California Department of Transportation

2015 Caltrans Excellence in Transportation Awards Winners

Each year, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) highlights the best of its work and the work of its partners through the annual Caltrans Excellence in Transportation Awards Program.  Caltrans  received nearly 80 entries from within Caltrans, public agencies, private contractors and consultants across the state.  Congratulations to those of you who have worked hard to make these projects a reality by participating in the effort to provide positive and measurable improvements in transportation, resulting in a lasting benefit to the state of California. 


Mira Mesa Direct Access Ramp and Miramar College Transit Station

*             Caltrans District 11
*             San Diego Association of Governments
*             San Diego Metropolitan Transit System
*             City of San Diego

2015 Intermodal Winner

The Mira Mesa Direct Access Ramp and Miramar College Transit Station Project (the Project) is in the Interstate 15 Express Lanes corridor’s southern segment. The Project exemplifies regional strategies to: co-locate transit with community resources, such as colleges; place transit in higher density Smart Growth opportunity areas; and integrate transit and highway improvements to create facilities that support a variety of travel choices.

Connectivity between modes of travel  is a key aspect of the Project. For bicyclists, connections to the transit station are improved with a new bicycle lane on Hillery Drive. A new crosswalk over Hillery Drive provides pedestrians safer access to the local elementary school. For motorists, parking is available on the top level of the Miramar College Police Station and Parking Garage, as well as at the Park & Ride north of the transit station. As a new transit service hub, the Miramar College Transit Station connects riders to the Rapid services and its destinations of downtown San Diego to the south, UC San Diego to the west and Escondido to the north. In the future, it will also connect to the Mid-City area. Additionally, the transit station serves local bus routes that make connections between Rapid and local transit services easy for the traveler.

In the late 1990s, this corridor was the most congested freeway in San Diego County. Now it is an innovative, multimodal transportation system that has reduced traffic congestion and provided new travel choices.


State Route 46 Whitley 1 Segment

*             Caltrans District 5
*             Papich Construction, Inc.
*             San Luis Obispo Council of Governments
*             Fix 46 Committee

The Higway (Rural) Photo

State Route 46 links the California Central Valley to the Pacific Ocean for both regional commerce and tourism.  It is also designated as part of the Strategic Highway Network that the federal government recognizes as vital for military defense. Over the years, considerable media attention has been given to the several, high profile, multi-vehicle and multi-fatality accidents that have occurred.

To improve safety, reduce congestion and address regional connectivity demands on the route, a multi-phase project is being constructed to widen the existing two lane rural highway to a four lane expressway with a separated median. One of the unique and innovative features of the Whitley 1 Segment is the use of landform grading that allowed the roadway to be blended with the rural setting and rolling topography.

To provide local connectivity, the Whitley 1 Segment also constructed a network of frontage and connector roads in the community of Whitley Gardens increasing safety and eliminating the need for traffic to cross the highway.


U.S. 101 Auxiliary Lanes Project

*             Caltrans District 4
*             Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
*             City of Mountain View
*             City of Palo Alto

Highway Urban Photo

The U.S. 101 Auxiliary Lanes Project extended the dual High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes between State Route 85 (SR-85) in Mountain View and Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto. Project improvements included realignment of on/off-ramps, relocation of utilities, addition of ramp metering at on-ramps, partial right-of-way acquisitions, widening of two creek bridges, and extension of a 12-foot box culvert. The project also included installing enhanced fencing to appeal to the visual context and preserve bayside views and planting vines along Bayshore Parkway. The project construction maintained bicycle connectivity in Mountain View and Palo Alto throughout construction, including the Bay Trail which runs along the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve Extending the dual HOV lanes north of the SR 85 Interchange seamlessly moves traffic from the HOV direct connectors through the project limits and provides additional capacity needed to address the congestion along US 101. Overall, the project enhances the region’s network of HOV lanes, encourages carpooling, and results in time savings for both HOV and Single Occupancy Vehicle users.


