Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tips for Rainy Day Driving

That wet stuff falling from the sky is, in fact, RAIN! And that's great because we truly-madly-deeply need it. The downside, of course, is that driving in wet conditions is more difficult than driving when it's dry and clear. Here's some rainy day driving tips to keep in mind if you're going to be out and about: 

> 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 511, monitor local media, or click over to dot.ca.gov 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 23, 2016

In the Golden State, a Golden Anniversary for Ramp Meters

Ramp metering in use on northbound Interstate 405 in the city of Los Angeles.

 
Many drivers are familiar with ramp meters, widely used in California to control the flow of vehicles entering freeways. But few may know 2016 is an important anniversary of this cost-effective tool for smoother traffic.

Exactly 50 years ago, ramp meters made their California debut. In 1966 the Golden State’s first experiment with them took place in Los Angeles County in Caltrans District 7.

The next half-century showed the value of ramp meters in fighting gridlock and increasing average traffic speed. Now, almost 3,000 ramp meters are in use throughout California, according to Caltrans figures as of December 2015. Ten of the 12 Caltrans districts statewide operate ramp meters or anticipate doing so by 2025.

But in 1966 they were an innovative idea, introduced only three years earlier in Chicago and then in the Detroit area.

District 7 saw ramp metering as a possible answer to a bottleneck on Interstate 5 (Golden State Freeway) at the northern edge of Los Angeles.

“It all began on the last day of the Memorial Day weekend at the junction of Routes 5 and 14, in the foothills in northern Los Angeles. Recreation traffic returning home from the holiday jammed the interchange between these two routes, resulting in ‘intolerable’ delay. It was decided that something would have to be done to prevent a repeat of this type of congestion,” Stuart Harvey, former deputy director of Caltrans District 11 in San Diego, wrote in a 1990 short history of ramp metering in the state.

So District 7, through its newly created Freeway Operations Department, crafted a plan it unveiled at the 5/14 junction on the 1966 Labor Day holiday.

“Traffic Operations staff decided to try regulating the flow onto Route 5 with a portable traffic signal under manual control,” Harvey wrote. “The actual control mechanism which was employed might be considered primitive by modern standards.” But it worked and was remarkably effective.


Ramp metering on northbound U.S. Highway 101 in Thousand Oaks.

Indeed, the experiment “was very successful in controlling congestion and delay, and it was decided to refine the technique,” Harvey added.

“On the next holiday, Christmas Monday, the same basic method was used, except that the portable traffic signal was programmed to cycle automatically and the cycle length was manually adjusted to account for changing conditions on the freeway.”

The tryout was judged a complete success, and District 7 made plans for another ramp meter audition in the heart of Hollywood.

Only months later, on April 11, 1967, California's first two permanent fixed-time ramp meters were activated on the northbound U.S. Highway 101 (Hollywood Freeway) at Sunset Boulevard, with corresponding northbound ramp closures at Hollywood Boulevard from 4 to 6 p.m.

Before throwing the switch, however, District 7 worked closely with the city of Los Angeles to prepare the public for the historic step.

“There was a grave concern on the part of the community, particularly the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, about the impacts of ramp metering,” William E. Schaefer, former deputy director of project development and chief engineer of Caltrans, said in an oral history interview recorded shortly before his retirement in 1990. Schaefer was design engineer in District 7 during the introduction of ramp metering.

“It was pretty carefully planned out. We spent a number of meetings with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce convincing them that it was worth giving it a try,” Schaefer said.

“That first night, I was comfortable it would work,” Schaefer recalled. “I took some of the officers of the chamber with me in my car to go around through the project to show them that it worked. And it worked beautifully.”

The project successfully relieved congestion on the freeway mainline without seriously affecting surface street operations. Freeway delay was reduced by about 75 percent.

“In that early primitive stage,” Schaefer said, “we operated the metering with a little button with a guy behind the bushes. So we didn’t have any sophisticated equipment. We simply had a traffic light with some power and a button to change the signals. And then we put in a normal, little old fixed-time controller. It was a very, very primitive system but it really worked great. And from that we moved on to a lot of other projects.”

Today, most ramp meters in California respond automatically to freeway traffic conditions monitored by inductive loop detectors in the roadway. When the freeway flows freely, more cars are allowed to enter.

