Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Behind the K-Rail: Up Close Look at the I-5 Empire Project In Progress

Those of you who live or work in Burbank have undoubtedly noticed the tremendous amount of construction underway in the city as part of the I-5 Empire Project (info here)—it's pretty hard to miss. A lot of the work can be seen from the street and freeway, but not all of it ... until now. 

Below is a short photo tour of the project that takes you behind the k-rail—where members of the public are not permitted (because construction sites are incredibly dangerous, and we really and truly do not want you to get hurt). The project began in May 2014 and will be completed in 2019.

Future site of the Empire Avenue undercrossing: 

These panels will be installed on the retaining walls along the new undercrossing. The plane design reflects the city's aerospace history:

These u-shaped rebars will support the concrete panels:

Here's the future site of the southbound I-5 Empire Avenue off-ramp:

And here's the southbound I-5 Empire Avenue on-ramp:

This structure will support the elevated railroad as it crosses over Empire Avenue:

And these walls will support the railroad as it passes over Buena Vista Street:

Here crews are widening I-5 over Buena Vista Street to make room for the new carpool lanes.

More information about the project is here. Sign up to receive project updates (including closure info) here

Questions? Call us on the I-5 Info Line at (85) 454-6335, or email us here.

Friday, March 25, 2016

When the cliff collapsed on Pacific Coast Highway

This landslide closed Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles at 6:50 a.m.
on March 27, 1958. Four days later, as Caltrans workers cleared the debris, a second slide killed Caltrans District 7
highway superintendent Vaughn O. Sheff. This view is looking west-northwest. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.)

March 31 is the sad anniversary of a tragedy that took the life of respected Caltrans District 7 employee Vaughn O. Sheff.

A massive landslide on Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles engulfed the 58-year-old highway superintendent on March 31, 1958.

Sheff was examining the progress of maintenance workers who stayed on the job around the clock to clear away an earlier landslide on the highway north of Santa Monica. Suddenly a larger section of the cliff collapsed, burying him while other workers scrambled to safety.

“He was considered one of the outstanding superintendents in District 7, the only one holding a California license as civil engineer,” the California Highways and Public Works magazine reported in its May-June 1958 edition following his death.

Sheff is one of 184 California Department of Transportation employees who have been killed on the job since 1921, according to official records as of March 25, 2016.

Sheff was born Aug. 18, 1900, in Cloquet, Minn., and lived in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was survived by his wife, Ruby, a stepdaughter, two grandsons, five sisters and four brothers.

He served with the 1st U.S. Engineers during World War I with the Army of Occupation in Germany. After working for the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, Sheff went to the State Division of Highways in 1929.

He was assigned to District 7 Maintenance in 1948. In 1952, he transferred to District 1 in Eureka as maintenance superintendent. Less than six months later he returned to District 7 as superintendent of the Venice maintenance territory.

According to a 2002 article in the Los Angeles Times, Sheff died while inspecting the cleanup where rain-soaked earth had fallen several days earlier, blocking a 200-yard section of Pacific Coast Highway at the west end of Via de las Olas. Then came the second, larger slide.

“Sheff desperately ran for the beach but stumbled and fell,” the newspaper reported. “His crumpled body was exhumed after seven hours of digging.”

The day after the tragedy, the International Press news agency reported that “the engineer was buried beneath more than 100 feet of earth” when “an estimated 600,000 tons of rock and dirt cascaded down on the route north of Santa Monica, burying the highway for a quarter mile.”

It added, “Cleanup crews, including trucks, bulldozers and skip-loaders, were tossed around like toothpicks as the new chunk of wet earth spilled from the towering cliffs along the ocean. Some of the men rode their heavy equipment almost to the breakers.”

