San Diego Freeway) connector to eastbound I-105 (Century / Glenn Anderson Freeway) was closed for 14 weeks for reconstruction. It re-opened at 5 a.m. on January 3, 2018.
The northbound I-405 connector to westbound I-105 was closed for almost 12 weeks for reconstruction. It re-opened at 3 a.m. on March 24, 2018.
Our contractor is now reconstructing and repaving one final lane of the collector road leading up to the two connector ramps. This stage of construction is scheduled to continue for several months. At least one lane of the collector road will remain open to traffic 24/7, with the exceptions that it may be closed overnight occasionally and there may be one 55–hour weekend closure during this time period to complete the project.
The right lane and auxiliary lane of northbound I-405 (San Diego Freeway) approaching Imperial Highway are scheduled to be closed from 10 p.m. Monday, Apr. 16 until 6 a.m. Tuesday, Apr. 17 to remove K-rail.
When the freeway lanes re-open, the contractor will also re-open the eastbound El Segundo Blvd. on ramp to northbound I-405 after a long-term closure.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Caltrans Navy Reservist Surprises Supervisor with 'Patriot Award' for Accommodating Military Service Duties

For United States Naval Reserve Petty Officer First Class Rodney Russell, rotating between his military and civilian life is a balancing act.

"Being a service member is extremely hard," the Navy Reservist based in Port Hueneme said. "With the deployments, unexpected travel and then to lump all that with your civilian job as well that you have to keep up and maintain."
United States Navy Reservist Rodney Russell also works as an equipment
operator for Caltrans with the Camarillo Road Crew.
When Russell isn't serving with Navy Recuit Training Command or being deployed to Afghanistan and places like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Russell works as an equipment operator with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Camarillo Road Crew.

But as a service member, his call to duty could intersect with his civilian life, and work with Caltrans. However, his maintenance supervisor, Ryan Gaudenzi, always understood, taking a flexible approach with his schedule and obligations with the Naval Reserve.

"Whenever I would come to Ryan to explain to him that I had to leave...there was never any type of push back or anything like that," Russell said. "It would always be, 'Hey. Let me know when you got to go, and thank you for your service.' That means a lot to me."

It meant so much to Russell, he thought his supervisor deserved recognition for allowing him to work around his military responsibilities.

On March 29, Russell surprised Gaudezi at Caltrans' Camarillo maintenance facility with the "Patriotic Employer Award."

"I had to put you in the spotlight," Russell told Gaudezi as he was presented with a certificate of recognition and letter of appreciation.

Navy Reservist and Caltrans Equipment Operator Rodney Russell (left) surprises Maintenance Supervisor
Ryan Gaudezi (center) with a "Patriot Award" at the Caltrans Maintenance Facility in Camarillo  March 29.
The award is in recognition of Gaudezi for supporting Russell's military commitments.
The award was presented by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Established in 1972 as a Department of Defense Program, ESGR strives to encourage employers to support and value the military commitments and service of their employees.

Russell, who started his service for Caltrans in May 2016 in the Moorpark Landscape Yard, is also a member of the Caltrans Honor Guard.

The Caltrans Honor Guard plays an active role in the annual Caltrans Workers Memorial Ceremony. Typically held every April, the ceremony honors all maintenance workers who paid the ultimate price making our state highway system safe for the driving public.

According to Russell, there are 16 members of the Caltrans Honor Guard, 13 of which that have military backgrounds.

And for Russell, a Chicago native who has been in the United States Navy since 2001, having an employer that allows its employees to play an important role serving their country makes the switch between civilian and military duties easier.

"Ever since I've started working at Caltrans, I've had nothing but support," Russell said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Caltrans Maintenance Crews Work to Provide Smoother, Safer Ride on Interstate 605 (San Gabriel River Freeway)

While many of you were still sleeping, two maintenance crews with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) were working to make a stretch of Interstate 605 (San Gabriel River Freeway) smoother and safer for drivers.

Sections of pavement on I-605 in West Whittier/City of Industry 
area that were replaced by Caltrans maintenance crews. 

On March 17 and 18 and March 24 and 25, the Pomona and Whittier crews replaced dozens of worn out concrete slabs along I-605 from State Route 60 (Pomona Freeway) in the city of Industry to Washington Boulevard in the West Whitter-Los Nietos area of Los Angeles County.

