Message from the Caltrans Director
This issue of the California Transportation Journal is organized around the topic of climate change, the environment and the ways in which the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) works as a responsible steward to the planet while ensuring that our highway system is as efficient and effective as possible.
To that end, our first story Turning a More Vivid Shade of Green cites the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which is the foundation for Caltrans’ pioneering attempts to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions generated by California’s widespread transportation system. Some have estimated that the transportation sector produces the largest single proportion of greenhouse gases in the state. Yet, California hopes to reduce those emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And Caltrans plays a major part in those efforts.
Our second story Smoother Roads focuses on the management of the state’s highways, and how Caltrans is making them smoother and longer-lasting than ever before. This story, which focuses on finding and repairing faults and flaws on California’s aging roadways, also can be seen in the light of lowering the state’s “carbon footprint.” Caltrans is using innovative computer programs to analyze the state’s 50,000 lane-miles of pavement. And, we are working with pavement manufacturers to find new ways to produce longer-lasting pavement, while reducing concrete’s “carbon cost” to our atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Caltrans is playing a major role in protecting California’s coastline from future tsunamis in The Great Harbor Wave. Tsunamis, a Japanese word meaning “harbor wave,” can flatten coastal communities in seconds, and steal an untold number of lives. However, Caltrans is working with other agencies to improve local tsunami warning systems, beginning with the state’s north coast and working southward toward major population centers.
And finally, bridges owned and operated by Caltrans are being refitted with “light-emitting diode” fixtures that can last up to five times longer than older high-pressure sodium bulbs that once illuminated many state structures. The LEDs not only operate for longer periods, but they cost less, and can reduce the amount of time maintenance crews are exposed to potentially lethal traffic. They are cheaper, longer-lasting and safer – and some critics say, the new lights put out a warm, white glow that is easier on the human eye. What’s not to like about them?
In fact, I trust that all the stories in this issue will inform, entertain and illuminate. So, welcome to this issue of the California Transportation Journal.