Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Directors Zone

by  Douglas R. Failing
Issue Date: 05/2007

In the midst of a record dry year, the media spotlight has been focused on the issue
of brush clearance along California’s freeways.  As the owner, operator and guardian of California’s transportation system, Caltrans understands the concerns raised regarding brush clearance adjacent to the state’s freeways and state highways.  We are working closely with the State Fire Marshall's office and Los Angeles City Fire Department officials on one common goal: public safety.  I would like to share information with all of you that was contained in some recent media interviews.

Brush and weed clearance is among the many essential duties performed by the men and
women of the Caltrans Maintenance and Landscape crews.  This type of work is and has always been performed regularly and carefully -- and always with regard to consequences surrounding California’s wetlands, watersheds, endangered species, cultural riches, erosion control, stormwater contamination, landslides and human surroundings.  Striking a balance is always a challenge.

At Caltrans, safety is the most important job we do for the citizens of California.  The Caltrans safety record is unparalleled anywhere in the world.  And while safety is the number one priority, Caltrans also takes seriously the issues of environmental protection and laws from State and local water quality and fire agencies.  

Already this year, $1.2 million has been spent by Caltrans District 7 in Los Angeles and Ventura counties alone removing dry brush, weeds and vegetation from some 10,500 acres of Caltrans right of way.  The Department also works with hundreds of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers, community groups and businesses, as well as the California Conservation Corps staff on this important activity. 

In following State Highway Manual guidelines, workers routinely clear a pathway of dry brush on Caltrans right of way from four to eight feet from the roadway’s edge to avoid flare-ups at what fire officials warn is the most common ignition point – mostly due to carelessly tossed cigarettes. 

Caltrans has always worked in partnership, closely and cooperatively, with many resource agencies, local governments, emergency services, fire officials and law enforcement agencies to ensure that the Department is working toward a balance in responding to all of the various laws, mandates, rules and regulations.  We also meet  with experts from these and others in private industry, academia and citizens groups to ensure that all pieces of this State’s transportation network operate and work together – for the benefit and safety of all Californians.

While the mandates may differ from agency to agency, our goal for public safety remains the same.  And because of our common commitment to protect the public, Caltrans will continue to participate in dialogues with state and local fire officials and others, to help strike the balance needed to keep all Californians safe.