Caltrans maintenance crews replacing concrete slabs on I-605 near Beverly Boulevard.

First, crews saw cut the damaged slabs into pieces to loosen them and prevent damage to surrounding concrete slabs.

Section of roadway filled with plastic liner and rebar as crews begin placing dowel baskets
across dug out roadway.

The panels are removed with an excavator and loaded into dump trucks. Crews then make dig outs in the roadway, and fill them with plastic liner, and install a reinforcing bar (rebar) cage, placing a dowel basket across the area. Dowel baskets are used to transfer loads of materials from one slab of pavement to the next, reducing the stress on the joints and allowing the paving process to run smoothly.

Once concrete is poured in, crews level pavement with roller.

Rapid set concrete is then poured onto the roadway and leveled with a roller. Once the concrete cures, joints across the concrete slabs are saw cut to match the other slabs, and once the slab cures and achieves the strength needed to handle the weight of a car, the lane is open for business to vehicles.


Due to funding from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, also known as Senate Bill 1, state, regional and local transportation agencies have the opportunity to significantly invest in California's transportation infrastructure, fixing our roads and ultimately keeping up with regular maintenance needs.

While this work on I-605 was not an SB 1 project, drivers can expect to see improvements on the roads they drive on through "Fix-it-First" highway repairs. This includes smoother pavement, pothole filling and new lane markings statewide on 17,000 miles of additional pavement.

So far in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, we have completed two SB 1 projects, with one pavement preservation project currently under construction on Interstate 5 (Golden State Freeway) between Santa Fe Springs and Commerce, and five more pavement projects slated for construction this summer.

     Crews adding new pavement on southbound I-5 near Garfield Avenue in Commerce. The work is
     part of a $1.7 million pavement preservation project on a five mile segment of I-5 between
     Commerce and Santa Fe Springs using SB 1 funding.

    Crews working on southbound I-5 near Lakewood Boulevard in Downey. The work is part of a
    $1.7 million pavement preservation project on a segment of I-5 between Commerce and Santa Fe
    Springs using SB 1 funding.

The first project completed in our area was an $1.8 million project to repair and resurface an approximately one-mile section of State Route 57 north of the Los Angeles/Orange County Line and State Route 60 in Diamond Bar.

As we continue to tackle critical maintenance needs, we encourage the public to reach out to us about necessary repairs on our state's freeways and highways. So if you notice a pothole, malfunctioning traffic signal, or other issue on a freeway or highway in Los Angeles or Ventura County, let us know by submitting a customer service request here.

To find transportation projects in Los Angeles and Ventura County that state and local communities are investing in due to SB 1 funding, visit our interactive map here.

Together, we are rebuilding California, one bridge, culvert, lane stripe and slab of pavement at a time, and helping everyone get where they need to go safely and efficiently.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Caltrans takes proactive approach to limit the impact of flooding, mudslides across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) took preventive steps this week ahead of a storm that brought heavy rain across the Southern California region.
With significant downpours opening up the possibility for debris flows, flooding and downed trees, Caltrans worked to keep freeways and highways in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties open and safe for travel, particularly in recent burn areas along State Route 33, State Route 150, State Route 27 and Interstate 210 (Foothill Freeway).
KEEPING TOPANGA CANYON BOULEVARD OPEN 
On an approximately four-mile stretch of State Route 27 (Topanga Canyon Boulevard) from Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) to Grand View Drive near the town of Topanga, crews cleared debris from drains and culverts using a truck-powered vacuum.

We also had maintenance crews continuously monitor the drains, culverts and highway conditions in areas like State Route 27 that have been prone to mudslides and flooding in the past following wildfires.
With preventive work in place, including the installation of concrete barriers (commonly known as "K-rail") with fencing, debris flow barriers and clearing drainage pipe below the roadway, Caltrans was able to limit debris from going onto the roadway, and preventing the closure of State Route 27 for the third time this month.

Culvert built below debris flow barrier helps direct runoff during storms away from roadway.
What debris flow barrier looked like following March 15 storm and mudslide.
Back in July 2017, a 50-acre wildfire left a trail of scorched slopes along Topanga Canyon, leaving the area susceptible to slides and flood risks during any rain event that could follow.

