While most employees were following last summer’s Station Fire--in which three Chilao Maintenance Station workers lost their homes--on the news, Maintenance Area Supervisor Ed Toledo was living it. After the fire, Toledo’s crews worked non-stop to reopen Angeles Crest Highway (SR-2). Weather caused it to open and close a couple of times before the reopening on November 30, 2009 that everyone believed would stick.
Then came the heavy rains, which caused debris flows and mudslides in the burn area. The battered, severely-damaged highway was forced to close again on January 17 and will remain closed most likely through the summer while three emergency repair contracts are executed.
“This year was probably my most overwhelming of the 29 years I’ve spent with Caltrans,” Toledo said. “We’ve been working 24/7 for about three months.” He’s been so busy, in fact, that he only just now had time to formally accept the $250 Merit Award that North Region Area Manager Wallie Jordan recommended him for in December.
“Ed Toledo is a real asset to the Department,” Jordan said. “His knowledge and experience are invaluable. Whether it be emergencies or routine assignments, Ed takes pride in doing things not only the right way, but the most efficient way as well.
“A recent example would be on State Route 2,” he continued. “Ed is very involved with the ongoing repair efforts, and he makes sure that the work is being done efficiently to maximize the funds available. He insists on utilizing the most cost-effective strategies wherever possible, and his opinions are well respected by the Construction personnel on site. I am very fortunate to have Ed Toledo on my staff.”
Toledo, who has worked in Ventura, Tarzana, Westwood, North Hollywood and Altadena and has seen his share of disasters, said he never saw anything like the destruction caused by this fire. “Signs were just a puddle of aluminum on the ground,” he said. “There were close to 1,000 signs that burned completely.” Roughly 22,000 linear feet of guardrail also burned to the ground, he added.
And SR-2 is just one area in Toledo’s jurisdiction. He also is responsible for the Pasadena Freeway (SR-110) from Glenarm Street to downtown; the Foothill Freeway (I-210) in Pasadena to Wheatland Avenue in Sun Valley; the Ventura Freeway (SR-134) in Pasadena to the Golden State Freeway (I-5); and I-5 from SR-110 to Stadium Way.
“It has been a challenge and a great learning experience,” Toledo said of the fire and subsequent SR-2 repairs. One of the challenges included “the process of dealing with lots of agencies,” such as the U.S. Forest Service, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Fish and Game Department, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“From the time the Station Fire started through the next three months, we’d have three meetings a week with these groups,” Toledo said. Now it’s down to one meeting a week with only Public Works and the Forest Service regarding the SR-2 and SR-39 closures. “Things are finally starting to slow down a little and give me time to do all the other things I have to do.”
One of those things is graffiti clean up on SR-110, about which he receives constant calls from the public. “We go out DAILY to address graffiti but it comes back so quickly that no one thinks anything has been done.” Plus, graffiti clean up on SR-110 is particularly difficult because a lack of shoulders on the highway means traffic breaks are required, he said.
In terms of the road ahead, one of the biggest challenges Toledo sees is the imminent retirement of some veteran Caltrans people. “We’ll be losing a lot of knowledgeable employees and having a lot less experienced people take their places.” Another challenge is the yearly budget and “doing more with less,” he added. “Just getting our jobs done is a challenge.”
There is also a lot to look forward to, Toledo said. First and foremost is reopening SR-2. Then, getting the displaced employees back into their homes. And finally, an end to the non-stop work schedule (Toledo has 14 furlough days he has not had time to take) so that he can indulge in his biggest hobby – golf.