Systems also can use centralized monitoring of traffic conditions to help determine the metering rates for all of the ramp meters along a corridor.

The objective, just as 50 years ago, is to limit freeway congestion. Studies show the success of ramp meters in promoting more efficient overall operation of freeways with higher average speeds and fewer collisions and delays.

California’s highway system has about 2,954 meters as of December 2015. District 7 has about 1,024 metering locations, including 28 freeway-to-freeway connector meters, making it the largest ramp metering district in the state and nation.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Caltrans Deploys Its First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

Caltrans has recently added 20 new hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to its fleet to help the department meet the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Those vehicles will be deployed in various locations throughout the state, but they were all customized for Caltrans' use at Shop 7 in Sylmar.

In the video below, District 7 Highway Equipment Superintendent Brian Valenti explains how his team customized the vehicles, and then we head to La Canada for a lesson on how to fuel up a hydrogen fuel cell car.

 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Paramount Blvd. Bridge Restoration: 55-hour Ramp Closures

Caltrans will close the westbound SR-60 on- and off-ramps, and the eastbound off-ramp 10 p.m. Friday, November 18 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 21 as part of the Paramount Boulevard Bridge Restoration Project so that construction crews can repave the ramps.  

Motorists may experience delays and should consider alternate routes.
Caltrans is restoring of the Paramount Boulevard bridge above the Pomona Freeway (SR-60) by realigning and upgrading two cloverleaf ramps to current standards, constructing sidewalks, and adding pedestrian ramps that meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards. Additionally, three retaining walls will be constructed along the westbound on- and off-ramps, and along the westbound on-ramp near the intersection of Paramount Boulevard and Neil Armstrong Street. 

Previous blog articles

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Overhead Sign Structures for New Empire Ave Off-Ramp Going Up

Base of overhead sign structure located on Leland Way.

If northbound I-5 in Burbank is part of your daily commute, next week you'll notice a crane just north of Burbank Boulevard on the other side of the new soundwall. That crane will be used to install the overhead sign structures for the new Empire Avenue off-ramp and the Buena Vista Street off-ramp just north of there. The new Empire interchange won't open until 2018, but the sign structures are going up now.

The operation will take about a week and will not disrupt traffic on I-5. If you live on Leland Way, however, some street closures will be necessary to accommodate the crane and other equipment. Details below.

Upcoming work: Crews will install two new overhead freeway sign structures. The signs themselves will be positioned over I-5, but the structure bases are located on Leland way. (See map below.) Please note that these signs will have no lights—they'll have a highly-reflective coating instead.

Construction schedule: Sign structure installation, which will require a crane stationed on Leland Way, will occur the week of November 7-11, 2016. Crews will work primarily 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Set-up work may begin earlier. Schedules are subject to change. 

Work location: Crews will work at two locations on Leland Way to install the overhead sign structures, one of which is at the south end of the street near the cul-de-sac, and the other is near University Avenue. (See map below.) Crews will work in one location at a time.



Why these signs are necessary: Caltrans is constructing a new full interchange at Empire Avenue. The overhead signs will direct motorists to the new northbound I-5 Empire Avenue exit and other exits.

Closures: For the safety of residents, motorists and the construction crew, street parking will be restricted when necessary to accommodate the operation. Please pay attention to signs. Flaggers will be on site to direct motorists. Access to homes and driveways will be maintained at all times.

Noise: There will be some construction noise, but it will not exceed levels permitted by federal, state and local regulations.

More information: Learn more about the I-5 Empire Project at My5LA.com. Submit your email address to get project updates. Questions? Call us on the I-5 Info Line at (855) 454-6335 or send an email to My5LA@dot.ca.gov.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Caltrans Asks Motorists to “Protect Every Drop” as Rain Rolls In



Grab your umbrella! It's actually raining! That means it's the perfect time to remind you about Caltrans' “Protect Every Drop” campaign, which offers five simple ways to help keep our waterways clean by reducing pollution on our state highways. 
 
Rain washes auto fluids and grime off vehicles and onto highways. This polluted stormwater often ends up in California's streams, rivers and coastal waters. Help keep waterways drinkable, swimmable and fishable by following these five simple tips to help reduce stormwater pollution:

1. Keep your tires properly inflated. It decreases wear, improves gas mileage and makes tires less susceptible to blowouts. 