Storms on March 2 and March 15 caused multiple slides on State Route 27, a key route used by residents and commuters from the San Fernando Valley to access the beach, the cities of Malibu and Santa Monica and the west side of Los Angeles.

Even in areas where vegetation and trees did not burn up in the fire, the soil and roots were loosed. As a result, heavy amounts of rain over a short period of time cause the soil to become saturated, which can lead to slides and debris flows.

MANAGING FLOOD PRONE AREAS OF FREEWAYS AND HIGHWAYS

In areas prone to flooding like Interstate 5 at Sheldon Street in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles County, Interstate 110 (Harbor Freeway) in downtown Los Angeles and the South Bay area of Los Angeles, we ensured pump houses were operational and in working order, as well as positioning portable pumps in strategic areas.

Flooding on southbound Interstate 5 near Sheldon Street exit Jan. 9 following severe winter storms.
Maintenance crews also stocked up on cold mix asphalt and base materials to repair washouts, and prepared "flooded" signs mounted on barricades that could be placed in affected areas.

WHAT CAUSES SLIDES/DEBRIS FLOWS

According to the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), burning vegetation releases gas during a fire. The gas gets into the soil, causing roots to weaken. Once the gas cools, it solidifies, forming a wax-life layer that makes the surface resistant to water.

As rain starts to accumulate, the precipitation weakens the top soil above the wax-like layer, causing the soil to break loose and slide down slopes, taking rocks, mud and trees with it. The now saturated soil can last for years, causing water to run off like pavement.

Graphic courtesy: National Weather Service
It is this flood risk that makes it important to clear sediment and debris from drains, basins and culverts, and use erosion control measures like plastic sheeting, sandbags and concrete barriers to help prevent loose dirt and rocks from falling onto highways.

On Interstate 210 near La Tuna Canyon Road, crews placed hyrdroseeding on slopes that burned in the La Tuna Canyon fire, cleared mud from a large culvert, and regraded hillsides to stabilize slopes.

Culvert cleared of debris and hillside fitted with mixture of mulch and seeds off
Interstate 210 (Foothill Freeway)


IMMINENT CLOSURES DUE TO WEATHER
Ultimately, the most significant storm event of the rainy season makes flooding, mudslides and debris flows inevitable in mountain areas with steep, rugged terrain, especially when scarred by recent fires.

Multiple slides March 21 on State Route 33 north of Ojai and in the Los Padres National Forest forced the closure of this rural mountain route from Fairview Road to Lockwood Valley Road.


Crews are working to clear the roadway as quickly and safely as possible, but the route, which is in the Thomas Fire burn area, remains closed to traffic for an unknown period of time. However, residents with identification will be allowed through.

In the San Gabriel Mountains, Angeles Crest Highway is closed until further notice from Islip Saddle/State Route 39 to five miles west of Big Pines near the Los Angeles/San Bernardino County line due rock slides.

Portion of State Route 2 (Angeles Crest Highway) closed March 22 due to rock slides.
 The Mountain High Ski Resort remains open, and drivers are advised to use Interstate 15 and State Route 138 as alternates.

In the event of slides, flooding or adverse weather conditions, drivers should plan ahead, use alternate routes, and follow instructions from emergency officials.

We will continue to keep an eye on roadways that have the potential to flood or fill with mud and debris.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for updates @CaltransDist7, or on Caltrans QuickMap, which is also available as a free app on Google Play or the App Store.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Caltrans springs into action following slides on State Route 27 (Topanga Canyon Boulevard)

A significant rain event occurred March 2, causing slides and flooding on a portion of State Route 27 (Topanga Canyon Boulevard) near Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) and the town of Topanga.

Heavy rains March 2, 2018 caused flooding and slides on portion of State Route 27.
But with prior slope stabilization and other debris and erosion control measures, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was able to limit the amount of debris and flooding on SR-27, and thus further closures of a key route used by local residents and commuters from the San Fernando Valley to access the beach and Pacific Coast Highway.
Caltrans maintenance worked with a contractor to clear all mud and debris from the roadway and shoulders, opening the highway within 30 hours of the original closure.

Debris rock fall fence blocks falling rocks and debris from entering State Route 27 near town of Topanga.
State Route 27 is the state's newest officially designated scenic highway that runs from Pacific Coast Highway, through the Santa Monica Mountains and into the San Fernando Valley.

