Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rainy Day Driving

We’re in for some rainy weather in Los Angeles for the next few days. Some people say that Southern Californians don’t know how to drive in the rain because we’re spoiled with too much sunshine. Pshaw! There’s no such thing as too much sunshine! Still, coming off a glorious, sunshiny summer, our rainy day driving skills may be a little rusty. A few tips can’t hurt. 

> Turn on your headlights. Using your headlights not only allows YOU to see more clearly, it also helps other drivers see you. Plus, it’s the law. Really. You can get a ticket.

> Reduce your speed. The posted speed limit may be too fast for conditions.

> Maintain more distance between you and the car ahead of you. It takes longer to stop on wet pavement.

> Use extra caution during the first 30 to 60 minutes of a rainstorm — that’s when the road is especially slick. 
> Make sure your car is in good working condition — tire pressure, wipers, defroster, exhaust system, BRAKES, etc. Did we mention BRAKES?

> Driving distracted is NEVER EVER a good idea, but it’s an especially horrible idea when it's raining. Concentrate on safe driving. Everything else can wait.

> Check road conditions before you head out the door. Call the California Highway Information Network at (800) 427-7623, monitor local media, or click over to and check out the Caltrans QuickMap.

> Yes, there ARE more accidents when it rains, which means more congestion and delays. So, if you have flexibility in your travel time, save yourself some aggravation and postpone your trip until the weather clears.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What are Those Little Bumps In Between Lanes on the Freeway?

So you're in your own lane minding your own business when a certain song comes on the radio and you just have to turn it up. Suddenly, bup bup bup -- you're driving over these little white bumps and you realize you just drifted over the line ever so slightly. 

Those bumps are known as raised pavement markers, or "Botts’ Dots." In 1953, Dr. Elbert D. Botts, working in the Caltrans materials testing lab in Sacramento, came upon the idea of using a raised pavement marker to help make the painted lines separating lanes last longer. After a many refinements, the use of Botts' Dots were mandated for all California freeways, except in areas where they would be damaged in snow-removal operations. The ubiquitous little buttons have since been adopted around the world. In addition to making lanes easier to distinguish, the markers also had an additional -- and originally unintended -- safety benefit: to alert motorists when they drift out of their lane. There are an estimated 20 million Botts” Dots in place today on California freeways and highways -- a lasting legacy to Mr. Botts, who passed away in 1962.

Many things have changed since the 50's, however, and Caltrans currently is studying the cost and effectiveness of raised pavement markers and their use in varying situations around California. 

No, Caltrans is not thinking about getting rid of them any time soon. 
We've used other materials for markers in certain situations (plastic, ceramic, polyester), different kinds of glues (standard and rapid-set epoxies and bituminous adhesives), and different types of stripes (paint, dots, and thermoplastic stripes). And since the department has been using various markers for more than 30 years now, it seems reasonable to step back and take a look at how well they work from two angles: safety and cost. 

Safety: Caltrans must consider the safety both of motorists and its workers. While the department does not have extensive data at this time, it appears other kinds of pavement markers may keep motorists about as safe and last about as long in some situations as the raised ones -- plastic stripes, placed on the pavement at high temperature, are one kind. 

We also must protect our workers.  Placing or replacing the markers is a one-at-a-time job, and that means that Caltrans or contract workers have to get out there and glue them down. Any time workers are near traffic, they are exposed to drunk drivers, bad drivers and bad vehicles. Anything that shortens workers' time on the roadway means greater safety. 

Cost: Caltrans also has to consider whether the first-time plus lifetime cost of the various markers is justified in all situations. Both the durability of the marker and that of the material used to glue it to the pavement are factors. Some materials seem to work better in certain situations -- dry desert conditions as opposed to wet coastal ones, for example -- than others. Some seem to work better where there is more traffic, especially weaving traffic. Raised markers -- dots -- can¹t be used where there is snow, because snowplows destroy them. 

We are looking to undertake a study of these issues and alternatives to determine the safest and most efficient type of pavement markers. There is no timetable for the study at this time but once it commences, we should have the results within a year.  

But whatever the outcome, expect to bump up against them for a long time to come.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I-10/I-605 Connector Will Close for 55-Hours

The westbound San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) connector to the north- and southbound San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605) will be closed beginning Friday, November 30 at 10 p.m. through Monday, December 3 at 5 a.m. for bridge and connector work in Baldwin Park.

