By Douglas R. Failing
Caltrans, District 7 Director
My how the year has flown by; it's already November. The weather is changing and both the holiday season and fire season are upon us.
To all employees, I ask that you be very careful this time of year. More motorists are on the roads returning from visits with friends and family. The potential for an increase in impaired motorists is heightened. It is important to those of us here at Caltrans that everyone returns home safely from weekend getaways and the end of your work shift in the field.
Last month, Caltrans lost one of our employees, Muoi Tran, 55, who was killed in an accident while working as part of a District 2 survey crew in the North Region Construction in Red Bluff. Tran was exiting the construction site to go to lunch when he was broadsided by a big rig. These were the dangers of just doing his job. A memorial fund has been set up through the California Transportation Foundation, 581 La Sierra Drive, Sacramento, CA 95864. Please remember Muoi Tran, his wife and three children in your thoughts and prayers.
There is a very interesting article in this issue of Inside Seven on the role Caltrans will play as a ‘first responder’ during times of catastrophic emergencies. On November 13 at 10 a.m., Caltrans will participate in a major earthquake exercise called 'The Great Southern California ShakeOut," a practice scenario simulating in real-time what would happen when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shakes the San Andreas Fault. Experts in several disciplines predict that this is a highly likely and overdue distinct probability. The simulated quake will be centered in the San Bernardino area, but its impact will be felt in Los Angeles and carry through to the High Desert and towards Bakersfield and Fresno on I-5. Caltrans' role will involve Maintenance, Operations, Permits, External Affairs, an emergency operations center at the Los Angeles Regional Transportation Management Center and even the Finance Division will simulate securing emergency state funding to rebuild from the damage.
While we in District 7 do take care of our freeways daily, there will be sizeable impacts to the freeway system, and we will continue to have the responsibility to do all that we do during and after regional catastrophic events. You all must be aware of the very important role you will play for support and recovery, when a scenario such as this becomes a reality. Discuss among your units the lessons learned in interacting with other agencies such as fire, police, public health, public housing and even the military. This is Caltrans' responsibility to the people of California.
And speaking of the State of California, while we do appreciate that a budget has been passed, unfortunately, it has some holes. People are driving less, sales taxes are down, there is a downturn in business and employment. As you read this, Governor Schwarzenegger is preparing to call the Legislature back into session to address a potential and additional $3 billion deficit this fiscal year.
Will transportation continue as is? I don't know. Will they cut the transportation budget? I don't know. I do know that these are very tough times. We need to be prepared for whatever methods are determined to close the fiscal gap. I want you to know that we have been working very carefully in District 7 to minimize the impact to our employees and to the projects in progress. I will keep you updated.
We have had several celebrations. My thanks to the team, committee members and the groups who were engaged with the Diversity and Disability Awareness Day program. All the diversity that we bring to this district helps us to succeed in so many ways. Sharing and displaying our various cultures helps us to appreciate each other and our strengths.
The momentum of celebration continued to the Capitol Outlay Support Delivery recognition where every division plays a role in delivering our Capitol program: Maintenance, Operations, Construction, Design, Environmental, Planning, External Affairs, Project Management and Administration. Our district's Capitol Outlay program is slightly larger than our Maintenance Division with more people sharing a role in its success. Once again, you in District 7 have shown why the people of California can trust you. You have delivered for the third year in a row 100% of all the major commitments you have made to the people. This is a phenomenal record; truly outstanding! The reason that Proposition 42 and our budget was protected this year is because you have shown the Legislature the importance of the work you do and you can be trusted to keep projects on schedule and on budget. You have shown that there are benefits resulting from the accomplished work. We owe that to the people of California who have responded with their trust and confidence in Caltrans.
As I’ve said before, we have to think of ourselves as a company. Our stockholders are the people of this state and we have to deliver a profit each year. When we do that, the public will continue to invest in Caltrans and in transportation infrastructure.
As we go into the holiday season, I hope that everyone has enjoyable holiday time off to spend with your family and please be safe.