In recent years, an approximately four-mile section of the highway at Pacific Coast Highway has been damaged by severe winter storms and a wildfire.

In June 2017, more than 50 acres of steep terrain surrounding State Route 27 burned, prompting the temporary closure of the highway.

Slope near State Route 27 damaged by June 2017 wildfire.
Earlier winter storms in Jan. 2017 caused large boulders, rocks and other debris to fall onto the highway, along with creating unstable slopes. The highway was closed for more than a week, and prompted Caltrans to take measures to limit the potential threat of debris and slides during the rainy season.

Area off SR-27/Topanga Canyon Blvd. where new rock fall fence and k-rail was installed
to limit the potential threat of slides and debris falling onto the roadway.
Part of those mitigation measures included the placement of temporary concrete barriers (commonly known as "k-rail") equipped with rock-fall fencing, building a debris-flow fence, anchoring large boulders to reduce the risk of them breaking off and installing rock-fall cable mesh along slopes that burned in a wildfire to prevent material from falling onto State Route 27.

Rock fall protection cable installed on boulder at base of Topanga Canyon off SR-27.

During the March 2 storm, the cable mesh was nearly filled to the top with debris, helping stop significant amounts of debris from coming onto the roadway.

As part of the clean-up efforts, the gully area around burned slopes was also cleared, including drainage pipe under the highway. Debris in areas behind k-rail and along the shoulder was also removed.
With another round of rain expected for this weekend, these slope stabilization and erosion control efforts help reduce the likelihood of slides and debris flows that require closures and significant clean-up efforts that significantly impact the motoring public.

Caltrans will continue to monitor burn areas along state highways and freeways that may be susceptible to slides and flooding.

Drivers should use Caltrans QuickMap online to check travel conditions, or by using the free app available on any iPhone or Android device.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bypass lanes play key role in I-5 Roadway Rehabilitation Project

If you're one of the tens of thousands who drive on Interstate 5 through the Santa Clarita Valley every day, you probably noticed the major changes underway to improve your commute.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is working with a contractor to remove concrete slabs and construct new pavement on nearly 16 miles of I-5 between State Route 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) and Lake Hughes Road.in Castaic.
One strategy being utilized to reduce the impact of construction on traffic is adding new temporary bypass lanes.

To create a bypass lane, one lane of traffic is shifted to the opposite side of a freeway, allowing the same amount of lanes in each direction to stay open during construction while also providing drivers a safe way to travel through the work zone.


"Based on my experience with two projects (using a bypass lane), we can shorten the project duration of completion," Caltrans resident engineer Daniel Widjaja said.

Starting in Dec. 2017, new temporary bypass lanes were added on both northbound and southbound I-5.

On northbound I-5, one of four lanes has been shifted to what is normally the inner southbound shoulder near Valencia Boulevard before returning to the northbound side near Rye Canyon Road.


On southbound I-5, one of four lanes has been shifted to what is normally the inner northbound shoulder near Lake Hughes Road, and returns to the southbound side near Hasley Canyon Road.



Traffic going against the bypass lane will remain the same, and the work zone is blocked off with concrete barriers, commonly known as "K-rails."

Drivers are protected from traffic in each direction by K-rails and the existing median barrier.

According to Widjaja, the bypass lane allows the contractor to perform work safely at all hours.

"It is only certain hours that they allow (Caltrans) to close two or more lanes," he said. "Very limited for the contractor. On the other hand, bypass lanes utilizing a k-rail, they all can work day and night.


The bypass lanes are only temporary, and will remain in place for the duration of the work in the area.

A third traffic pattern on southbound I-5 between Calgrove Boulevard and State Route 14 consists of two lanes on each side of a work area in the center of the freeway.



The speed limit is 50 miles an hour in this area, and 55 miles an hour in the rest of the construction zone.

The $171 million project is anticipated to be completed by summer 2019.

We appreciate the public's patience and understanding as we continue to improve our transportation system, providing a smoother, safer and more efficient ride for drivers.

Drivers will be seeing more of these roadway rehabilitation projects thanks to Senate Bill 1, which allows Caltrans to fix 17,000 additional miles of pavement statewide over the next decade.