Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Directors Zone

by  Douglas R. Failing
Issue Date: 04/2008

At this time of year, I'm reminded of what a beautiful place we live and work in and the great springtime weather that surrounds us.  Living in Los Angeles and Ventura County comes with both enjoyment and challenges, and one of those challenges is congestion.

Many, like me, are transplants from other regions and are drawn to this beautiful area and contribute to the congestion.  I grew in a place with a lot more winter weather: cloudy, stormy and snowy.   I couldn't spend as much time outdoors there as I'm able to here.  Living in this area, I am very much amazed that it can be 70 degrees and still winter.  I wait for storms out on the horizon, but there aren't any. 

The good weather brings us other challenges.  For us in the transportation field, congestion is our major challenge and there is much that we can do as a department to relieve congestion.

For example, there is an article in this issue on the I-210 Congestion Relief Project involving metering freeway-to-freeway connectors on this heavily traveled corridor.  The I-210 is one of the most congested east-to-west corridors in District 7 and there are three such corridors here: I-10, I-60 and I-210.   These corridors all work in balance as they all serve the same clientele at either end.  We have to be cautious to treat them, manage them and balance them all as corridors, because, if not, an imbalance works to the detriment of the other corridors.  So we have to do this very carefully and public input will be sought as we move forward. 

With advanced technology, we can manage congestion with ramp metering and innovative ways to use Changeable Message Signs and other freeway operational technology and, in particular, with advanced traffic signal programs.     It's not just connector and ramp metering – we've been doing that for the past 19 years in this area.   Caltrans District 7 electrical design staff has really pushed the envelope in the area of Freeway Operations. 

Technology will remain one of the areas that we need to focus upon. Congestion relief is very different from the Department's old role of just building our way out of congestion.  Now we are able to add capacity through technology. This District has to do that, we are doing that, and we are leading the world in freeway operational technology.

Using technology creates its own challenges for us. We're asking our highway electricians to do more for us today than in the past.   I'm very pleased that this month we highlight two of Caltrans Electrical Crews telling how their job has changed and how we certainly have more challenges than in the past.  Maintaining this new technology is far beyond what was ever anticipated to be on our system 20 years ago.

This issue features the second part of the long-term employee article.  The technology that helps us to operate our freeways better would never have been envisioned 40 or 50 years ago when employees like Paul Perez and Ralph Thunstrom began at Caltrans.  They certainly weren't even envisioned when even I started my career.  You will read how Caltrans is doing things a lot differently than when Dave Gilstrap was in the Operations Division 44 years ago. 

And 44 years from now, perhaps the new wave of congestion pricing may be a thing of the past.  High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes are ways to create revenue to help towards the enhancement of all modes of the transportation system.  But congestion pricing is not new, although it is new to us in Los Angeles. It is a huge and new subject for this District and this is a method that you will be reading more about in the media, trade magazines and in future editions of Inside Seven.  I'm asking that we all start looking into and studying congestion pricing and the role it could play in the District's future.