Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Directors Zone

by  Douglas R. Failing
Issue Date: 06/2008

We're halfway into the year, moving into summer, and my, how quickly time flies.
Governor Schwarzenegger released his May Revised Budget on May 14. As you are all aware, the budget deficit has grown and there will be cuts across the board.  We are fortunate in transportation that we are still looking at a healthy program.  Nothing that we anticipate will have an impact on us in District 7.  However, there is still some expected reduction in staffing in the Department, but for a Department our size, it is expected that all of those reductions will be handled by attrition, based upon workload, as we will see a decrease in the workload in some areas.
There is a lot of information available about the budget.  We've heard and we’re concerned that many other local public agencies may be faced with furloughs and layoffs and a number of state agencies are facing rather drastic budget cuts. 
For those of you who have access to the Internet, I encourage you to view Director Will Kempton’s video message of May 16, where he describes the details of the budget and the direction for Caltrans. For us in District 7, the bottom line is that it is going to be a very busy year.  We anticipate that we will have more than enough work to do this year and into next year with what we are seeing in this budget.
Remember that this is not the end of the budget.  Now it is time for the Legislature to get together, and the Senate and Assembly will meet with the Governor directly to agree on the fine points.   Now is the time for everyone to come together and chart a course that moves us forward as a state.
June is a month of many summertime celebrations and we’ve had so much to celebrate at Caltrans.
Through the efforts of the Bicycle Program in our District, we held our first annual Bike to Work Week activities from May 12-16, and many of you participated in Bike to Work Day on May 15.  It is very important for us at Caltrans to participate in these types of alternate modes of transportation.  It is not just healthy for you and for the region; for us in transportation, it's also an important piece of the transportation picture and one that needs to be treated more seriously by a greater number of people.
I have been meeting with a bike advisory group for last few years to help advise me on how Caltrans can work better with the bike community and make our projects more friendly for cyclists as a commute option as well as for recreational enjoyment.
This is the second consecutive year that we’ve participated in the Bike to Work Program and I trust it will continue.  Last year on Bike to Work Day, I spoke to a group on the cycling issues and concerns at Los Angeles City Hall, and this year, I am very pleased that the District Office Plaza was used as a rest stop for cyclists.
My thanks to Dale Benson, Senior Transportation Engineer in Local Assistance, who is in charge of the Bicycle Program for the District, and to our in-house band, Traffic Jam, who entertained the crowd on Bike to Work Day.  I heard a lot of great feedback and reports that they played some excellent song choices and everyone really appreciated their efforts. I hope to have the opportunity to see and hear them at many more Caltrans events.
Caltrans has been very fortunate as an agency for the recognition we’ve received on many significant projects -- and the importance of the work we are doing within this District to benefit statewide goods movement and for the motoring public.
Because of the many construction projects that we are doing, new jobs are created that keep people working, which helps to stimulate the economy.  We contribute to pulling the state out of this financial situation it is now facing.  It is very important that we all remain dedicated to doing our jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible so that the public’s trust is maintained.
One example of such a project is described in an article in this issue about the District celebratating the award of the I-5/SR-14 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) direct connector near Santa Clarita. 
Carpool connectors are the next great step to help relieve congestion on our transportation system.  It is an important move for Caltrans.   Most of you are aware of our focus on the carpool lanes and that we’ve come to the point where major portions of the carpool lane are built out.  
Our next big focus is to incorporate more HOV direct connectors like the I-5/14 or State Route 57/60, which completed two years ago, and on the SR-105/110 and other areas that we will be pursuing in the future.
When carpoolers or vanpoolers need to exit the HOV lane to enter a different freeway, this action creates congestion on our system.  When doing so, their vehicles must weave across multiple lanes of traffic to take a regular freeway connector, go onto the other freeway and then weave back to enter the carpool lane again while crossing multiple lanes of traffic. 
We want to encourage carpooling because it’s great for the economy and air-quality so the HOV connectors are the next great step to relieve congestion for everyone overall by reducing the congestion caused by weaving.   I will look forward to many more of these projects and celebrating their delivery to the motoring public.
My congratulations to the Design group for celebrating their success in project delivery.   They worked really hard to get us there and I will look forward to seeing this project go into construction and celebrating again with cutting ribbons on opening day and letting the cars flow!
In just a few paragraphs, I’ve talked of many modes of transportation including carpooling, vanpooling, bicycling and now on to walking.
Also in May, Caltrans participated in another big, visible community event which was the Annual United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Walk for Education. On May 17, (a very hot day), my wife and I and two Deputy District Directors, Tad Teferi, Deputy of Program and Project Management and Deborah Robertson, Deputy of External Affairs, joined a wide mix of Caltrans employees from several departments (and one from District 12 as well as LaBaron Carter from the Department of General Services) for a 5K walk to raise money for the UNCF.
I was pleased to see that Caltrans is showing a much-improved participation ratio than in the past. I encourage more participation for next year as we continue to support this worthwhile event.  
Hopefully, that encouragement will direct college graduates to a path that leads to Caltrans as a workplace of choice. And on the subject of supporting youth, I want to mention that our District’s Professional Mentoring Program is getting off the ground. You’ve seen some announcements to contact Zoe Yue, Office Chief, Operations Division, Permits, who is heading up this effort.
My appreciation to Zoe and to the many who have signed on to be a mentor.  Now, we need mentees, all employees – young and not so young – to take advantage of this opportunity offered through the Professional Mentoring Program.  It is vital to our future. 
We have an aging demographic in this unit.  I know because I am one of those at the high end of that demographic.  Fortunately, I see some younger employees in the Department.  I do notice you around, because I see you bounce up the stairs a lot easier than I do. 
We need you to come in and we’re going to push you to work harder to get ready to replace people like me. There are a lot of us here who in the next five to 10 years will be retiring and leaving state service.  It is a lot to ask, but I’m going to ask you to get ready to move forward in the organization and replace us.
I have the greatest job in America.  I just love what I do and I look forward to doing this as long as they will have me.  But, there comes a point where I will need to move on.  I’ve done many jobs on the way up, but this job is by far the most fun. I’m going to challenge you to take my job. Start getting ready to move forward up the career ladder. The Mentoring Program is one place you can take the necessary steps to do that.  Please make contact with those who have committed to guide you through whatever career track you wish to succeed in.  There are people in place to mentor you and we owe that to all of you who wish to partake.
We have a lot of good things happening this summer.  We’ll work hard. We’ll mentor the young and those more established. We’ll celebrate our successes.  We’ll become involved in alternate modes of transportation like biking, walking, carpooling and vanpooling.  Any by doing all of that, and by being the good, civil service organization that people are starting to recognize us for, we will be okay with the budget and with the work that we need to continue in the future.
Have a great month.