California Department of Transportation

Caltrans 2014 Excellence in Transportation Award Winners

Each year, Caltrans highlights the best of its work and the work of its partners through the annual Excellence in Transportation awards program. The Department received nearly 80 entries from within Caltrans, local and public agencies, private contractors and consultants across the state. Many people worked hard to make these projects a reality and provide quality and improved transportation for California and its citizens. Excellence in transportation is a consistent ongoing Caltrans endeavor. A panel of judges, which includes professional engineers, environmental specialists, and transportation planners, reviews the entries.


Metrolink Bike Cars

Metrolink, Southern California Regional Rail Authority

Category 1 Winner

Due to the ever increasing bike ridership over the years, and as part of its green initiatives program, Metrolink created Bike Cars to alleviate the overcrowding of bikes onboard the Metrolink trains.  The bicycle bays were designed to securely hold bikes in a stable position in the event of a sudden stop or emergency, and to withstand opposing forces in turns, inclines and bumps along the train ride.  The new Bike Cars allow for more passengers to bring their bikes as they are making their commute across the Southern California region.  Since the inception of the Bike Cars, the agency has transported over 523,000 bikes, and has seen a growth in bike ridership.


Devil’s Slide Tunnel Project

Caltrans District 4
HNTB Corporation
Kiewit Infrastructure West, Inc.
Federal Highway Administration, California Division

Category 2 photo

When the new Devil’s Slide Tunnels opened to traffic on March 25, 2013, the trip down State Highway 1 in San Mateo County immediately became safer and more reliable.  The tunnels replaced a segment of coastal Highway 1 in San Mateo County that was subject to frequent closures due to slides and slipouts.  State Highway 1 is a lifeline for the coastal communities so the long–term closures were not merely inconvenient, they were devastating.  They depend on the highway for everyday commuting, commerce, and the all-important tourist trade.  When the road closed, the local economies suffered.  From the outset, the project managers wanted to ensure the project would have no detrimental effect on the environment.  With intelligent planning and design, and diligence on the part of construction crews, the surrounding environment was not harmed by the construction activity.  In fact, the local red-legged frog population thrived during the process.  With the tunnels now open, the old section of Highway 1 was turned over to the county, who will turn the old road into a bicycle and pedestrian pathway.  The Devil’s Slide Tunnel is a triumph of superior design, planning, and management.  Caltrans worked closely with the community to design a facility that would solve a serious problem, while simultaneously protecting the environment, be aesthetically pleasing, and provides safety for motorists. 


I-15 Express Lanes

Caltrans District 11
San Diego Association of Governments
Federal Highway Administration
Metropolitan Transit System

Category 3 Photo

Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration, San Diego Association of Governments, and the Metropolitan Transit System collaborated for an innovative and multi-modal transportation corridor that eliminated congestion and transformed how travelers use this section of I-15. In the late 1990s this 20 mile stretch was the most congested freeway in San Diego.  The new Express Lanes improve vehicular mobility with a Barrier Transfer Machine that automatically adjusts moveable barriers for up to three lanes in either direction using an electronic guidance system cut into the pavement with sensors that monitor traffic flow.  This provides free-flow for travelers during peak travel, incidents and special events.  This project provides transportation modal options by designing interchanges that connect the Express Lanes directly with local transit centers and communities along the corridor.  Future plans include a Bus Rapid Transit System further expanding options for modal choices.  The project is the first adaptable, high-tech transportation facility configured to meet the diverse needs of local travelers, commuters and commerce in the region.


San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span Seismic Safety Project

Caltrans, Toll Bridge Program
T. Y.  Lin International/Moffat & Nichol, Joint Venture
Bay Area Toll Authority
California Transportation Commission

Category 4 Photo

The new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span was a regional effort, a regional challenge, and an engineering accomplishment.  Besides the typical technical challenges for a bridge of its magnitude, the people of the region decided it must incorporate features to make it much more than just another freeway facility.  The Toll Bridge Program and its consultant teams met these challenges using the latest technology and design innovations.  The seismic replacement of the 2.2-mile long San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span is an epic transformation of the bridge into a global icon.  The new East Span claims many firsts--the longest self-anchored suspension span, the first use of fusible links to protect the tower shafts during earthquakes, the largest suspension bridge cable saddle, and the world’s widest bridge.  The bridge is a lifeline structure designed to open within days after the 1,500-year earthquake.  It is seismically resilient with state-of the-art and groundbreaking technologies such as battered piles, hinge pipe beams in the deck that allow temperature movement, and shear link beams in the tower that allow tower legs to move independently, both of which “fuse” during earthquakes protecting the structure, and expansion joints that allow 3 feet of movement.  The new East Span is a monument that is functional, beautiful, and state-of-the-art and will serve the Bay Area for 150 years.  However, most importantly, during a major earthquake it will be safe and key to helping the region recover.


