Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
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September 2014
The Deputy ZoneDirectors Zone


Caltrans Opens Reconstructed I-5 Alondra Boulevard Bridge   by Maria RaptisSanta Ana Freeway I-5 Alondra Blvd. Bridge Reopens to the public on August 29.

Caltrans, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Federal Highway Administration opened on Friday, August 29, the newly reconstructed Alondra Boulevard Bridge, the largest of three bridges rebuilt as part of the $110 million Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5) Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project located in Santa Fe Springs.

“This new bridge is just one of many transportation improvements we are working on that will improve the quality of life for people in this region by reducing traffic congestion while at the same time providing jobs,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

The 57-year-old Alondra Bridge was completely demolished in June 2013 and rebuilt within 14 months. The new structure, which meets modern design standards, was expanded from four lanes to six lanes. In addition to serving a large industrial area within Santa Fe Springs, the bridge serves the cities of Norwalk, Cerritos and La Mirada.

"The reconstruction of the Alondra Boulevard Bridge is a significant milestone in the 1-5 South Corridor Improvement Projects and a great example of Metro putting Measure R dollars to work," said Metro Board Chair and Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti. "Metro is tackling traffic and improving connections across the region in many different ways, including modernizing freeways, expanding transit options, and making it easier to get around by foot and bike."

The project will also reconstruct bridges at Coyote Creek and North Fork Coyote Creek, add one new carpool lane and a general purpose lane in each direction on I-5 from North Fork Coyote Creek to Marquardt Avenue, and upgrade the Freeway Drive and Firestone Boulevard frontage roads.

The Santa Ana Freeway/Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project is part of the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Projects, a $1.8 billion package of six projects extending nearly seven miles from the Los Angeles County/Orange County line to the San Gabriel River Freeway (Interstate 605). More than 220,000 vehicles travel this section of I-5 daily.

“Caltrans is making a solid investment on the Santa Ana Freeway that will significantly lower traffic congestion while improving safety and supporting economic growth,” said Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen.

The Santa Ana Freeway/Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project is funded by federal, state, and local monies, including $72 million from Proposition 1B, a 2006 voter-approved transportation bond, $14.5 million from state transportation funds, and $23.7 million from Metro’s Proposition C and Measure R.

For more information on the I-5 Corridor Projects, visit www.I-5info.com or call toll-free at 855-454-6335.

 

Life Changes at the Turn of a Doorknob  by Judy GishDistrict 7 employees and invited guests take in the museum exhibits at the opening ceremony.

Behind every doorknob is a story. There is even a story behind how the doorknobs came to be featured in the new District 7 museum exhibit, “Behind Every Door is a new Adventure.”

It all started with one senior right-of-way agent who believed that the property acquisition process was more than determining market values and exchanging one house for another. It was no less than a battle for hearts and minds which Caltrans actually was beginning to win.

Over his many years in this field, Senior Operations, Appraisal Management, Excess Land and Airspace Appraisals Agent Doug Hoover became convinced that Caltrans really is changing its M.O.

In the past, getting the freeway built was the prime directive and relocating people in the way was a means to that end. But using lessons learned over decades of freeway building, Hoover noted that Caltrans Right of Way Division has developed a kinder and gentler approach to relocation that is turning adversaries into partners.

In the case of the massive $1.8 billion worth of improvements District 7 is constructing on the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) between the Orange County line and the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605), some 200 homes have been acquired.

But through a process of working with the community, the cities, third party engineers and elected officials, Caltrans has made itself part of the I-5 South family and vice versa. “Our job was to win their trust back and let them see that the Right of Way folks have hearts and are people just like them,” Hoover said.

It is important to him that the positive side of acquisitions gets some attention. For example, Caltrans found a way to help people upside down on their mortgages or unemployed and unable to qualify for a new mortgage. “Working with the federal government, we were able to stretch the rules and settle for their full mortgage.”

This is one of the new tricks that needed to be learned over time, he said, adding that these sorts of changes allow Caltrans to help people. “Unfortunately, sometimes condemnation has to happen but we want to do it with as little impact as possible.”

During that time, Hoover began to collect doorknobs from the acquired houses. He wasn’t exactly sure what he would do with them but knew they had significance and juju, representing a link between a homeowner’s past and future.

He proposed the idea of using the doorknobs as part of an exhibit about I-5 South to the District Museum committee and found a champion in then Chief Deputy Lindy Lee. Literally years (or at least many months) in the making, the exhibit opened on August 12.

