Caltrans Welcomes New Deputy Director for Sustainability

Caltrans announced the appointment of Ellen Greenberg as its new Deputy Director for Sustainability, who will oversee Caltrans’ continued efforts to shift and align its policies and practices to improve the environment, the economy and social equity for all Californians.

“Ellen will be a valuable addition to the Caltrans Executive Team,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “She will help Caltrans advance its sustainability commitment by applying those principles into the planning, design, maintenance and operation of California’s vast transportation system.”

Greenberg has overeg 30 years’ experience working with cities, transportation agencies and non-governmental organizations to guide development, conservation and transportation decisions. She comes to Caltrans from Arup, an independent design, planning and engineering firm, where she’s worked since 2010. Greenberg served in the leadership of Arup’s planning and infrastructure groups in San Francisco. During her time at Arup, she worked with transportation agencies including LA Metro, the Maricopa County (Arizona) Association of Governments, Translink (Vancouver Region) and the SF Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Ellen was lead author of Caltrans’ Smart Mobility Framework, which was initiated with support from the U.S. EPA Office of Sustainable Communities. Other areas of work with the EPA office have included urban eco-districts, reuse of obsolete shopping malls and sustainable street design. She also was appointed as the first visiting practitioner at the University of California, Davis National Center for Sustainable Transportation.

For further details about Ms. Greenberg’s background, view Governor Brown’s appointment announcement here.

Learn more about the sustainability efforts underway by visiting Caltrans’ Sustainability page at http://www.dot.ca.gov/sustainability/

Road Charge pilot is approaching its halfway mark!

California continues to face a transportation funding shortfall and the state’s drivers are paying the price. According to the latest National Urban Roads report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, California has some of the worst road conditions in the country. The TRIP report emphasized the need for a long-term sustainable funding source for highway maintenance.

Caltrans is doing its part with its “fix it first” method to utilize funding to perform preventive pavement maintenance to save taxpayer money on more expensive repairs in the future but with fuel efficiency on the rise, aging roadways, and increased construction costs, the gas tax no longer meets California’s current and long-term transportation funding needs.

In response to this problem, the Legislature directed CalSTA to study a mileage based fee as an alternative to the current gas tax revenue system. The pilot allows CalSTA to explore an alternative to the traditional gas tax which has not been raised since 1992. The program examines how this type of sustainable transportation funding model might function in a large state like California, while taking into account important aspects like privacy concerns, usability, and participant feedback.

In July, Caltrans launched the California Road Charge Pilot Program (RCPP) to research the viability of a mileage based transportation funding model.The RCPP has enrolled over 5,000 private and commercial vehicles statewide. Participants of the 4,567 private vehicles in the program represent the diverse demographic, geographic and socio-economic population of California.

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Participants are utilizing multiple mileage reporting methods including manual reporting, low technology, or high technology (automated) reporting. Mileage reporting technologies being tested in the pilot range from plug-in devices and smartphone apps to time permits and odometer readings. Of the participants using automated reporting, 65% opted for location based reporting. A more detailed breakdown of participant mileage reporting methods can be viewed here.

At this point in the pilot, participants have had the opportunity to view mock up invoices for their road usage charge and make monthly simulated payments based on mileage driven. The pilot program allows for transparency, allowing drivers to see the relationship between how much they use the roads and how much they should pay to maintain them. Participants are now approaching the halfway point in the pilot program and they will have the opportunity to switch reporting methods and/or their Account Manager from November 1st to 15th.

The federal government has recognized California’s efforts to research funding alternatives and awarded Caltrans with a $750,000 grant to enhance the current pilot program. These grant dollars will help Caltrans engage with the public on transportation funding and future alternative methods of revenue generation. It will also allow the pilot to improve organizational structure, expand education and outreach, and explore alternative mileage reporting and recording options. This research will help inform the Administration and the Legislature on the efficacy of the program.

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Overall, the pilot has received positive feedback from participants in regards to satisfaction rates. Based on results from a participant survey, 76% of participants found the pilot easy to participate in and were satisfied with their mileage reporting option. Pilot program participant KPCC Reporter Meghan McCarty talked about her pilot experience so far on public radio, hear what she had to say here.

The diverse group of participants will help strengthen this potential transportation funding system. Their feedback will be included into a final pilot report that CalSTA will submit to the California Legislature, California Transportation Commission, and the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee in June 2017.

To learn more about the California Road Charge Pilot Program, visit its website at: www.CaliforniaRoadChargePilot.com

State Transportation and Safety Agencies Warn that Many At-risk Airbag Inflators Remain on Cars in California

California State departments that oversee vehicle and driver safety are warning that owners of tens of thousands of vehicles, particularly Hondas and Acuras, may not have received or have overlooked the recall notices urging replacement of potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators.  Recall repairs are free of charge to all vehicle owners.