Caldecott Fourth Bore Tunnel

*             Caltrans District 4
*             Metropolitan Transportation Commission
*             Contra Costa Transportation Agency
*             Alameda County Transportation Commission

Major Structures Photo

The Caldecott Fourth Bore Tunnel Project includes the construction of a 3,399-foot long, 41-foot wide tunnel. The tunnel opened to traffic on schedule and under budget. This two-lane concrete tunnel is located on State Route 24 and passes through the Berkeley Hills in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, connecting the cities of Orinda and Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. 

The new tunnel provides motorists, who use it to travel to work as well as a variety of cultural, recreational and sports events on both sides of the Berkeley Hills greater travel time predictability on weekdays and weekends. Motorists’ safety has also been enhanced because the need to merge from four freeway lanes to two tunnel lanes in the off-peak direction has been eliminated. In addition, the inclusion of a 10-foot shoulder minimizes freeway and local traffic impact during incidents and provides easier access for emergency vehicles.

The fourth bore is considered the largest vehicle tunnel constructed in California using the Sequential Excavation Method and is now considered one of the most state-of-the-art tunnels in the United States.


Butte 70/149/99/191 Highway Improvement Mitigation Project

*             Caltrans District 3
*             Butte County Association of Governments
*             Restoration Resources

Stewardship of Environment Photo

The Butte County Freshwater Marsh (Phase I) and Vernal Pool (Phase II) Mitigation Project was a joint effort by the Butte County Association of Governments (BCAG), Caltrans and Restoration Resources to provide mitigation for impacts arising from the Butte 70/149/99/191 Highway Improvement Project. The two phases of this project led to the preservation of over 480 acres of wetland, woodland and grassland habitats, including the creation of 38 acres of freshwater marsh and nearly 30 acres of vernal pool habitats.

Under constant care and monitoring, these created and preserved habitats have developed into lush refuges for wildlife species in a landscape dominated by agricultural uses. These habitats are now protected under perpetual conservation easements held by the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a state and federally approved non-profit land trust. This ensures permanent protection of the wetland preserve, as well as providing high quality ecosystem-based mitigation for the Highway Improvement Project for State Routes 70, 149, 99 and 191 in Butte County. As a testament to this, the created vernal pools have since been inhabited by the federally endangered fairy and tadpole shrimp and both phases of the mitigation project were accepted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2013, fulfilling Caltrans’ mitigation requirements.

The project is an exceptional example of an effective public/private/non-profit partnership. Working together, the team successfully designed, built and now permanently manages and protects a large-scale wetland preserve. 


Andrade Port of Entry – Quechan Crossing

*             Caltrans District 11
*             Quechan Indian Tribe
*             U.S. Customs and Border Protection
*             Imperial County Transportation Commission

Transportation Related Facilities Photo

The Andrade Port of Entry (POE) is located on State Route 186 (SR-186) in Imperial Valley on the Quechan Indian Reservation and is the nation’s 11th busiest crossing for pedestrians entering into Mexico. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed over one million pedestrians in 2010, and in the peak season (late September through April) approximately 5,000 pedestrians cross the border every day. Before the project, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards were not met and walkways were inadequate to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. While deficient by any standards, this was especially problematic in an area where a large proportion of the users are either elderly or disabled. 

The project has improved the accessibility, character and visual quality of the area with enhancements and design themes reflecting the regional character of the Quechan Indian Tribe and capturing historical context of this very unique area. The Andrade POE project was a collaborative effort with the Tribe, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of General Services Administration; and is a successful project that provides a more effective, safe and pleasant travel experience for all modes of transportation, with an emphasis on pedestrian circulation.


Eleventh Street / Grant Line Road Roundabout

*             San Joaquin County Department of Public Works
*             Jacobs Engineering
*             Teichert Construction

Transportation Systems Improvements Photo

The Eleventh Street / Grant Line Road Roundabout Project was commissioned by the San Joaquin County Department of Public Works. This intersection is utilized by over 22,000 vehicles per day, including 12.2 percent truck traffic. It is subject to commute traffic from drivers accessing Interstate 5 from the city of Tracy, as well as commuters using the route as an alternative to Interstate 205.  The project consisted of replacing a signalized intersection with a two-lane roundabout, installing safety lighting, onsite drainage retention and sustainable landscape features. 