The ceremony was attended by no less than Board Chair, I-5 Consortium Cities Joint Powers Authority (I-5 JPA) and City of Norwalk Councilmember Mike Mendez, Norwalk Mayor Marcel Rodarte and City Manager Mike Egan. Their support is a testimony to the warm relationship between Caltrans and the city.

District 7 Director Carrie Bowen introduced the exhibit at the ceremony, stating that “each doorknob was saved from someone’s home. It represents a portal into their new lives and also a passageway into the Caltrans family, because we also learned and grew as a result of our work with them. “

The exhibit, on display through early fall, may have been Hoover’s brainchild but it would not have been possible without museum committee members Steve Devorkin of Graphic Services and his talented co-worker Tim Baker, and Norma Dorsey, all of whom worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition. Refreshments for the ceremony were contributed by the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG).

Be sure to see it and discover how Caltrans works with property owners to open the door to new possibilities.

 

Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen speaks with Senior Right of Way Agent Doug Hoover at the event.Supervising Transportation Engineer and Museum Committee Chair Alberto Angelini (L) chats with Construction Deputy Mark Archuleta.Doug Hoover discusses the display with Right of Way Deputy Andy Nierenberg, who also spoke at the event.Steve Devorkin, of the Graphics Services office, speaks to event attendees about the importance of collecting and archiving materials for historic preservation.
Empire Building in Burbank: Massive I-5 Makeover Now Underway  by Kelly MarkhamThe construction team breaks ground on the Empire Project in Burbank in May. Left to right: Aline Antaramian, Safwat Salahieh, Vaishal Shah, Carlos Dillon, Vladimir Gurfinkel, Carrie Bowen, Mumbie Fredson-Cole, Garrett Damrath, Mark Archuleta, Mohammad Toutounchian

Donald Rumsfeld wasn’t speaking about freeway construction when he referred to the unknown unknowns, but he could have been – specifically the Empire Project. The project began with dozens of unknown unknowns – underground utilities that hadn’t been mapped, that no one knew were there, that would have to be identified and relocated before work could begin. These unknown utilities would delay the start of the project by about 14 months and extend its duration. The contract was awarded to Security Paving and then immediately suspended.

The good news is the suspension is now over, as anyone who has driven I-5 in Burbank can attest – the piles of concrete, closed ramps and boring operations are hard to miss. Work began in mid-May, launching a complicated, lengthy and ultimately game-changing transformation of I-5 (and the railroad) in Burbank.

The $355 million Empire Project – the largest of the I-5 North Projects – is a series of improvements between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street, including high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, grade separations that will elevate the railroad tracks, realignment and reconstruction of the Burbank Boulevard bridge, and construction of a new diamond interchange at Empire Avenue, among other improvements.

Typically, utility relocation is already complete when construction begins, but because that didn’t happen in this case, the first order of business was to issue a change order for the utility work. Developing the change order while the project was still in suspension took careful coordination and cooperation among many players, including the City of Burbank, utility companies, the railroad, Metro, the contractor and subcontractors, and Caltrans.

“Dealing with the subsurface conditions as part of the complex utility relocation schemes is a challenge that we come across on a daily basis,” said Construction Senior Vladimir Gurfinkel. “Also, because utility relocation is not usually handled during construction, we’ve had to broaden our professional horizons in this specific area of civil engineering and get up to speed in a very short period of time.”

In the early days of the project, every day in the Burbank field office became a marathon problem-solving session. White boards were covered with numbered lists of issues to be resolved. Sometimes 30 people participated from eight different agencies. Meetings morphed into other meetings and splintered into sub-meetings. Days began early and ended late. Sometimes tempers flared and tensions ran high. But the issues on the white boards were slowly crossed off, and work is now proceeding more smoothly.

Still, challenges persist – in large part because of the location. The Empire Project is located in a highly developed, densely populated area, with houses and businesses smack dab up against the freeway, which means construction impacts are keenly felt. For example, a concrete obliteration operation had to be halted when business owners complained that the vibration was causing tiles to fall off their buildings. The construction team worked with the contractor to find a less disruptive method to remove the concrete, ultimately opting for saw-cutting, which resulted in an immediate reduction in plummeting tiles and complaint calls.