2. Stay on top of regular vehicle maintenance. Fixing leaks helps prevent vehicle fluids from dripping onto highways and into waterways. 

3. Keep your vehicle clean. Use a car wash facility that recycles water to get dirt and grime off vehicles before they end up in storm drains.

4. Properly dispose of trash and recycling. Properly dispose of trash and recycling before they fly from a window or truck bed and into a storm drain. 

5. Tarp and tie down loads. When hauling loads, make sure that items are properly secured with tarps and tie-downs so they don’t fly out of truck beds.

By following these simple tips you can help keep California’s precious water clean. 

For more information, visit www.ProtectEveryDrop.com.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Three I-5 Construction Milestones in Burbank

Anyone who lives or works in Burbank can't help but notice the tremendous amount of construction underway on I-5 in the area. Crews are working day and nightand reaching important project milestones. Three, in particular, have been completed or will be completed in October and November. Read on for details.

1. Burbank Western Channel Cap

Crews completed capping the Burbank Western Channel earlier this month. The cap is necessary to create space for the new Empire Avenue interchange and undercrossing, which will open to traffic in 2018. Here's the channel when it was under construction in 1959:


Here's the channel mid-capping:



And here's what it looks like with the cap in place:




2. Providencia Bridge Girder Erection

Crews are busy widening the Providencia bridge to make room for new carpool lanes on I-5. Here's a shot of what a girder erection operation looks like:


Erecting the girders for the bridge requires using a large crane. To keep motorists safe during the operation, a series of nighttime full closures of northbound and southbound I-5 is underway as well as intermittent closures of Flower Street. More info about the closures is here. Here's a detour map for the I-5 closures:



3. Opening of the Victory Place Pedestrian Overcrossing

Good news! The new pedestrian overcrossing on Victory Place over Empire Avenue will open in November. This is an important milestone for anyone who walks to the Empire Center from points north of Empire Avenue. You'll now have a much more direct route, making it easier to pick up a quick cup of coffee or burger at lunchtime. The sidewalk in this area has been closed for some time to allow the contractor to construct the new Empire Avenue undercrossing. Here's what that looks like: 



And here's the new pedestrian overcrossing taking shape back in August:

 
And last week:



We expect to have the overcrossing open just in time for holiday shopping in November. 

Friendly reminder: Please don't hop over the concrete barriers or move construction fencing in this area. Construction sites are very dangerous (even for the crews who work in them daily), and we don't want anyone to get hurt. 

More information on the I-5 projects in Burbank is here and here

Want more I-5 project updates? Sign up here to have the latest news delivered to your inbox every week.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Nighttime Full Closures of I-5 in Burbank Begin Oct. 17


Between October 17 and November 3, 2016, nighttime full freeway closures will be implemented on northbound and southbound I-5 between Alameda Avenue and Orange Grove Avenue in Burbank (less than a mile) from midnight to 4 a.m. Both directions will NOT be closed at the same time. Closures will occur during weeknights only. The closures are necessary to keep motorists safe during a girder erection operation requiring a large crane.

Northbound closure dates: October 17-21, 24-28, 31

Southbound closure dates: November 1-3

Ramps within the construction zone will be closed as well.

Closure dates will be updated as necessary.

Detours: Signed detours (see map below and here) will be posted during each closure, as follows:

➤ Northbound Detour: Exit at eastbound Alameda Ave off-ramp; go east on Alameda Ave; north on Glenoaks Blvd; west on Olive Ave; north on 1st St; west on Orange Grove Ave to the on-ramp to northbound I-5.

➤ Southbound Detour: Exit at Burbank Blvd off-ramp; south on Front St; east on Verdugo Ave; south on San Fernando Blvd; west on Alameda Ave to the on-ramp to southbound I-5.

Monday, October 10, 2016

EastLAJam Pt. 1 Finished, Next Jam Oct. 28

The EastLAJam, according to our traffic engineers, it was not too much of a real jam. 

Previous post about the #EastLAJam.

There were typical delays due to the lane closures in the project area.  For the most part, motorists experienced relatively minor traffic delays.  
East LA Jam, SB 710, Olympic Bl. Bridge Fix 10/9/2016
Gallery of the EastLAJam Olympic Bl. bridge concrete pour

Traffic along the detour route flowed well.  Caltrans traffic operations engineers adjusted the signals at the on- and off-ramps in the project area and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works adjusted traffic signals on local streets along the detour route.

