Caltrans Employees Offer Others a Helping Hand
Stewardship is a broad category that covers a wide range of issues such as aiding small businesses, exporting emergency technology to nations coping with disaster; and preserving the natural world.
This year, for example, Caltrans continued its commitment to aiding small and disadvantaged businesses to obtain state contracts. And in March, a federal court ruled that the Department was on the right track.
A U.S. District Court affirmed that the Caltrans Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) program is “clearly constitutional.” The Department implements the DBE program as a condition of receiving $3 billion in federal transportation funding annually. The program is intended to level the playing field for disadvantaged and small businesses competing for public contracts.
In 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals provided new guidance to states on implementing DBE programs (Western States Paving vs. Washington State Department of Transportation). In response, Caltrans conducted a study to identify the existence and scope of discrimination, if any, in California’s highway transportation contracting industry.
Completed in 2007, the study identified disparities in contracts awarded to African-American, Asian Pacific-American, and Native American firms, as well as businesses owned by women. To address those disparities, Caltrans proposed using both race-neutral and race-conscious means in its contracting. In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the proposal, which includes an overall goal of 13.5 percent DBE involvement.
The ruling followed a suit filed in 2009 by the Pacific Legal Foundation (on behalf of the Associated General Contractors of San Diego) asking the court to declare Caltrans’ DBE program unconstitutional.
While the suit was pending, Caltrans continued its outreach to Small Business (SB), Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) and DBEs. This effort — consisting of more than 80 events with nearly 8,000 attendees — focused on procurement and contracting opportunities with the state, workshops, and business networking.
The Department held events throughout the state to facilitate networking and subcontracting opportunities to SB, DVBE and DBE firms. Through a contract with the Los Rios Community College District, Caltrans provided supportive services to DBE companies. The services consisted of free, one-on-one counseling; online training; technical assistance; and marketing and outreach services to firms seeking transportation-related construction contracts.
As a result of such efforts, Caltrans met and exceeded the SB participation goal of 25 percent and DVBE goal of 3 percent in fiscal years 2008-09 and 2009-10. In FY 2009-10, Caltrans contracted nearly $400 million with SBs and DVBEs.
In a related development, Caltrans was named by the readers of Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology magazine as among the nation’s top performing companies to institute key elements of diversity in the workplace. This is the second year in a row Caltrans was granted the honor.
State Office Buildings in Los Angeles and Marysville Certified as “Green”
Two district headquarters have furthered California’s energy and environmental goals, and have been awarded the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The District 7 facility in Los Angeles earned the Green Building Council’s LEED Gold certification while District 3 headquarters in Marysville earned LEED Silver certification. Both certifications are for existing building maintenance and operations.
By 'greening'Please click the link to learn more about Caltrans' efforts in reducing its impact on the environment in the sidebar story. its buildings, Caltrans shows its intent to reduce its impact on the environment.
To date, approximately 50 state buildings have achieved LEED certification. For a complete list of LEED certified state facilities, read more.
In yet another example of stewardship, technology developed by Caltrans and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) helped set priorities for bridge inspections during the earthquake crisis last March in Japan, as well as in nuclear power plants around the world.
The ShakeCast software application uses ground sensors of analyze earthquake-shaking data in relation to the performance characteristics bridges or other structures. This allows responders to set priorities for inspections within minutes of an earthquake.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) used ShakeCast to monitor the potential for damage to nuclear facilities in Japan following this spring’s earthquake. The IAEA also uses ShakeCast to monitor 196 nuclear power plants around the world.
Following a tremor, one of Caltrans’ most critical tasks is to assess the condition of bridges and roadways. In the past, inspection teams had difficulty setting priorities because they lacked precise information about where the worst shaking and greatest damage had occurred.
Caltrans recently executed a new three-year contract with the USGS to continue the development of ShakeCast. The new version will incorporate improved bridge models and will include an assessment of soil liquefaction and landslide hazards to post-earthquake roadways.
California residents have experienced increased noise due to larger volumes of traffic on its State Highway System (SHS). Caltrans is addressing the noise and environmental impact with its quieter bridge decks Please click the link to learn more about how Caltrans is restoring wilderness areas in the sidebar story.design.
On the environmental front, Caltrans began work this year on a restoration of the Otis R. Johnson Wilderness Park, a seven-acre oasis in Fort Bragg that offers shady walking trails through native plant species.
The project included streambed restoration of habitat and stabilization of mature redwoods, replaced a footbridge, and installed boulders and wood debris to protect the stream bank. It removed invasive plants and restored native species. Completion is scheduled for next year.
A $66 million construction project on SR-44 between downtown Redding and I-5 was completed while respecting the environment. The project added lanes that would have encroached on the wetland. As a mitigation effort, Caltrans built a wall to protect the wetland, and saved enough space for a bike/pedestrian path. The wetland is open to the public for enjoyment and education.