Sheff “was undoubtedly one of the best liked of District 7 employees and will be very greatly missed by all of his many friends,” reported the April 1958 edition of Caltrans District 7′s Highway News Bulletin. “Sheff’s great absorbing interest outside his work was fishing the local and distant trout streams, which he did in company with his friends and associates, who are proud to tell of his prowess as a fisherman. He was a lover of growing things and took great pride in his garden.”

After the tragedy, state employees established a scholarship in Sheff’s memory at the campus then known as Los Angeles State College, now called California State University, Los Angeles.

This 1958 photo shows Caltrans workers clearing debris after the second slide
killed Caltrans District 7 highway superintendent Vaughn O. Sheff on March 31, 1958.
(Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives/Pacific
Palisades Historical Society - Clearwater Collection)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Construction Update: San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) Carpool Lane Work Continues

If you have driven the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) in the San Gabriel Valley in the last couple of years, you may have noticed the heavy amount of construction activities in the area. Late last year, District 7 celebrated the completion of the 10/605 direct-connector project  in Baldwin Park. Although the direct-connector has already benefited motorists, work continues on the I-10 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV or carpool) lane construction project. 
Retaining wall construction on eastbound I-10 near Vincent Avenue.

Once completed, the I-10 HOV construction project will offer one continuous HOV lane from downtown Los Angeles to San Bernardino County, a distance of approximately 40 miles. Currently, construction is taking place on I-10 between Puente Avenue in Baldwin Park and Citrus Street in West Covina. Soundwall and retaining wall construction continues, along with drainage system work and outside shoulder widening. In addition, the eastbound Pacific Avenue/West Covina Parkway off-ramp was recently closed for widening work. The ramp will remain closed through November, 2016. 
A total of seven bridges will be widened as part of construction activities.

Thirteen soundwalls will be constructed throughout the project limits.

This $193 million project is anticipated to complete by spring, 2019. For more project information, please contact Caltrans Public Affairs. Caltrans reminds you to Slow For the Cone Zone.  


Monday, March 21, 2016

District 7 Installs Its FIRST Three-Lane Staggered Ramp Meter

A member of the electrical team adjusts a signal lens.
Ramp meters may be one of the most underappreciated, misunderstood congestion-busting strategies in the traffic operations toolbox. Motorists sometimes grumble about them, believing that having to stop at an on-ramp meter lengthens their commute. However, studies have conclusively demonstrated that meters increase freeway speeds, decrease travel times and reduce accidents.

Ramp meters work so well that Caltrans has installed more than 1,100 of them in District 7—but only one is a three-lane staggered ramp meter. Since February 4, this new ramp meter strategy has been safely and efficiently shepherding vehicles onto southbound I-405 from the Valley Vista Boulevard on-ramp.

The first three-lane staggered ramp meter is installed.
What exactly is a three-lane staggered ramp meter? First, some ramp metering basics. Ramp meters are installed on freeway entrance ramps and connectors to control the flow of vehicles entering the freeway. They’re designed to decrease congestion and improve average vehicle speed by controlling vehicle flow, since vehicles entering at short intervals are less likely to cause bottlenecks. Additionally, meters enhance safety by reducing rear-end and sideswipe collisions.

The new three-lane staggered meter at Valley Vista Boulevard discharges vehicles separately for each metered lane using split timing. Each of the three signals has a unique cycle such that each motorist gets a green light at a different time. The software that makes this possible also allows the Ramp Metering Branch to program different discharge rates for each lane. For example, the left lane might discharge a car every six seconds, while the middle and right lanes discharge cars every eight seconds.

The sluggish Valley Vista Boulevard on-ramp to southbound I-405 was a prime candidate for the district’s first three-lane staggered meter. During peak hours, traffic was backing up on both local streets and the freeway. The existing meter, which had been discharging three vehicles at the same time, simply wasn’t getting the job done.

So why not discharge two cars per lane per green instead of one, also known as platoon metering? It wouldn’t have worked well at this location. Platoon metering would cause traffic to back up to the ramp meter signal from the merging point on the freeway, causing gridlock and increased travel delay.