The 55-hour connector closure is part of the $165 million I-10 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV or carpool) Project from I-605 to Puente Avenue to add an HOV lane in each direction.

For more information about the project, please contact Caltrans Public Affairs at (213) 897-3656 or visit the Caltrans District 7 website
This closure is weather permitting and subject to change. Detour signs will be posted to direct motorists.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ask Caltrans: Why are there lights in the pavement on the northbound SR-110?

Dynamic lane on northbound Arroyo Seco Parkway (SR-110)

Many were already aware, but some of you missed it, so here it is again.

That’s the dynamic lane which opened in January 2010 provides a technological solution to geographical restriction. 

The dynamic lane provides more capacity in a location physically constrained by the Figueroa Tunnel and a nearby reservoir.  The dynamic lane operates between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.  This solution has not been employed anywhere else in the state.

When the lights shine don’t cross that line.  

When the lights are off the number 2 lane can be used as an additional lane to connect to northbound I-5.

The video will help explain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Peek Behind the K-Rail: 5/14 Direct Carpool Lane Connector

Motorists who use I-5 in the Santa Clarita area have been watching the construction of the new carpool lane connector between I-5 and SR-14 for more than four years. The wait is almost over! 

We expect to open the connector in the next month or two (depending on weather). When it opens, if you’re driving in the carpool lane, you’ll be able to transfer between I-5 and SR-14 without ever leaving the carpool lane — which benefits drivers in the regular lanes, too, because it means less weaving and better traffic flow. 

Here’s a shot from the new connector looking south. Cars to the left are headed north on I-5, and those to the right are headed south:

Crews are currently working on the deck joint seals, which allow the connector to expand and contract with temperature changes and the forces applied by traffic. Here a worker is welding the joint seal assembly: 

 Close-up of the assembly:

This is what a joint seal assembly looks like when it’s done:

For more info about the connector, check out the project page here, or give us a ring on the I-5 Hotline at 855.454.6335.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Traffic Advisory for LAX on Wednesday

If you’ll be headed to LAX on Wednesday, Nov. 21, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., be sure to LEAVE SOME EXTRA TIME to get there. There’s a good chance that you may run into some congestion and delays due to phased closures of westbound Century Boulevard between Airport and Sepulveda boulevards, and northbound Sepulveda Boulevard between Imperial Highway and 98th Street. The closures are in response to a scheduled labor demonstration by Service Employees International Union 1877.

Once more for emphasis: There is a labor demonstration near LAX on Wednesday. There will be congestion. Leave extra time.

How much extra time? Airport officials recommend that departing passengers arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Plus, you’ll probably want to add another 90 minutes or so to your drive time — just to be on the safe side. You wouldn't want to miss your plane and then miss out on the turkey and stuffing and that sweet potato thing with the marshmallows. See the LAX travel advisory here.

To get real-time traffic information, call 511 or click over to

Caltrans Brakes for Turkeys

Beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday, November 21 through midnight Sunday, November 25, Caltrans will suspend all planned construction, maintenance and encroachment permit activities that could create traffic delays.

So if you encounter any such activity on the roadway during this time, it will only be for emergency work related to public safety.

Caltrans wishes you and your loved ones a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Caltrans Scores Transportation Award for Carmageddon

Caltrans took home the Grand Prize for Carmageddon I at the fifth annual America’s Transportation Awards ceremony held Sunday in Pittsburgh.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsor the America's Transportation Awards competition, which recognizes outstanding transportation projects in three categories: Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget, and Best Use of Innovation. Forty-nine projects from 34 states were entered in this year's contest.
During Carmageddon I in July 2011, the south side of the Mulholland Bridge was demolished as part of a project that’s adding a carpool lane to a 10-mile stretch of northbound I-405. The demolition required a 53-hour closure of I-405, which ultimately ended up being 36 hours because the work progressed more quickly than expected. Caltrans implemented an effective communication campaign to help drivers plan for and survive the shutdown.
The award comes with a prize of $10,000, which will be donated to the California Transportation Foundation to support the statewide Fallen Workers Memorial and scholarship programs. 
More info about the competition and projects is here. A video showcasing the 10 national finalists is here
By the way, big shout out to the people of Los Angeles for helping to make both Carmageddons a success. We wouldn't have won this award without your cooperation. Thank you!