Philip S. Raine Safety Roadside Rest Area

Caltrans District 6
Granite Construction
In Balance Green Consulting
Great Valley Center

Category 5 Photo

The Philip S. Raine Roadside Rest Area (SRRA) received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification—the highest green building standards rating—by the U.S. Green Building Council, the country’s leading authority on green building standards.  An international design competition helped create the ‘Green’ rest area concept and served as the basis for the rest area building and site design.  Its energy efficient design and construction methods resulted in a 52 percent reduction in energy use through high efficiency lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; along with natural day lighting of interior spaces and shade canopy solar panels that also power the SRRA.  In addition, the new landscape restored over 50 percent of the site with native and drought-tolerant plants, which, along with improved irrigation, will save an estimated 12 million gallons of water annually.  All construction waste went to recyclers instead of the landfill and the design incorporated regional materials from within 500 miles of the project.  This project is just one example Caltrans’ effort to build a more sustainable transportation system in California.


Santa Fe Drive Pedestrian Underpass

San Diego Association of Governments
Caltrans Division of Rail
North County Transit District
City of Encinitas

Category 6 Photo

The Santa Fe Drive Pedestrian Underpass provides a safe crossing under railroad tracks and the busy South Coast Highway 101 in the City of Encinitas where more than 50 passenger and freight trains travel daily.  Crossing has always been a dangerous proposition for the hundreds of surfers and beachgoers who flock to one of California’s busiest beaches every day.  Before the project was built, residents frequently crossed the tracks illegally and unsafely where trains travel at speeds up to 90 mph.  With the completion of this new grade-separated pedestrian rail undercrossing, access to the beach and the Coastal Rail Trail has been made significantly easier and safer.  The project features a rail bridge, an underpass, a new crosswalk, and traffic signal on Highway 101.  It also serves the Coastal Rail Trail, which is a regional bikeway that follows the coast within San Diego County.  The project was constructed on the second busiest railroad corridor in the nation. Close coordination with all project stakeholders was critical to the success of the project.  The Santa Fe Drive Pedestrian Underpass project is a huge success and has been embraced by the residents, businesses, and visitors in the community for providing a safe and beautiful pedestrian and bike connection across the rail corridor.


Tunnel Control and Traffic Operations Systems

Caltrans District 4
California Highway Patrol

Category 7 Photo

The Caldecott and Devil’s Slide tunnels are considered critical transportation facilities.  These tunnels each play a significant role in improving the quality of life and economic vitality in the Bay Area.  Improved crisis prevention and emergency response plans are a necessity in protecting people and facilities.  Implementation of tunnel control and traffic operations systems at the tunnels allows real-time monitoring of the facilities’ life-safety systems and traffic operations while minimizing times for incident detection, response, and clearance.  Each tunnel includes state-of-the art equipment such as high quality lighting, signals, air quality, fire and intrusion detection, gas sensors, linear heat detector sensors, call boxes, AM/FM rebroadcast systems, traffic monitoring stations, closed circuit cameras, changeable and variable message signs, as well as unique features such as emergency gates, intercoms, and video incident detection systems.  With completion of the new tunnels, each requiring a specific emergency response plan approved by the State Fire Marshall, general control for the various systems in each tunnel were modernized and integrated in unique hybrid supervisory control and data acquisition systems that enable efficient daily operations, safety for the traveling public, and security of the critical infrastructure. 


Middle of Buckhorn

Caltrans District 2

Category 8 Photo

The Middle of Buckhorn Project is the fourth in a series of six phases in a massive project on State Route 299’s Buckhorn Grade.  The Buckhorn Grade is notorious for its tight switch back turns, limited sight distance and narrow roadway.  The purpose of the Middle of Buckhorn project was to reduce the numbers and severity of collisions on this nearly two mile stretch of the Buckhorn Grade.  Upon its completion, 11 of 22 curves were removed, lanes were increased to 12 feet, shoulders were increased, a soft median was added between opposing lanes of traffic, the advisory curve speed limit was increased from 25 mph to 35 mph and a continuous truck climbing lane was installed.  Not only was traveler safety addressed, but worker safety, too. Crews are now able to use consistent shoulder widths to respond to numerous traffic and weather related incidents on the grade


Ocean Park Boulevard Complete Green Street Project

City of Santa Monica
Kimley-Horn & Associates, Inc.
Excel Paving
John Kaliski Architects

Category 9 Photo

The Ocean Park Boulevard project demonstrates how streetscape improvements can reconnect a neighborhood divided by a major auto-oriented street to become a sustainable complete street. Teamwork between the City and community included dozens of community meetings, focus groups and individual stakeholder sessions.  The project carefully incorporated preferences for community aesthetics and cultural values with street design that calms traffic, provides increased safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, and increases the streets environmental performance.  It includes wider, more visible bike lanes and enhanced crosswalks, public art, street trees, median and parkway landscaping, pedestrian lighting, street furniture, and sustainability improvements with landscaped areas that improve storm water runoff.  Based on the success of this project within the community and beyond, it has established a new standard for street design within Santa Monica and neighboring communities.  Several new projects in Santa Monica are under design development using this project as a model. 