The inside of the ramp meter cabinet.
Getting the new three-vehicle staggered meter system up and running at the Valley Vista ramp was no easy task. It required two days of splicing wires, pulling cable, updating the ramp meter cabinet and programming the controller to accommodate the new software for staggered metering. Additionally, the signal lenses had to be adjusted so they’re not visible from neighboring lanes, an operation that required a lot of painstaking trial and error to get the positioning just right.

Once the new hardware and software was installed and the lens signals were perfect, ramp metering engineers closely observed traffic behavior on local streets and the freeway over a period of several weeks to determine the impact of the new staggered metering. Based on their careful observations, they tweaked the signal cycles to achieve the best possible timing for the location.

Six weeks later, delays are shorter and traffic is flowing more smoothly on local streets near the on-ramp and on the freeway. The underappreciated ramp meter has once again proved itself to be a congestion buster to be reckoned with.

More info about Caltrans ramp metering is here.

Closures on Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) for Shoreline Stabilization and Protection - Malibu

Caltrans will close the number 2 lane of southbound Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) just south of Topanga Canyon Boulevard (SR-27) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, March 21 to Friday, March 25.  

Contractor repair crews will rebuild the shoreline and place rocks (rip rap), repair damaged pavement, culverts, and drains, and other roadway infrastructure.   

This week, lanes will be restriped and K-rails will be placed so that eventually, repair crews can work without closing lanes on the highway.  

The California Highway Patrol will be on duty.  Remember to Be Work Zone Alert.
Project area

Monday, March 14, 2016

Protect Every Drop -- Help Keep Our Waterways Clean

Clean waterways start with clean highways. Small changes in your daily activities can make a BIG difference in helping to keep California’s highways and precious water clean. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated reduces wear, and that means fewer fine particles wash off as pollutants into our waterways. 

For more info on how you can help keep our water clean, check out the video below about Caltrans' new Protect Every Drop campaign. (More info here.)


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Caltrans Rock Climbers To Remove Loose Rocks on Slopes Above PCH (SR-1)

Caltrans heavy equipment operator/scaler, climbs a slope above PCH near Pt. Mugu
Caltrans will intermittently close Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) between Big Rock Road and Peña Creek Road, Tuesday, April 5, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as Caltrans rock climbers remove loose rocks and debris from the slopes along the highway. Motorists should expect 15 to 20 minutes delays.  

Caltrans rock climbers or scalers are composed of employees from the division of maintenance and engineering geologists.  Rock climbers help maintain and protect slopes along 3,000 miles of state highways by physically removing marginally stable or unstable rocks from the face of a rock slope with crowbars, hands, feet, airbags, and explosives.

Each rock climber is certified and attends an intensive bank scaling and rock climbing training course in Kingvale, California. 

Here's an example of the type of work our scalers have done:
The California Highway Patrol will be on duty.  Remember to Be Work Zone Alert.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Help Us Plan the Future of Transportation!

What should the state’s transportation future look like? Tell us what you think! Caltrans wants your input and comments on the California Transportation Plan 2040 (CTP 2040). The Plan lays out a vision for California's transportation future to provide mobility, support a vibrant economy, and meet greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

The CTP 2040 envisions a fully integrated, multimodal and sustainable transportation system in California. You can help ensure the CTP 2040 is fully consistent with the department’s mission of delivering a low-carbon transportation system capable of meeting our goals of mobility, safety and sustainability.

The development of the CTP is an open and collaborative planning process that includes early and continuous engagement with governmental agencies at all levels, the private sector, advocacy groups, community organizations, and the public.

You can review and comment on the plan here, or email comments to You can even go old-school and send a letter to: 

California Department of Transportation
Division of Transportation Planning, Office of State Planning
1120 N St., MS 32
Sacramento, CA 95814

So tell us what you think—we really want to know! All comments must be submitted by 5 p.m., March 29, 2016.