DIRECTOR'S ZONE, JUNE, 2007
As the driest rainy season on record in Los Angeles continues, Caltrans District 7 is also continuing its partnership with the Los Angeles City Fire Department and local elected officials to reduce fire danger by expediting and increasing brush clearance along our freeways. At a press conference near the San Diego Freeway (I-405) in the Sepulveda Pass on Friday, May 18, Caltrans Deputy Director of Maintenance and Operations, Michael Miles, met with Los Angeles City Fire Captain Joe Szabados, Assemblyman Mike Feuer and City Councilman Jack Weiss, to do our part to reduce the risk of fires. To accomplish this goal, Caltrans will widen the brush clearance buffer to ten feet along freeways and City Fire Department officials will target areas where more work may be required. Caltrans is also deploying 50 additional workers to perform brush clearance in high-priority areas. Public safety has always been and will continue to be Caltrans number one priority. Our teamwork with local agencies will continue throughout this very dry season.
I am extremely pleased to announce that the San Diego Freeway (I-405) Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the northbound High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane from the Santa Monica Freeway (I-405) to U. S. 101, has been signed and is ready for circulation. Congratulations to everyone who helped facilitate this important document, including teams in Design, Right of Way, Project Management and Environmental Planning, who have all been engaged in getting this 500-page document completed. This major milestone will begin the process of public discussions and input as we move forward on this $1-billion improvement to our State Highway System. A public hearing will be held on June 11 to enlist input from the communities and to clearly explain why this project is so important – not merely the design of the project, or right of way, or construction – but also how it affects residents, businesses and the motoring public. Our goal is to work in partnership throughout this vital process and to help bring an understanding of how the overall decision-making process touches and affects people. Caltrans’ obligations include looking at all the impacts, so that when decisions are made to implement a project, we know it has clear and meaningful public benefits. A full understanding of the impacts is our goal.
We are also working to sign the final recommendation/document approval for the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) widening project from the Artesia Freeway (SR-91) to the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605), recommending that the Federal Highway Administration approve the final Environmental Impact Report on this very important improvement project. We anticipate approval by the end of this fiscal year at the Federal level. I would like to congratulate the I-5 Joint Powers Authority -- and I commend the important partnership and teamwork that is helping to move this project forward. Our partnership with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), was also instrumental; they have worked closely and cooperatively with Caltrans to put the environmental document together.
These partnerships, like the I-5 widening, and building a new coalition for the I-405 HOV lane project -- not only highlight the challenges we face together, but also highlight the progress we are making. New and exciting projects on the horizon -- like the initiation of the environmental studies for the I-710 truckway alternatives from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to State Route 60; and the next segment of I-5 widening from I-605 to I-710, just beginning the environmental process – are a testament to what can be accomplished together through common goals and a team effort.
We are also working on a revitalized approach to the Long Beach Freeway (I-710) Gap Closure project between the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) and the Foothill Freeway (I-210) to review new proposals and gain technical information for what is called “route-neutral” studies; for example, working together to bring a wider focus to all options – and not look at one specific route as the total solution. Caltrans is engaged in meaningful dialogue with elected officials, transportation officials and the communities along the I-710 corridor in order to build another strong coalition for the future of the Long Beach Freeway and the communities along the corridor.
All of these essential undertakings are helping Caltrans to focus on our important task at hand -- to improve mobility across California -- to get people where they need to go faster, safer and more efficiently, while always taking community impacts into consideration. We are accomplishing these goals as part of a larger team. Learning from past accomplishments and moving forward into important and developing coalitions -- and being an active part of a team working closely and cooperative with the communities along the way -- are all keys to achieving our common goals.