State Route 255 Gateway Transportation Enhancement Project

Caltrans District 1
City of Arcata
RAO Construction Company

Category 11 Photo

State Route 255 serves as a “Main Street” and gateway for the City of Arcata.  The original four lane roadway had inconsistent or non-existent sidewalks, no bicycle facilities, and lacked aesthetic and local character.  Collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration, California Coastal Commission, Humboldt County Association of Governments, Caltrans, City of Arcata, business owners, and the public resulted in full support of the design.  The project enhances pedestrian and bicycle travel and creates a gateway to Arcata.  A road diet converted the four-lane roadway to two-lanes with bike lanes, sidewalks, and planter areas with “rain garden” bio-swales to improve storm water quality.  The project creates an aesthetically pleasing gateway to the City, includes installations of local artwork, brick patterned crosswalks, street slighting, colored concrete medians, and a context sensitive signing to improve local identity.  The Main Street now provides multi-modal travel options and improves the public space visual appearance, provides sustainable storm water facilities, and enhances access to local businesses.


Mumble Strip Installation and Evaluation

Caltrans District 1
Illingworth and Rodkin, Inc.
Caltrans Division of Environmental
Caltrans HQ Traffic Safety Studies

Category 12 Photo

Over the past decade, District 1 installed conventional rumble strips on its State highways as a low cost, effective countermeasure to reduce the frequency and severity of lane and roadway departure collisions.  However, the North Region environmental staff working with the resource agencies expressed concerns regarding the installation of conventional rumble strips near homes, campgrounds, and areas with sensitive sound receptors.  Installation of conventional rumble strips near nesting Marbled Murrelets, Spotted Owls, and Osprey habitat were to be avoided.  Furthermore, the Yurok Tribal government expressed dismay when rumble strips were to be included in a project through their lands.  They believed the noise would adversely affect the Bald Eagle population and tribal ceremonies.  In July 2012, mumble strips were installed on a seven-mile segment of US Highway 101 in Humboldt County followed by a sound and vibration study performed in September 2012 comparing conventional rumble strips with mumble strips using four test vehicles of differing sizes.  The study concluded that the addition of mumble strips as a counter measure for lane or roadway departures at locations with sound sensitive conditions will significantly reduce the frequency and severity of collisions at these locations and better preserve the quality of the environment.


Foresthill Bridge Seismic Retrofit

Quincy Engineering, Inc.
Placer County, Department of Public Works

Category 13 Photo

The Foresthill Bridge, which is the highest bridge in California and 4th highest in the United States, was originally constructed in 1973 as part of the proposed Auburn Dam.  It provides access to the southeast portions of Placer County for recreation, logging, water and power facilities, and emergency access for firefighting personnel and equipment.  The route has also been identified as the primary evacuation route for the area in disaster situations such as fires and earthquakes. As part of the Local Agency Seismic Retrofit Program, Placer County embarked on the retrofit design of the bridge.  The tasks for this project included seismic assessment, retrofit strategy, final design, and construction.  Quincy Engineering utilized advanced design criteria; detailed computer modeling and analysis; innovative use of Buckling Restrained Braces (BRBs); and the analysis and design of detailed gusset plates.  The BRBs offer distinct advantages over traditional shock-absorber-type hydraulic mechanisms as they are relatively maintenance-free, with only periodic painting required, can be easily inspected after a seismic event, and can be readily replaced after a major earthquake.  Quincy’s consistent, ongoing communication process, as well as collaborative style of working with everyone involved in the project throughout its progress, was a key element in the project’s overwhelming success.


Metrolink Facebook Page


Category 14 Photo

Metrolink wanted to increase awareness of public transportation options for travel in Southern California.  Primarily known as a commuter train service, they set out to boost their weekend and off-peak ridership.  Looking to reach the most people in the most optimal and cost-effective way, Metrolink turned to its social media site - Facebook.  The greatest challenge was determining strategy and finding the right balance.  Needing to keep passengers informed, and at the same time, creating fun and engaging content was crucial to building meaningful relationships with customers.  One strategy was leveraging the popularity of casual gaming.  Metrolink created a weekly “Where in Southern California? Wednesdays” game where a destination was posted and fans tried to guess the location.  Giveaways included trial-ride tickets and prizes donated from promotional partners.  They maximized limited staff time and resources and posted conversation starters and engaged riders to talk about their weekend/off-peak travels to entice new or non-riders to try the same.  The Facebook outreach resulted in an increase from 153 to 2,440 “talking about this” and 3,799 to 16,760 “fans” within an eight-month period.  Metrolink’s Facebook page has become the hub for all things trains and rail fanning, a place for sustainable public transit advocacy, and a unique travel guide to destinations around Southern California.