Remember, this is only the first part of the EastLAJam, one have one more jam session to go. 

Session II
Friday, October 28 to Sunday, October 30
Southbound
Full freeway closure: SR-60 connector to Olympic Boulevard off-ramp, Friday, October 28 – 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Two lanes closed:  Saturday, October 29 – 3 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Full freeway closure:  SR-60 connector to Olympic Boulevard off-ramp, Sunday, October 30 – Midnight to 10 a.m.

Northbound
Full freeway closure: At Olympic Boulevard, Sunday, October 30 – Midnight to 6 a.m.

Related Closures: 
Northbound I-5 to northbound I-710
East- and westbound SR-60 to southbound I-710 connector
Southbound I-710 to southbound I-5 connector
Third Street on-ramp
Cesar Chavez Avenue on-ramp

Signed detours will be in place.  Motorists should expect delays.  The California Highway Patrol will be on duty.  Please Be Work Zone Alert #BWZA.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Most Common Cause of Accidents Is ... YOU!

It's true—the most common cause of accidents is you ... ok, not you personally, but drivers themselves. Not the road. Not the weather. Not other drivers. Not the yeti that ran out of the woods and scampered in front of your car. You.

Science says so. New studies are indicating that the root cause of traffic crashes has shifted dramatically in recent years, with driver-related factors such as fatigue, driver error, impairment and distraction present in 94 percent of crashes. In other words, only 6 out of 100 crashes are a result of something other than what the driver did or failed to do. This would be your sink holes, your freak hail storms, your scampering yetis. 

So the safety message here is an empowering one: In the overwhelming majority of situations, YOU have the power to keep yourself and your passengers safe. You already know how to do that: Don't drink and drive, don't text and drive, don't apply eyeliner and drive, don't drive sleepy, don't drive angry, don't drive with two shih tzus on your lap, don't drive too fast for conditions, absolutely don't drag race, don't menace bicyclists and pedestrians, don't use your car as a tool to vent intractable frustrations in various areas of your personal and professional life, etc. DO drive smart! If you need a refresher on how to do that (and it IS Drive Safely Work Week, so why not), check out arrivealivenow.org and the video below.

Remember, safety starts with YOU!  

 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The East LA Jam: Two 35-hour Closures of I-710 at Olympic Boulevard for Bridge Repair


EastLAJam, it’s not just a cool name for another freeway closure in Los Angeles County, this will be a major freeway closure and we will really need all motorists to not make this a real jam.

Yes, there’s a lot of construction and maintenance work happening on the Long Beach Freeway (I-710) in East Los Angeles.  Yes, there’s been a lot of closures and there will continue to be quite a few, they really are necessary – we have to maintain the state’s transportation infrastructure.

If you’ve experienced (and made it through) a colossal freeway closure like #RoseJam (roses and many thanks San Gabriel Valley for not making it a real jam!) or Carmageddon I & II (thanks LA for keeping the –geddon out of it), you’ll can handle EastLAJam too.
East LA Jam, SB 710, Olympic Bl. Bridge Fix
Cracking on the Olympic Bl. bridge that needs to be fixed. 
Please help us and your fellow motorists by spreading the word about this important closure - #EastLAJam.
Also, remember, Be Work Zone Alert, Slow For the Cone Zone, and Move Over.


Press Release:

EAST LOS ANGELES:  The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close lanes on north- and southbound I-710 at Olympic Boulevard to repair damaged pavement on the freeway bridge above Olympic Boulevard on two separate weekends for 35-hours, Friday, October 7 (stage 1) and Friday, October 28 (stage 2). This emergency project must be done to prevent further damage to the bridge deck.

To repair the pavement on the bridge, construction crews will grind the pavement, repave the bridge deck, and then replace the joint seals.  The damaged section of the bridge is 96-feet long and 53-feet wide.  

Caltrans engineers determined that rapid-setting concrete will be used to repave the bridge deck as it has a six-hour curing window, compared to other types of concrete that could take days to harden.  Rapid-setting concrete will reduce traffic impacts to the interstate and surrounding communities.  Vibrations from freeway traffic will prevent the rapid-setting concrete from hardening properly, therefore all south- and northbound lanes will be closed for 35-hours in separate time segments.

