Monday, February 24, 2014

Los Angeles County’s Last (Vehicle) Drawbridge: The Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge (SR-47)

The Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge is operated, maintained, and owned by Caltrans.  Inside a small office inside of the bridge facing the harbor, Caltrans bridge tenders can raise the bridge for ships entering the Cerritos Channel whenever necessary.  A new bridge is currently under construction to replace this historical structure.

The bridge crosses the Cerritos Channel in the Port of Long Beach, was commissioned by the United States Navy between 1946 and 1948, and is one of three bridges that connect Terminal Island to the mainland.  The bridge was named for Commodore Schuyler F. Heim, commanding officer of the Terminal Island Naval Base throughout World War II.

The United States Navy completed construction of the bridge in 1948 and then turned it over to the City of Long Beach, which operated the bridge until 1974.  The bridge is a vertical lift structure with a 240-foot span. It has an 820-ton movable (lift) span that is supported by two cross-braced steel towers suspended by cables, and a pair of 400-ton counterweights.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Freeway Signs Urge Water Conservation

As you’ve been driving the freeways over the past couple weeks, you may have noticed the following message on electronic signs:


In response to the state’s severe drought, Caltrans has launched a statewide educational campaign on California’s 700 electronic freeway signs urging all Californians to conserve water. The conservation message is activated when there are no critical emergency or traffic safety messages or Amber Alerts. (More info here.)

The freeway sign campaign is just one way Caltrans is helping with conservation efforts. Effective this month, the department is also:

   Cutting statewide irrigation activities by at least 50 percent.

   Delaying all new landscaping projects and non-essential highway planting.

   Not watering in areas of the state suffering from severe drought impacts.

   Expanding smart irrigation technologies, which turn off automatically when it rains.

   Using recycled water for irrigation and other activities whenever possible.

   Forgoing washing state vehicles except when necessary for safety.

The department is taking these conservation steps because the historic drought threatens all Californians with a dangerously dry summer and protecting the water supply is a top priority.

Find out how you can conserve water at With California facing its driest year on record, even seemingly small water savings help.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Caltrans First African-American Woman Licensed Engineer & Trailblazer

Mrs. Lois L. Cooper, 1960
Recently, Caltrans lost one of its pioneers, Lois L. Cooper.  Mrs. Cooper became the first African-America woman in California to become a licensed professional engineer with the Division of Highways, now known as Caltrans.

Below Mrs. Cooper tells her story.  She will be missed. 1931-2014

Lois L. Cooper actually wrote this “Profile of Faith” she stated whenever anyone asked her to write about herself, she would often wonder where they wanted her to start.

Lois Louise Cooper (Saunders) was born a month before Christmas in 1931 in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

In high school she liked math, wanted to become a lawyer, and they took sewing and cooking classes. Her mother had already taught her and her sister how to sew, so she and her sister made a lot of their cloths.

She went off to Tougaloo College, which is outside of Jackson, Mississippi. She left Tougaloo College in 1950, because her mother could no longer afford it. She moved to California in 1950 to be with her mother.

In 1953, she saw an ad for an Under Engineering Aide, with the Division of Highways and began working in February 1953; she was the first black woman that they hired in the Engineering Department at the Division of Highways (currently Caltrans). In order to get to the next level Junior Engineering Aide, she had to have had surveying experience and she had not been in construction.  So she took a surveying class at USC, but women were not allowed in construction, so it took a while for her to move up the ladder because she was a woman.

She attended Los Angeles City College and Los Angeles State College and majored in mathematics.  Her major in college was not engineering, so she began to take engineering classes at night at Los Angeles State College to move up the professional ladder in order to pass the Engineer in Training Exam (EIT); an eight hour exam. After taking enough undergraduate classes she was able to pass the exam and move up the ladder.

“Where there is a will, there is a way”.

She did not stop and she went on and passed the Professional Engineers (PE) License exam.  She passed the exam on her first try.

She was the first African American woman in California to pass that exam. The first woman to pass that exam in California, Marilyn J. Reece, also worked at Caltrans. Her other experiences working for Caltrans was her involvement with the Century Freeway now called I-105 and being the first female director of the First Diamond Lane. She continued to work at Caltrans until her retirement in 1991 at the age of 55.

In the early 1970s, she learned about the Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers (LACBPE). This was a group of black engineers (all men) who met once a month to talk about being a black engineer and how to get more blacks to become engineers. She participated by visiting schools to talk to students about what it means to be an engineer, what an engineer does, besides driving a train, and how to become an engineer.  The program tried to show the students the importance of math and science classes.

The LACBPE developed another program called the EXCELL Program.  This program used the skills of various members to teach math and science to students on Saturdays at various colleges including California State University Dominquez Hills.

During the early 1970s she was honored to have moved up the ranks in office as program’s treasury, secretary, vice president and president. She was also honored to have had the first black astronaut, Ronald McNair get involved in the LACBPE. Out of all their efforts and the efforts of other engineers across the country, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) was formed. 