Studies show an overall accident reduction of 39 percent, a 75 percent reduction in injury collisions, and a 90 percent reduction in fatality collisions. It also provides increased traffic flow and significantly reduces stopping and wait time for vehicles.  The project landscaping enhanced the area by replacing a standard asphalt intersection with a landscaped center median containing a stone wall, trees, shrubs, decorative gravel mulch and bark mulch.  Adjacent weed-grown shoulders were converted to landscaped areas with mulch and stamped concrete. 

By removing the signalized intersection, drivers now benefit not only from the increased efficiency of traffic flow, but also from the safety and environmental improvements.  


Arboleda Drive Freeway Project

*             Caltrans District 10
*             Merced County of Associated Governments
*             Merced County

Traveler and Worker Safety Photo

The Arboleda Drive Freeway Project converted State Route 99 from a four-lane expressway to a six-lane freeway on a new alignment in Merced County from Buchanan Hollow Road to south of Childs Avenue. The project included construction of a diamond interchange at Arboleda Drive, frontage roads, realignment of local roads, Roadside Weather Information Systems, and Changeable Message Signs.

The project resulted in increased safety and reduced traveler and worker incidents/injuries by eliminating nine at-grade intersections, eleven private access points/driveways, and six median crossings. The installation of Roadside Weather Information Systems and Changeable Message Signs provide real time information to motorists regarding fog and traffic incidents. This project not only addressed traveler safety, the addition of wider medians, full shoulders and maintenance vehicle pullouts with elongated acceleration tapers, also improved worker safety. Maintenance crews are now able to respond to numerous facility repairs, as well as traffic and weather related incidents with improved access and safety buffers. 


Castro Streetscape Improvement Projects

*             San Francisco Department of Public Works
*             San Francisco Planning Department
*             San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency
*             Ghilotti Brothers Construction, Inc.

Community Enhancement Photo

Castro Street is one of the most well-known neighborhood commercial districts in San Francisco (SF).  In addition to serving the day-to-day needs of local residents, the street is a historic center of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) community and a destination for visitors from around the world. City agencies: SF Public Works, SF Planning Department, SF Municipal Transportation Agency and SF Public Utilities Commission worked closely with the community in creating a shared vision for Castro Street.

The Castro Streetscape Improvement Project enhanced the streetscape experience with widened sidewalks, repaved streets, American with Disability Act compliant curb ramps, pedestrian scale lighting, leaning rails, bike racks and street trees. There are a variety of special streetscape features that celebrate the neighborhood’s unique culture and rich history, which include: decorative rainbow crosswalks, Rainbow Honor Walk Plaques, Eureka Valley History Walk markers, special color-changing “celebratory lighting” and The Castro History Walk with historical neighborhood facts etched into the new sidewalk. These improvements further elevate the neighborhood experience of an already famous city destination.


State Route 27/ Topanga Canyon Boulevard Vegetation Management Plan

*             Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning
*             Office of Senator Fran Pavley
*             Caltrans District 7, Division of Public Affairs
*             Caltrans District 7, Division of Maintenance


The Topanga Canyon Boulevard (SR-27) Vegetation Management Plan exemplifies Caltrans' core values of integrity, commitment, teamwork and innovation. SR-27 is in a mountainous coastal zone with catastrophic fires, sensitive riparian habitat, highly invasive plants that disrupt the native ecosystem and a semi-rural community. In 2012, herbicides were used along SR-27 in contrast to its previous practice of manual-only clearing. However, the environmentally-conscious community nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains raised concerns with this method of clearance.

What followed was a community and government partnership. Together the partners developed best management practices and a work plan for maintenance that are sustainable, innovative, environmentally sound and sensitive to the community’s needs. 

A newly-approved fire-resistant mulch is being piloted for weed suppression and native plants are being planted. New technologies currently being researched include: hot foam, water, steam and organic plant-based sprays. Quarterly monitoring, reevaluation and modification are being used to respond to changing weather conditions and climate.

