Director Kempton Chats with District 7 Employees
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Director Will Kempton dropped by District 7 last month to speak with employees after attending a ceremony in Simi Valley to dedicate the newly-constructed widening project on Highway 118.
The director joked that the new lane was such a great improvement that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was having a field day catching speeders. “So I let Raja (Mitwasi) drive on the way back,” Kempton said. “I certainly didn’t want to get a ticket.”
Kempton told district employees that Caltrans is doing really well in certifying projects for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. As of his visit, Caltrans had certified about $1.5 billion in highway projects. “Nine hundred million dollars has to be obligated by June 30 or we lose it,” he said. “Thanks to your efforts and the efforts of a lot of other people around the state, we should hit that number in by early May.”
This means that California will be a “gobbler state,” he said. “We will be able to gobble up the obligation authority that other states leave on the table by virtue of not being able to get their projects obligated.”
A successful bond sale last month provided $6.4 billion, of which Caltrans will get a “chunk.” Another bond sale is planned soon and, if that is successful it will go towards more transportation projects, such as the addition of a westbound lane of Highway 118 in Simi Valley..
“Bids are averaging 22.3% under engineer’s estimate on our projects,” Kempton said. “That means that for every five projects we do we’ve got enough money to do the next one. So there is some good news in the economic downturn.”
Although not wanting to advocate for one side or another, Kempton did urge employees to pay attention to the May 19 election as several propositions affect the state budget, which in turn affects bond sales and the ability to fund Caltrans projects.
As for the question on everyone’s mind, the furloughs, Kempton said that, while he has no inside information or crystal ball, it is his opinion that the new Service Employees International Union (SEIU) contract will be accepted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor and that we will all end up with one day of furlough a month until June 2010.
After answering several more questions from the audience, Kempton was off to District 8. The Director’s visits are always welcomed, greatly enjoyed and, alas, over too quickly.