*All pictures were provided by the Cooper family.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's Baaaack! SR-118/SR-23 Interchange 55-Hour Closure Feb. 21 through Feb. 24

MOORPARK – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close the westbound Ronald Reagan Freeway (SR-118) connector to the southbound Moorpark Freeway (SR-23) at Princeton Avenue from 10 p.m. Friday, February 21 until 5 a.m. Monday, February 24

The closure is required to implement repairs of bridge joints on the westbound side of the Arroyo Simi Overhead structure.

Electronic freeway message signs will begin warning of the closure a week in advance. Caltrans is urging motorists to avoid the interchange if at all possible and to expect delays.

Westbound traffic will be directed to exit at Princeton Avenue, travel southbound on Princeton and turn left on Spring Road to Los Angeles Avenue. A right turn on Los Angeles will turn into westbound SR-118; a left turn will take motorists back to SR-23.

An alternate route will be posted directing motorists to exit westbound SR-118 at Madera Road, take Madera Road south, then turn right on Tierra Rejada Road back to SR- 23; westbound SR-118 traffic will take Route 23 north to Los Angeles Avenue.

Work will take place around the clock and may generate noise and dust for residents adjacent to the freeway. Otherwise, the work is not expected to involve significant community impacts.

A 50 percent reduction in traffic was achieved during the February 7-9 55-hour closure of the eastbound SR-118 connector. Caltrans urges motorists to avoid the interchange, if possible, and thanks the public for its cooperation.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Closure on San Gabriel Canyon Road (SR-39) in Angeles National Forest

Concrete barriers where rock fences will be placed.
Caltrans will begin the installation of rock fence on top of concrete barriers along San Gabriel Canyon Road (SR-39) north of Azusa to prevent rocks from falling onto the highway in the Colby Fire burn area on Wednesday, February 19, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Motorists and cyclists should expect delays on SR-39 south of the El Encanto area.  Flaggers will be in place during work hours.

Shortly after the Colby Fire was extinguished, Caltrans hired a contractor to place nearly a mile of concrete barriers along SR-39 to help prevent rocks from falling onto the roadway.  The fire burned the vegetation along the slopes that caused the rocks and other debris to become loose and fall.  This $600,000 contract was awarded to Velarde Concrete Construction of San Fernando, California.

Caltrans reminds motorists to Slow For The Cone Zone and Move Over. It’s the law.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jamzilla Is Coming!

Most everyone has heard about Jamzilla by now, but for those of you who haven’t or are hazy on the details, take note. 

The details: Jamzilla is an unprecedented 80-hour northbound I-405 freeway closure in the Sepulveda Pass over Presidents’ Day weekend, February 14 to 18, 2014. 

During the day, two northbound lanes will remain open while the remaining three lanes will be closed. At night, all five northbound lanes will be closed.
More info is here. The closure map is here.

What about southbound I-405? Southbound lanes will remain fully open during the day, but some may be closed at night for paving operations.

Reason for the closure: The contractor for the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will be paving a major segment of the future northbound I-405 High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane. The 80-hour closure will eliminate several consecutive 55-hour closures from the project schedule, and will save time and minimize future closure impacts to the community and traveling public.

The warning: Traffic conditions on local streets and freeways within the region and beyond could become severe, with significant delays (hours!) if motorists don't limit northbound trips. Really. This could be a mess. So save yourself a major traffic headache and avoid the area. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

55-Hour Closure of SR-118/SR-23 Interchange Planned

MOORPARK – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close the northbound Moorpark Freeway (SR-23) connector to the eastbound Ronald Reagan Freeway (SR-118) at Los Angeles Avenue from 10 p.m. Friday, February 7 until 5 a.m. Monday, February 10. 

The closure is required to implement emergency repairs of bridge joints on the Arroyo Simi Overhead structure. Electronic freeway message signs will begin warning of the impending closure a week in advance. Caltrans is urging motorists to avoid the interchange if at all possible and to expect delays. 

Eastbound SR-118 will be directed to exit northbound SR-23 at Tierra Rejada Road, travel eastbound and then turn left onto Madera Road to return to eastbound SR-118. Motorists continuing on eastbound SR-118 from eastbound SR-118/Los Angeles Avenue will take southbound SR-23 to Tierra Rejada Road. 

Work will take place around the clock and may generate noise and dust for residents adjacent to the freeway. Otherwise, the work is not expected to involve significant community impacts. 

A second 55-hour closure will be required to perform the same work on the westbound Sr-118 connector to southbound SR-23, currently scheduled from 10 p.m. Friday, February 21 through 5 a.m. Monday, February 24. Additional information will be provided closer to that date.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Freeway Never Built: State Route 72 (Whittier Blvd.)

Some interesting items provided by our archivist in our Sacramento HQ about State Route 72, also known as Whittier Boulevard.