This effort is something that other communities may use to address logistical, financial and labor challenges. The goal is to achieve synergistic maintenance and fire safety needs while enhancing the natural environment and community identification.


Bridgeport Main Street Revitalization

*             Mono County Local Transportation Commission
*             Caltrans District 9
*             Local Government Commission
*             Bridgeport Valley Regional Planning Advisory Committee

Highway as Main Street Photo

Bridgeport is steeped in a rich mining, ranching and Old West history with strong ties to the vast public lands surrounding the town. The community identifies with a rural, self-reliant and traditional way of life; including a close-knit community and quaint main street. Unfortunately, the old highway configuration of five vehicle lanes did not reflect this community’s character (and was no longer needed as a cattle thoroughfare). Bridgeport was often nothing more than a convenient passing opportunity for motorists.

Today, with the reduction of vehicular lanes, increased parking and added bicycle lanes, better reflects Bridgeport’s identity as a small and rural, but complete, town with a community rich in history and a commercial district worth experiencing. The increased parking invites travelers to get out of their cars and explore the quaint town. The bicycle lanes encourage a multi-modal community and support local bike rentals, and together with reduced travel lanes, all these features reflect a community Main Street rather than a highway that happens to pass through a town.

The Bridgeport Main Street Revitalization project is an inspiring example of the community, Caltrans, and the County collaboratively building consensus, defining solutions and efficiently implementing change. 


North Red Bluff Long Life Pavement Project

*             Caltrans, District 2
*             Tullis, Inc.
*             University of California Research Center

Transportation Innovations Photo

The North Red Bluff Long Life Pavement Project used a pioneering Long-Life Asphalt Pavement (LLAP) rehabilitation strategy.  The goal of the $31 million, 14.5-mile project near the community of Red Bluff was to produce asphalt pavement designed to last 40 years or more, with minimal maintenance.

LLAPs offers several  advantages over conventional pavements, including lower life-cycle costs, lower road user costs, reduced environmental impact and greater worker safety. A life-cycle cost analysis completed during the North Red Bluff project shows a savings of $5 to $10 million over the service life of LLAP versus conventional pavement rehabilitation. Road user costs, such as traffic delays from maintenance and construction activities could add up to another $1 million.
These projects used the greatest possible amount of recycled asphalt pavement in the LLAP design, thereby reducing the use of resources and impacts on the environment. Caltrans was recognized by the Asphalt Pavement Alliance with the national Pioneer Pavement Award for its innovation and success on this project. The north state work represented a breakthrough in California for the concept of LLAP, also known as Perpetual Pavements, and also earned District 2 national recognition.


Interstate 280 Viaduct Bridge Hinge Replacement Project

*             Caltrans, District 4
*             Golden State Bridge, Inc.
*             San Francisco Giants
*             The Port of San Francisco


Public Awareness Photo


In 2014, over three holiday weekends, Caltrans closed Interstate 280 (I-280), from the U.S. Route 101 Interchange to Downtown San Francisco. Effective outreach was essential since U.S. Route 101 was already heavily congested during commute hours and additional traffic due to closing I-280 was certain to exacerbate traffic congestion.

To have the greatest impact on reducing traffic impacts, Caltrans advertised through social media and used traditional methods of reaching the public through media briefings, media stories, and outreach to community and stakeholder groups. All methods served Caltrans’ need for outreach, but the social media campaign was particularly effective in targeting visitors, sports fans and highway users.

During the first closure, outreach accomplishments for social media included: more than 450,000 outreach impressions and 31,000 YouTube video views, fifth most popular hashtag using #Sanfrancisco, a 74% increase in organic traffic to Caltrans’ District 4 website and over 90% of all traffic to District 4 project websites was for the I-280 Hinge Replacement project. Similar results were achieved for the second and third holiday weekend closures.

The effort was not only cost effective, but also beneficial to stakeholder and public groups. As a result, Caltrans set a high standard and developed new methods and procedures for future public outreach.

Public Awareness Email Photo