Another challenge is traffic. The local transportation system in Burbank is already over capacity. Any closures – particularly long-term and permanent closures – can only exacerbate congestion and make an already stressed system even more difficult to navigate. The Empire Project requires a number of significant closures. A portion of San Fernando Boulevard has been closed permanently along with several ramps, inspiring panic in some residents early on, but thus far cataclysmic predictions have not been realized.

For the most part, motorists have adapted to the closures and found new ways to get around. And they’ll need that flexibility in the future. The project will demolish the Burbank Boulevard overcrossing in a few years and rebuild it over a period of 14 months, eliminating a key route to an important commercial district. However, the new interchange at Empire Avenue will be completed before the Burbank Boulevard bridge comes down. Caltrans giveth, and Caltrans taketh away … and then Caltrans giveth back, building bridges bigger and better than they were.

In the meantime, the work forges ahead. Utility relocation and removal continues. K-rail has been placed on I-5. Lanes have been shifted. Retaining walls are going up. The Buena Vista Street ramps have been widened. Tons of concrete have been broken up and removed. And what was once the San Fernando Boulevard undercrossing is now gone, reduced to piles of dirt and rubble. By this time next year, the temporary elevated railroad tracks (known as a shoofly) will be almost finished, and the new Empire Avenue interchange will be halfway done.

The entire project is expected to be completed in about five years. That five years will be filled with plenty of challenges to overcome and unknowns to be addressed.

“To meet constantly evolving project demands and challenges, we’ve had to be always ahead of the game to be able to discover innovative approaches, strategies and action plans, while developing creative solutions on as-needed basis,” said Gurfinkel. “Based on the overall progress of fieldwork, and despite all the challenges we've had to deal with, we carry a very optimistic feeling about this unique and futuristic project.”


 

The Buena Vista Street off-ramp is widened to accommodate additional traffic resulting from the closure of other ramps. A bore pit operation for utility relocation near Victory Place.Construction crews break up concrete on southbound I-5.Excavation to prepare for a retaining wall near the southbound I-5 Buena Vista Street off-ramp.
Caltrans Holds Public Hearings on Proposed 710 Property Regulations  by Maria RaptisCitizens and interested parties attended and spoke at one of three public hearing held in July and August citing input on the proposed regulations for SR-710 property sales.

This summer, Caltrans District 7 took a crucial step toward moving the department out of the residential landlord business and refocusing its efforts on delivering a world-class transportation system. On May 30 Caltrans requested the public's input to comment on proposed regulations governing the sale of 461 surplus parcels that Caltrans has purchased in the past several decades for the purpose of extending State Route 710 in Los Angeles County.

"We are committed to getting out of the residential landlord business so we can focus on our mission to provide a safe, sustainable and efficient transportation system," said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

The proposed regulations will outline how surplus properties along Route 710 in Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno will be sold pursuant to state law.

"The public hearings were held to comply with the law, to seek input through a transparent process, and to develop regulations fairly so that we can sell properties," said Brent Green, Chief, Division of Right of Way and Land Survey, Caltrans Headquarters.

Caltrans Division of Right of Way and Land Surveys hosted three public hearings in three cities on July 15, 17 and August 21 to take public comments on the proposed regulations, and also, anyone who wanted to comment could submit written comments by email, fax or mail.
Initially, May 30 started the clock ticking on a 45-day public comment period, scheduled to end on July 14. However, many interested citizens and groups requested an extension, that was granted and extended to September 2.

Now, the next steps include revising the proposed regulations and re-releasing for another 15-day public comment period that is expected to happen this fall. Ultimately, at the end of the full process, Caltrans will submit final regulations to the Office of Administrative Law for approval.

 Caltrans set up a hotline for English and Spanish speakers (213-897-8184) and a web site (www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/business/710sales) to help answer questions about the proposed sale process and how it will impact tenants after the regulations are approved and adopted this fall.

For more information on the proposed regulations, visit the California Regulatory Notice Register (www.oal.ca.gov/res/docs/pdf/notice/22z-2014.pdf) or Caltrans’ web site (www.dot.ca.gov/regulations.htm).
 

30th Anniversary of the Los Angeles '84 Olympic Murals  by Patrick ChandlerMCLA Pres. Bill Lasarow, Ex. Dir. Isabel Rojas-Williams, Muralists: Glenna Avila, Willie Herron III, Richard Wyatt, Kent Twitchell, John Wehrle, unknown.

Caltrans’ Deputy District Director of Maintenance Debbie Wong and Restitution Coordinator Vincent Moreno joined the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Los Angeles ’84 Olympic Freeway Murals at the historic Pico House on Los Angeles Street, near the Pueblo on Sunday, August 24.