Motorists should expect long delays and consider alternate routes.  The closures will occur on the following days and times: 

Stage 1 – Friday, October 7 to Sunday, October 9 
Southbound 
Full freeway closure: SR-60 to Olympic Boulevard, Friday, October 7 to Saturday, October 8 – 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. 
Two lanes closed: Saturday, October 8 – 3 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Full freeway closure:  SR-60 to Olympic Boulevard, Sunday, October 9 – Midnight to 10 a.m.

Northbound
Full freeway closure: At Olympic Boulevard, Sunday, October 9 – Midnight to 6 a.m.

Related Closures:
Northbound I-5 to northbound I-710

East- and westbound SR-60 to southbound I-710 connector 
Third Street on-ramp
Cesar Chavez Avenue on-ramp
Whittier Boulevard/Olympic Boulevard off-ramp

Stage 2 – Friday, October 28 to Sunday, October 30
Southbound
Full freeway closure: SR-60 connector to Olympic Boulevard off-ramp, Friday, October 28 – 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Two lanes closed:  Saturday, October 29 – 3 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Full freeway closure:  SR-60 connector to Olympic Boulevard off-ramp, Sunday, October 30 – Midnight to 10 a.m.

Northbound
Full freeway closure: At Olympic Boulevard, Sunday, October 30 – Midnight to 6 a.m.

Related Closures: 
Northbound I-5 to northbound I-710

West- and eastbound SR-60 to southbound I-710 connector
Southbound I-710 to southbound I-5 connector
Third Street on-ramp
Cesar Chavez Avenue on-ramp

Signed detours will be in place.  Motorists should expect delays.  The California Highway Patrol will be on duty.  Please Be Work Zone Alert #BWZA.  

Flatiron Construction, Inc. of Chino Hills, California was awarded this $2.6 million dollar repair project. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

'Watch Out for Wildlife Week' Puts Spotlight on Safety


Be alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife, and reduce your speed so you can react safely. This sign is on
State Route 23 in the city of Thousand Oaks in Caltrans District 7.


Watch out! Every year, drivers collide with wildlife in California and across the U.S., sometimes with tragic results for motorists, their passengers and the animals too.

Sept. 18-24, 2016, is Watch Out for Wildlife Week, the fourth week of September, when the spotlight focuses on ways for drivers to avoid such tragic incidents.


The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.


“We urge motorists to remain alert and be cautious when traveling through wildlife areas, so our roadways will remain as safe as possible,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.


“Drivers can really make a difference in avoiding wildlife collisions, simply by being aware while driving and watching for wildlife crossing signs,” Dougherty added.


According to Defenders of Wildlife, a national organization dedicated to protecting native species and their natural communities, between 725,000 and 1.5 million wildlife-vehicle collisions occur in the U.S. every year, resulting in more than 200 human fatalities. In California, between eight and 10 drivers and as many as 20,000 deer die in wildlife-vehicle collisions each year.


“Between now and December, deer and other wildlife are highly susceptible to vehicle collisions,” said Marc Kenyon, manager of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's human-wildlife conflict program.


“Deer will soon start their annual migrations to winter range, bucks will be preoccupied competing for mates, and bears will be searching for food in preparation for hibernation,” Kenyon explained. “Such natural behaviors can lead these animals into the way of unsuspecting drivers. Drivers can prevent collisions with animals by being careful and paying attention.”

Wildlife experts associated with the Watch Out for Wildlife campaign offer the following tips for motorists:


Be especially alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife, and reduce your speed so you can react safely. Increase your following distance between you and other cars.


Pay particular attention when driving during the morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.


If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.


Don’t litter. The odors may entice animals to venture near roadways.


Your car is not a natural predator and the animal does not know to get out of your way. Even if an animal sees you, it may still jump in front of your car.


If an animal crosses safely in front of your car, proceed with caution because it may turn and try to cross back.


Be especially careful if you are on a motorcycle. About 2 percent of deer-car collisions result in human fatalities, but most deer-motorcycle collisions involve human fatalities.


Pay attention to both sides of the road by scanning from side to side. If you have passengers, ask them to help you keep an eye out for animals.


Follow the rules of safe driving. Distracted driving, such as driving while talking on your cell phone, text messaging or chatting with passengers is even more dangerous in wildlife areas.


As always, make sure you and your passengers wear seatbelts.