It’s the beginning of the year and we’re still here, so apparently the Mayans were wrong. Regardless of our prophesied demise, it’s certainly not the end of anything for Caltrans. District 7 currently has 103 projects underway for a total of $2.6 billion, a record amount.
We scored a major victory with the projects on I-5 south in terms of getting them out on time and obligating a significant amount of Corridor Mobility Improvement Account funds. The Right-of-Way Division pulled out all the stops to ensure on-time delivery and we really appreciate all their efforts. Because these are such high profile projects, the district received a lot of recognition and positive attention from Headquarters. So to everyone who has been involved with I-5 south, thank you for your excellent work.
Partnering played a big role in work over the year and will continue to do so in the future. Our partnership with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has been particularly fruitful on the northbound I-405 carpool lane project from I-10 to U.S. 101.
As just about anyone with a pulse knows, part of that project involved demolishing and rebuilding the Mulholland Bridge, requiring 53-hour closures of the freeway two years in a row.
The goal was to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and that effort was extremely successful.
The July 2011 closure (aka Carmageddon) resulted in numerous awards for Caltrans and its partner, including the America’s Transportation Award (sponsored by AASHTO, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) Grand Prize, which included a $10,000 award that Caltrans will donate to the California Transportation Foundation (CTF); an AASHTO Excel Award, the organization’s highest award for public relations programs and campaigns; and the CTF “Tranny” award for Public Outreach Program of the Year.
District 7 also is working with Metro on the ExpressLanes, the first High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes project in Los Angeles County. Financed largely by a federal grant, the first segment of this pilot project, on the 110 freeway between Adams Boulevard and the Artesia Transit Center, went into service on November 10, 2012. The second phase, on I-10 from I-605 to Alameda Street, will go into service in early 2013.
This is an exciting project because it gives the motoring public another transportation alternative, allowing single drivers who want to be assured of maintaining a certain speed to enter the carpool lanes for a fee. This is in line with our new direction of becoming a more multi-modal organization, where we improve the transportation experience for of the population: transit and bus riders, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
This year, we also celebrate the start of construction on the new Gerald Desmond Bridge, a nearly $1 billion project that will keep the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach competitive far into the future. For Caltrans, one of the more interesting features of the project is that it’s design-build, as is the newly-begun I-10/I-605 Direct Connector project in the San Gabriel Valley.
While traditional design-bid-build will continue to be a primary delivery tool for Caltrans, we are increasingly making use of alternative construction methods such as design-build, design-sequencing and public-private partnerships.
I hope you are rested after the holidays because we are going to be busy. We’re still designing a lot of projects but, as many of you know, a lot of our work is going to shift to construction. We are taking a look at how we can realign the district to fill the demand for construction-related positions and encourage you to consider volunteering for challenging and rewarding work in the field.
And we look forward to filling the executive staff positions with permanent deputies. Right now, Dan Freeman, our long-time Maintenance Deputy, is currently acting as the Construction Deputy since the departure of Roy Fisher a couple of months ago. Then Diana Gomez, Sam Ekrami and Bill Reagan also left the district. We are managing with Headquarters folks Herby Lissade acting for Dan; Shirley Choate acting as Director of Program/Project Management; Don Fogle as acting Operations Deputy; and Gregg Magaziner as acting Design Deputy.
We thank them for helping us out in the interim.
In this issue of Inside 7, we profile newly retired Youseff Youseffzadeh, District 7 Construction Safety Coordinator. Youseff reminds us always to keep safety in the forefront. Although we are fortunate not to have had a Caltrans employee fatality in the past 12 months, our contractor brethren have not been so lucky. It was in the wake of an incident in Los Angeles that killed two contractor employees that Caltrans initiated a Safety Task Force with the California Highway Patrol, industry, labor, and our staff to see what more we could do.
Within a week, they came up with an action plan that is already being pursued. It includes: increasing CHP presence in work zones; using DUI checkpoints in advance of construction zones; lowering work zone speed limits; and testing temporary rumble strips on highways.
Have a safe, productive and happy new year and we’ll check in again in the spring.