The event was much like a reunion for those who helped bring the Los Angeles ’84 Olympic murals to freeways in downtown Los Angeles. Kent Twitchell, Gleena Avila, Judith Baca, Frank Romero, Terry Schoonhoven, Alonzo Davis, Willie Herron III, Roderick Sykes, John Wehrle, and Richard Wyatt were some of the freeway muralists that were honored during the event.

This event was a celebration of the effort that was taken by the muralists, residents, the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Olympic Coordinating Committee, and Caltrans to adorn concrete walls of the Hollywood Freeway (US 101) and the Harbor Freeway (I-110) with murals. Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, who has been a long-term supporter of public art, and former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti (Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti’s father), were also in attendance (both are avid photographers).

Caltrans was graciously honored by MCLA. Since 1983, Caltrans Transportation Art Program has been an integral partner in helping to facilitate the use of the state’s freeway infrastructure as a canvas for the Los Angeles ’84 Olympics.

Although, the freeways murals have experienced a few bumpy years where it appeared that the vandals were taking non-stop pleasure in defacing the works of art.

There was an unwritten “code” that graffiti vandals observed and didn’t attack the murals. When the times changed and the “code” fell by the wayside, it appeared at times that the vandals would specifically target the murals.

In 2010, Moreno had an alternate test solution – the Mobile Mural Pilot Project. The pilot project is testing what types of materials would be able to withstand the elements and vandalism by printing the existing and four new murals on plastic sheeting. Some of the murals that depict freeway murals that have been covered and four new murals can still be seen hanging along US 101. The Wells Fargo Bank Foundation is a major supporter and funder of this project.

In 2011, MCLA with funding from public and private sources (not including Caltrans) began to restore the freeway murals. The gray paint that preserved the murals in place was removed and the murals were reinvigorated by the artful eye of Willie Herron III. He can occasionally be seen restoring John Wehrle’s “Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo” along US 101 between Los Angeles Street and Spring Street.

With a coalition of community support, the lives of the freeway murals are looking even brighter.

In 2011, MCLA with funding from the public and private sources (not including Caltrans) began to restore the freeway murals. The gray paint that preserved the murals in place was removed and the murals were reinvigorated by the artful eye of Willie Herron III. He can occasionally be seen restoring John Wehrle’s “Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo” along US 101 between Los Angeles Street and Spring Street.

“It is MCLA’s hope that in the very manner the 1984 Summer Olympics’ torch was continuously carried by the runner on foot, our muralists will continue to pass their inspiration to future generations to keep a vital tradition that goes back to ancient times,” said Isabel Rojas-Williams, MCLA’s executive director.

“The murals are kind of like a bunch of old friends coming back to town that you haven’t seen in years,” said Wong.

Vincent Moreno, LA City Councilman Tom LaBonge, Debbie Wong, Isabel Rojas-WilliamsPatrick Chandler, LaBonge, Wong, former CT photographer, Moreno, Rojas-WilliamsGlenna Avila, the grown-up little boy used for the Freeway Kids Mural on US 101
Introducing the NEW Inside 7  by Kelly Markham

Inside 7, District 7’s employee newsletter, has gone through many changes over the years. It began as a printed newsletter, then became an e-newsetter, and now has evolved once again. The new Inside 7 makes use of a blog-like format, rather than the more traditional newsletter format that mimics the look of a printed publication. This is the last issue of Inside 7 in its current form.

Why the change? The new blog format allows the newsletter to be updated more frequently — several times each week, if need be, rather than quarterly. No more reading about major events months after they happened. Content will be fresh and timely, making the publication a more responsive and useful information source for employees. We also believe the blog format better reflects how readers consume online content, which is to say very quickly, seeking relevant information that can be easily digested. Readers often don’t have time to read an 800-word article, but they DO have time to read a couple concise paragraphs with a great photo.

So, we’re pleased to unveil the new, improved Inside 7, which you’ll find here. Keep in mind that this is your newsletter. If you have news or information you’d like share with your fellow employees, contact Judy Gish (judy.gish@dot.ca.gov), Maria Raptis (maria.raptis@dot.ca.gov), Patrick Chandler (patrick.chandler@dot.ca.gov), or Kelly Markham (kelly.markham@dot.ca.gov). Let us know what you’re up to — interesting projects, events, successes, awards, etc. We want to hear all about it.