By Douglas R. Failing
As September brings us nearly three months into a State budget impasse, we anticipate one last effort to resolve this issue with an upcoming hearing for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Controller John Chiang to discuss the Governor’s Executive Order. It’s unfortunate to be in the position to even need to have this discussion, but again, the one resolution is for the Legislature to have a budget on time, as it is constitutionally required to present a budget annually on June 15.
Meanwhile, we will continue to maintain the District 7 highways and freeways and provide the service that the public expects from Caltrans and we will continue with our agendas to deliver world-class transportation projects to the public. We are all in this position together and we will hear in the upcoming days where the next steps will lead us.
The fall season is upon us and so quickly things are happening on the freeway system, with students heading back to school and people going back to work from summer vacations.
With many people back to using the freeways and highways, this is a good time for Caltrans to be visibly represented at the County Fair to showcase many of our very visible projects they are noticing on the system.
Beginning Friday, September 5 and throughout the month, Caltrans will once again have an informational booth at the Los Angeles County Fair at the Pomona Fairplex. Many people have worked hard towards this effort and we’re looking forward to another good experience with plenty of information to be shared with the public. It’s a great opportunity for a public agency to highlight the many projects in our district and to put a friendly face on Caltrans. This gives us a chance to meet the public in a casual atmosphere, and to talk about many important issues, hear their concerns, and to speak of the good work that we do. It’s an opportunity to listen to public feedback what they see going on in the field. After all, they are our users, our customers. We work for them.
I know that many of you have committed to work a shift this month. Thank you for stepping up to the call. It’s important that you are there and on time for your shifts. My family and I will be out there again this year as we always stop at the Caltrans booth to say hello and talk to those of you who have taken time to contribute to this quality, public outreach effort.
In addition to the Fair, another worthy effort is the Quality Program at Caltrans. This issue of 'Inside Seven' highlights the Quality Program, its current Chair, Shefa Bhuiyan, who works in the Division of Planning, and the Quality Coordinators from various divisions. Thank you for your participation on this important committee.
We work in a large environment with financial challenges in front of us. We need to work more efficiently with what we have because we will always be challenged to do better with our resources, materials and people. The Quality Program is not about continuing with the status quo. It’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter. As new techniques and equipment develop, we must prepare to take advantage of resources that will allow us to continue to do our work safely, while providing a benefit to the public by delivering a more cost-effective product. There is more than enough work. Even if we find ways to accomplish our work with less effort and less money, our workload will not disappear and our staff will not diminish. There is plenty of work for everybody here in District 7.
In August, I and others, participated in an interview with a local public television program, KCET “So Cal Connected,” about Caltrans operations at the Los Angeles Regional Transportation Management Center (LARTMC). Allen Z. Chen of our ITS, Operations Division, did a great job explaining the science and technology going on behind the scene. Frank Quon, Deputy District Director of Operations, and our fine ‘TMC’ traffic operators shared some insight, as well.
Unfortunately, during the interview, there were two freeway incidents involving motorcycles. KCET saw how LARTMC responded to and managed these incidents. Angel Toledo, Transportation Engineering Technician, was able to demonstrate how we respond to simultaneous incidents and how we distribute information, close lanes, place signage. Through many people’s expertise, we were able to demonstrate how we put into practice the theory behind our state-of-the-art transportation management and communications center, which is to use technology to maximize traffic flow and to reduce congestion. When the program airs in October, Angel’s family will see the kind of job he does each day, and I hope that the general public is enlightened by some of the great things Caltrans does to monitor the freeway system.
Our response strategy towards incidents is designed to make life easier and safer for the motoring public, so that people don’t even recognize that it is us, Caltrans, out there making things happen. But lately, and far too often, the TMC calls me when a fatality occurs on our roadway. Please make sure to read the article on motorcycle safety, a timely topic of another feature this month.
Here in Los Angeles, probably because of the cost of gas, we have noticed a huge increase in the number of accidents involving motorcycles on the freeway system. Other reasons for the high number of motorcycle-related incidents seems to be not paying attention and lack of necessary skills and inexperience. Many people who have never ridden a motorcycle are doing so now. When riding on a motorcycle, the environment is not very forgiving towards making mistakes; their operators have to be more on point for driving safely.
But because we noticed the increase in these incidents, and safety concerns, it has led to an increased public outreach effort by Caltrans Director Will Kempton and Commissioner Joseph A. Farrow, California Highway Patrol (CHP), who together alerted the media to report that vehicle drivers need to give motorcyclists more room on the road and motorcyclists need to be more careful, as well. As I recall, the attention brought to this issue is one of the few times where Caltrans and the CHP have been publicly thanked for calling attention to this freeway safety issue and calling for action.
So, please always use caution and consideration while driving whatever type of vehicle that you choose. I look forward to the fall season and continuing the work we are eager to accomplish with a new State Budget in place.