In case any further proof is required that this is a new era in transportation, we need look no further than our own District 7 museum space. In it is a display about the ExpressLanes project, in which Caltrans is partnering with Metro on a one-year demonstration program that will convert into toll lanes 11 miles of existing carpool lanes on the Harbor Freeway (I-110) and 14 miles on the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10).
Caltrans is very enthusiastic about this demonstration project, which will test the concept of congestion pricing in Los Angeles County. We’re happy that we have this space to help inform the public about how the new lanes will work, as well as explain their benefits. It will be very exciting to see how motorists react to this new transportation option. An article in this issue discusses the museum display further.
The newsletter also features an article on a new carpool lane project on US 101 in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. This lane is the first of its kind in either county; it will give motorists there the opportunity to save a minute per mile on their commute and allow the freeway system to move more people rather than more vehicles, which is Caltrans’ goal. We launched another project in May that will create new truck lanes on the Golden State Freeway (I-5). This project is very important to the district and to the regional transportation plan. It will relieve congestion on I-5 by separating trucks from other vehicles. It will not only ease congestion and improve freeway operations but it will also enhance safety for truckers and motorists alike.
Caltrans District 7 was pleased to participate in some of the many Bike Week activities that occurred during May 14-18. Again, we put our museum space to good work by featuring a bike-themed exhibit focusing on everyday bicycling. A number of employees already have caught on to the benefits of using a bike to get to work or for recreation on weekends. Bike lanes are increasingly being added to freeway projects. And what’s not to like? Cycling is great exercise and commuting by bike takes motorized vehicles off the road, improving the environment.
Our Workers Memorial event this year was a typically moving and effective reminder of the dangers our workers face on the roads. District 7 was very fortunate this year not to have lost any employees. Unfortunately, however, District 11 lost three members of the Caltrans family. Staying safe in this fast-paced environment requires extra vigilance. Motorists face a lot of distractions and we have to be our own best defense. We need to be sure we’re watching out for them as much as they’re watching out for us.
Some steps Caltrans has taken include extending the Slow for the Cone Zone campaign and continuing to work with the California Highway Patrol and the Office of Traffic Safety on the Move Over effort. We are always looking for opportunities to make our work environment safer for our employees and the motoring public.
Another cause for celebration was the early opening of the Paramount Bridge over SR-60 in the city of Montebello. Originally scheduled to open in mid-June, the bridge was ready for the public to use by May 21. This achievement demonstrates how Caltrans can really pull together in a time of crisis to get something done quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. We worked with government partners, elected officials and the community to get that bridge open, which proves the power of cooperation. Although we did not do it alone, a tremendous number of people in the district helped make it happen and all of them are to be congratulated for their hard work and dedication.
On another note, we recognize that everyone is waiting to hear about potential changes to work schedules and salaries. As the budget negotions are continuing, I cannot speculate on the outcome but be assured that we will let you know as soon as we have additional information.
A final reminder about the necessity of always adhering to the highest standards of behavior. Integrity has been defined as “doing the right thing when no one is watching.” Well, everyone is watching, making our commitment to integrity even more important. Any type of negative incident has an enormous impact on how this department is perceived. We want the public to recognize Caltrans for the great agency we are, so remember that you are always representing the department.
Have a great summer and be safe!