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Everyone say “cheese!” Cameras were set up to monitor animals using culverts as part of the State Route 23 Wildlife Corridor Study and Mitigation Project. Here, a photogenic raccoon strikes a pose.

District 7 Scores Three Excellence in Transportation Awards
by  Kelly Markham
Issue Date: 06/2009

The annual awards recognize a road-widening project, a new traffic control system, and efforts to reduce freeway animal fatalities.

What do synchronized traffic signals, wildlife gates and soundwalls have in common? All were part of District 7 projects that won 2009 Excellence in Transportation Awards.

The Excellence in Transportation competition is conducted annually by Caltrans to recognize excellence in transportation design, construction, traffic operations, maintenance, planning and improvements throughout California. Winners are selected by a panel of judges not employed by Caltrans.

System Operations Winner: Adaptive Traffic Control System (ATCS)

Ever have one of those commutes where it feels like you hit every red light for miles, crawling and stopping, crawling and stopping? Red-light limbo will no longer be a problem on some of the most historically sluggish corridors in District 7, thanks to a new Adaptive Traffic Control System.

The district’s ATCS won an Excellence in Transportation Award in the System Operations category. The project was part of the Congestion Relief Program, which focused on innovative strategies for reducing delays that could be implemented within 18 months.

The ATCS project uses traditional signals, existing networks and new software provided by LADOT to control traffic flow on five of the most congested corridors in the district: Western Avenue (SR-213), Foothill Boulevard (SR-66), Whittier Boulevard (SR-72), Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) and Hawthorne Boulevard (SR-107). Loop detectors in the road send traffic volume data to a central server. The new software then uses the data to automatically modify the timing of signals at 190 intersections.

One of the most innovative aspects of the project, which cost $14 million, is that the software looks not only at individual intersections but at all intersections as a system. The result is that motorists hit fewer red lights when traveling through the corridor.

The project, which has reduced delays up to 20% in some areas, represents the first time that such a system has been implemented on a corridor-wide basis on a state highway in California.

“I was very pleased with the project. The staff was really committed to working on this,” said Traffic Design Office Chief Ali Zaghari. “Everyone rolled up their sleeves to move things along quickly. They did a fantastic job.”

Highway (Urban) Winner: State Route 23 Widening

Since 1991, significant development along the Moorpark Freeway (SR-23) has spawned a concurrent increase in traffic volume. That’s why in April 2006, District 7 began widening the route from four lanes to six by adding a new lane in each direction in the median from the Ventura Freeway (US-101) to the Ronald Reagan Freeway (SR-118). The project has been so successful, it received an Excellence in Transportation Award in the Highway (Urban) category.

The widening project involved much more than creating additional lanes. Almost three miles of soundwalls were built, seven pairs of bridges were widened to accommodate the new inside lanes, one connector ramp to SR-101 was enhanced, and traffic signals were added at on- and off-ramps at a city street intersection. Additionally, loop detectors, fiber optic lines and ramp meters were installed to monitor and reduce congestion.

Despite the tremendous amount of work to be done, lanes were opened 14 months ahead of schedule.

“This project has been very successful at reducing congestion,” said Project Manager Ravi Ghate. “People had been using city streets to avoid traffic on 23, and that’s not happening anymore. There’s been a lot of improvement.”

That improvement should last a long time. The project was designed to alleviate congestion for anticipated traffic volume through 2024.

Environment Winner: State Route 23 Wildlife Corridor Study and Mitigation

California’s highways and freeways were designed to be used by cars and trucks — not coyotes, raccoons, bobcats and other furry critters. But some critters still access Caltrans roadways, typically in search of food or a mate, and often end up as road-kill.

Road-kill was a big problem on SR-23, prompting the Environmental Planning Division, working with the National Park Service (NPS), to explore ways to reduce animal mortality and enhance driver safety. The resulting Wildlife Corridor Study and Mitigation Project won an Excellence in Transportation Award in the Environment category. This is the third year in the last four that the division won an Environment EIT award.

For two years prior to the widening of SR-23, NPS staff monitored animals using the corridor through cameras placed in culverts. Additionally, a survey provided data on animal deaths.

“We counted 222 road-kill over three years — a substantial number,” said Associate Environmental Planner Michael Klima. “We saw an opportunity to do something, and we took action.”

Specifically, they set up 12 one-way wildlife gates. They cleaned out three culverts so that animals can pass safely under the highway. The height of right-of-way fencing was increased to deter animals from jumping over it. And “Watch for Wild Animals” signs were placed in strategic locations to alert motorists.

Currently, the study is in its post-project monitoring phase, which will measure the reduction in road-kill as a result of the mitigation efforts.

“We’re pretty confident that we’ll see an improvement,” said Klima. “Strategies like these have been used successfully before. We’ve modified them for this location, and we expect good results.”

These awards are just a few examples of the creative, forward-thinking efforts of District 7 staff. Congratulations to all of our winners for their hard work and dedication.

The Adaptive Traffic Control System software (screenshot shown) automatically modifies signal timing at 190 intersections to reduce congestion. As part of the State Route 23 Widening Project, a lane was added in the median in both directions of the Moorpark Freeway from US-101 to SR-118. Almost three miles of soundwalls were constructed along SR-23 to reduce noise levels along the newly widened freeway. Twelve wildlife gates were installed along SR-23 to reduce road-kill. The gates allow animals to exit the freeway right-of-way but not enter it.