In the Los Angeles area, Caltrans District 7 helped to preserve infrastructure by removing debris and litter from its right-of-way at a cost of $13 million. Caltrans swept 31,875 lane miles, picking up 11,500 cubic yards of debris, disposing of almost 17,000 cubic yards of litter, removing 256 homeless camps, and cleaning up 267 spills. In addition, Caltrans covered 2,980 square feet of graffiti in the area at a cost of nearly $2 million.
In the “it-could-only-happen-in-California” category, Caltrans District 10 based in Stockton gave a hand to the San Joaquin Valley’s grape harvest. The problem was unstable peat soil that added to pavement deterioration Please click the link to learn more about how Caltrans is recycling old pavement in the sidebar story. on SR-12 from I-5 to near the Rio Vista Bridge. Major maintenance has been required over the years to preserve this important two-lane interregional route.
The work could not be done safely at night, making a daylight closure necessary. So, last August the stretch of highway was closed for three days from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to allow for maintenance activities — saving both time and money.
After reaching out to the San Joaquin Valley Farm Bureau, Caltrans set a date and time for the three-day closure — which ensured the work would not disrupt the area’s grape harvest and delivery to Napa Valley processors. The closure allowed crews to perform multiple maintenance activities on the highway both efficiently and safely. And the innovative plan prevented 15 days of one-way traffic control, which had been expected to cause 90-minute delays or more.
In another example of stewardship, Caltrans restored some 15 acres of vernal pool wetlands for future mitigation needs on 198 acres along SR-41 in Madera County. The construction not only provided dollars to a locally owned small business, but was the achievement of years of negotiations with resource agencies.
The Caltrans team forged partnerships with resource agencies to craft a development plan with a minimum of hurdles, while addressing future mitigation needs and preserving habitat for sensitive vernal pool species. As a result, Caltrans received recognition from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Besides improving relations with resource agencies, the mitigation project is expected to become a model for streamlining project delivery for years to come.
Caltrans also got a “thumbs up” for its work on two mitigation sites near San Diego. The Del Mar Auxiliary Lane Mitigation Project, begun in 2005, not only followed state and federal environmental law, but was a plus for birds, wetlands and those who enjoy the natural world.
Located on I-5 near the San Dieguito River, this project stabilized eroded slopes that could potentially affect wetland habitat. Three locations totaling a quarter of an acre needed repairs to failed culverts that allowed sediment to fill the wetlands. Caltrans excavated the area and replanted it with appropriate vegetation. The salt marsh, now restored, provides nesting and foraging habitat for black-necked stilts, song sparrows, and other bird species.
Another San Diego-area mitigation project is next to the Carmel Valley Restoration and Enhancement Project at the I-5/SR-56 interchange. This project, which was started in 2002, mitigated construction effects on about half an acre of wetland, which in turn required creation of an acre of new wetland habitat at the site.
Due to the high salt content of the soil, vegetation cover was lower than anticipated. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested additional plantings. When completed, the site received sign-off from the California Department of Fish and Game, California Coastal Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Meanwhile, on the arid edge of the Inland Empire, Caltrans began erecting a new Colorado River Bridge on SR-62 in a remote area of San Bernardino County. The Department also forged links with the state of Arizona and the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Reservation.
The bridge, which was narrow, heavily scoured and obsolete, was a vital link between California and Arizona. One of only a few Colorado River crossings, the span enabled a large influx of local, commercial and recreational travelers during spring and summer, causing traffic delays.
In cooperation with the Arizona Department of Transportation, Caltrans began work to replace the 76-year-old bridge with a $26 million modern structure, which will move commercial and recreational traffic more readily. Work is expected to take 2 ½ years.
Caltrans worked diligently to respect the rights and the wishes of the CRIT residents as well as meeting current construction standards. Given the remote location of the project, a number of cooperative agreements were put into effect, outlining law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services.
Caltrans is the construction lead agency on the project. Arizona and California each contributed $13 million towards the project.
Caltrans also published its “Complete Intersections: A Guide to Reconstructing Intersections and Interchanges for Bicyclists and Pedestrians” this past year. The publication gives direction on implementing the Caltrans Complete Streets policy. The guide is intended to improve safety and mobility for bicyclists and pedestrians at intersections and interchanges.
Quieter Bridge Decks in California Even with Population Increases
California’s population density has increased substantially in the last two decades causing increased volumes of traffic on the State Highway System (SHS). Urban residents in particular have complained about the noise and environmental impact from the SHS.
At highway speed, most of the noise is generated where the tire and pavement meet. Engineers throughout the world have been researching methods to reduce highway noise beyond building sound barriers. Methods include improvement of the roadway pavement types and textures to reduce tire/pavement noise.
Caltrans has recently issued “Bridge Deck Surface Texture” for use on all new bridge contracts approved after January 2011. The new specification requires bridge decks to be surface textured.
During the year, Caltrans completed a pilot project for each method. The pilot projects verified the expected tire noise, the friction requirement, and constructability. Longitudinal texturing has resulted in as much as a 10dB (decibel) reduction of tire noise compared to the previous standard method, transverse texturing. For reference, a 10dB decrease is perceived as ½ of the noise to the human ear.
The FHWA considers 5dB as the threshold criterion for funding a sound wall project.