You may have noticed that we’re slightly late posting Inside 7 this month. It’s an indication of all the issues we’ve been dealing with, the most pressing of which is the fires, particularly the Station Fire up in the Angeles Forest. A lot of our Maintenance staff has been involved in dealing with that and, unfortunately, some of our employees at the Chilao Maintenance Station have lost their homes. Because it is such a remote location, we do have a small amount of employee housing up at that maintenance location and three out of the four homes were burned down. Right now, I’m meeting actively with my Maintenance and Right of Way deputies to see what kind of services we can provide to those employees. Our number one concern is to provide them with some interim housing as they continue to perform their very important duties during fire recovery efforts. The other top priority is to quickly put up replacement housing.
The weather has been very, very hot, exacerbating the fires. We send our very best to the Forest Service and hope they can quickly quench the flames. We are expecting there will be a lot of damage to our facilities, Highway 39 and Route 2. There also is some possibility of damage to Route 14 and I-210. In any case, we know that we will have some recovery work ahead of us.
Even with all that going on, we still have some great things to report. We were very pleased this past month to announce a new partnership with the private sector for enhanced landscape projects. Mayor Villaraigosa, along with a number of other people, unveiled the first of these on August 18 near Dodger Stadium, a very prominent site close to downtown. We are looking to increase our partnerships with the private side to keep our facilities looking their best.
This issue of Inside 7 includes an article that talks about private/public partnerships and. the work that we’re doing in exploring that option. It’s very clear here in California, and around the nation actually, that taxpayers really don’t want to pay a lot but they want new facilities. One of the ways we can to do that is to bring in private investors, who improve our facilities for a profit. Sometimes they recoup their investment through a direct toll on the facility. Sometimes it’s some other kind of fee, like a container fee. And sometimes it’s what we call a shadow toll, where we take money that we would have paid long-term out of the highway account and the investor receives those payments instead of us banking the money. This allows us to get some facilities now while we pay for them later. However, we have to be very careful not to ‘max out’ the credit card and overextend our credit. But these types of partnerships are something that we need to look at as one tool for dealing with the problems we have here in California.
I’m going to close on one other note and that is, with all the issues our state is experiencing, Caltrans is still considered a premier agency not only here but around the world. We had a very nice visit from a delegation from Vietnam who came to look at our Traffic Management Center and techniques. It’s covered in this issue. Always remember that, even though day to day you wonder if your work makes a difference, people do notice what you do and you are a model to the rest of the world.
So have a good September, try to stay out of the heat and let’s get on with the job.