The California Office of Traffic Safety, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Motor Vehicles and Bureau of Automotive Repair are working together to urge Californians who own certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles to immediately take their cars to an authorized dealer for repair of potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators.

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Recall notices have already been sent to registered owners of affected vehicles who have not yet taken action on the required recall repair. These vehicles are at high risk of an airbag inflator rupture. When a recalled airbag inflator ruptures, pieces of metal could shoot through the airbag cushion and hit the driver or passengers, resulting in serious injuries or death.

While all areas of the state are affected, certain regions have the greatest concentrations of recalled vehicles with owners who have not been heard from.  These include east and south Bay Area regions, northern Monterey County, the Central Valley, northern and central Los Angeles County, western Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and San Diego County along the border.  However, not being in one of these areas does not mean your vehicle’s airbag is safe.

The following are the 2001-2003 Honda/Acura vehicles that may be equipped with recalled Takata driver airbag inflators, and are the subject of this statewide call to action:

  • 2001-2002 Honda Accord
  • 2001-2002 Honda Civic
  • 2002 Honda CR-V
  • 2002 Honda Odyssey
  • 2003 Honda Pilot
  • 2002-2003 Acura 3.2TL
  • 2003 Acura 3.2CL

Honda and Acura owners should check for recalls by locating their vehicle identification number (VIN) – found in the top left corner of the vehicle’s dashboard through the windshield – and enter the number into the VIN check on www.recalls.honda.com, www.recalls.acura.com or www.safercar.gov.

Honda/Acura urges affected drivers to immediately call 1-888-234-2138 for repair information. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends that these vehicles only be driven to an authorized dealer in order to have the Takata airbag inflators replaced as quickly as possible. To search for an authorized dealer, consumers can visit www.recalls.honda.com or www.recalls.acura.com depending on the make of their vehicle.

Consumers can also find answers to general questions about the Takata airbag inflator recalls, including about the higher risk inflators in these vehicles, at the following site: http://hondaairbaginfo.com/faq/. Any concerned customer can also contact Honda/Acura’s Automobile Customer Service at 888-234-2138.

The replacement of the Takata airbag inflator is free of charge for all customers. Customers are not obligated to have unrelated maintenance or other vehicle issues fixed at the same time as the recall repair. Honda/Acura will provide a loaner car, if necessary, while a customer’s car is being repaired and a Honda/Acura dealer can also arrange to tow a vehicle to and from the desired location at no cost.

US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and CalSTA Secretary Brian Kelly tour High-Speed Rail Construction

On Monday, US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx joined Secretary Brian Kelly for a tour of High-Speed Rail Authority (HSR) construction sites in Fresno County. Foxx met with a team of HSR staff including CEO Jeff Morales, Central Valley Regional Director Diana Gomez, and Construction Manager Hugo Mejia to be briefed on the project’s construction progress.  Approximately 119 miles of construction is underway in the Central Valley from Madera County to Kern County. Secretary Foxx’s visit was concentrated in Construction Package 1 which has eight active construction sites within a 32-mile stretch.

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The tour began at the Fresno River Viaduct where Secretary Foxx looked at the first free standing structure of the system. The 1,600-foot aerial structure will carry high-speed trains over the Fresno River and State Route 145. Work on this site began in June 2015 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.

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HSR CEO Jeff Morales shows Secretary Foxx and Secretary Kelly the Fresno River Viaduct aerial structure.

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The next stop on Secretary Foxx’s visit was a visit the San Joaquin River Viaduct, a 4,740-foot structure that will span the San Joaquin river in North Fresno and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks parallel to State Route 99. The viaduct construction will feature arches to represent the northern gateway into the city of Fresno.

img_5253The Union Pacific structure adjoining State Route 99, HSR’s San Joaquin Viaduct will run parallel to this structure.

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Secretary Foxx, CEO Jeff Morales, and Secretary Kelly stand on the San Joaquin Viaduct construction site.

Secretary Foxx’s tour of Construction Package 1 concluded at the Tuolumne Street Bridge in downtown Fresno where he was joined by Congressman Jim Costa and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
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The original Tuolumne Street Bridge was demolished to accommodate HSR and to create two-way vehicle traffic on the bridge to support the revitalization of Fresno’s city core. A month ago, crews poured concrete onto the deck of the new bridge which can be viewed here:

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The new Tuolumne Street Bridge allows for two-way traffic into downtown Fresno.

Five small businesses are working on the construction of the Tuolumne Street structure including J. Kroeker, Inc., American Crane Rental, Inc., Parrish Hansen Engineering, Oliveira Fence, Inc., and Tommy’s Water Trucks. This is a small sampling of the 318 small businesses working on HSR which include 100 disadvantaged business enterprises and 36 disabled veteran business enterprises. In addition to this growth, HSR continues to support workforce development and job creation with over 350 students graduating from pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship classes. There are over 680 skilled craft workers helping build HSR in the four construction packages. It is estimated that HSR will create over 3,500 permanent jobs throughout the state when HSR opens and expands its service.

The project continues to build as a carbon-neutral project, HSR requires its design-build contractors to recycle all concrete and steel and use the newest, cleanest diesel engines.  The project has used over 200 tons of 100% recycled steel in columns and structures. The project has recycled or stockpiled over 19,800 tons of concrete, steel, and other mixed construction materials. In the coming weeks, they will be planting trees to offset any construction emissions.

For more construction updates, visit Build HSR: http://www.hsr.ca.gov/buildhsr.html

Caltrans To Do More Innovative Implosions of Old Bay Bridge Piers

OAKLAND – Caltrans continues the removal of the remaining marine foundations of the original east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (SFOBB). Beginning on Saturday, Caltrans will remove Piers E4 and E5 of the Old Bay Bridge with the same implosion method used to bring down Pier E3 last fall. This method reduces the environmental impact and costs to taxpayers.

Watch the Caltrans News Flash on the upcoming implosion:

“Caltrans appreciates the guidance environmental organizations and permitting agencies provided to achieve an effective underwater demolition plan for these two 1935 east span bridge foundations,” said Caltrans Bay Area District Director Bijan Sartipi.

Pier E5 will be imploded on October 15 with 8,000 pounds of explosives, in less than three seconds. Pier E4’s implosion will occur two weeks later, on October 29 in less than four seconds, with approximately 12,000 pounds of explosives.

Significant environmental monitoring will take place pre, during and post blast, including water quality, sonar, marine mammal and fish. October provides the window when the least possible number of fish and marine mammals are present in the area. There will be brief impacts to water quality, turbidity is expected to dissipate in just over an hour and implementation is relatively easy with low risk to human safety.

A Blast Attenuation System, better known as the “bubble curtain,” will minimize impacts to biological resources in the Bay on each foundation-blasting project. The implosion will again take place near “slack tide,” the time when tidal fluctuation is at a balance point between ebb and flow to help minimize potential impacts to the environment by maximizing the effectiveness of the Blast Attenuation System.

Last November, Caltrans successfully removed the 50 million pound Pier E3, the largest of the marine foundations, by use of highly controlled sequential charges. These innovative controlled charges have been shown to be more efficient and the environmentally preferable alternative to traditional marine foundation removal.

Beginning with the implosion of Piers E4 and E5 this month, there will be three consecutive blasting seasons over the next two years. Caltrans will demolish Piers E6 through E11 in fall 2017, and Piers E12 through E18 will be removed in late 2018, when the demolition project is scheduled for completion.

There will be rolling closures on the Bay Bridge during the demolition. Caltrans will also close the bridge’s bike path. The removal of the piers on October 15 coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Treasure Island Music Festival. For more information on the festival or to send an inquiry to festival organizers, see the following links: http://www.treasureislandfestival.com

Music festival contacts page: http://treasureislandfestival.com/2016/contact/

We have limited space for media personnel and vehicles, so please confirm media attendance at Pier 1 to cover the blast by submitting name(s) to: leah_robinson-leach@dot.ca.gov

Submitted names will be placed on the media list for approved entrance at Avenue N. The media will be guided, by festival personnel, to the designated area on Pier 1.

While there are no public viewing areas, the public may watch the implosion on October 15 between noon – 12:40 pm at the following link: http://www.dot.ca.gov/oldbaybridgedemolition

 

Caltrans Performs Test Blast, Implosion Dates Set for 10/15 and 10/29

Today, Caltrans performed a test blast in preparation for the upcoming implosions of two piers of the old Bay Bridge scheduled for later this month.  The test blast allowed Caltrans to test the Environmental monitoring systems, bird cannon, bubble curtain, safety checks and signals.

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The Pier E4 and Pier E5 implosions are scheduled for October 15 and October 29 during slack tide pending weather conditions. Caltrans performed a walk-through with environmental and biological experts earlier this week to ensure that no protected species is harmed. Each implosion is a coordinated effort to ensure limited environmental impact on the Bay and wildlife. Caltrans produced a news flash detailing the efforts of staff to limit that impact:

We’ll continue to post more updates on the action, traffic concerns, and other implosion related information so be sure to keep your eyes on our blog. Don’t forget to check Twitter next Saturday at @ca_trans_agency as we show the E5 implosion in action.

In the meantime, you can watch last year’s implosion here:

For more about the implosion process:
https://calstablog.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/bcdc-greenlights-permits-for-next-round-of-bay-bridge-pier-demolition/