Inside Seven
Current Issue: April 2014
April 2014
The Deputy ZoneDirectors Zone

A Tanker Fire and Caltrans  by Patrick ChandlerThe connector just before opening.

On Saturday, July 13 at 10:30 a.m. a gas tanker truck hauling 8,500 gallons collided with a column inside of the northbound Glendale Freeway (SR-2) connector tunnel to northbound Golden State Freeway (I-5) in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, behind the Silver Lake Maintenance Yard on Riverside Drive.

A black and white smoke cloud could be seen for miles. Duty pages from the Traffic Management Center start to hit the cell phones of hundreds of District 7 employees about a tanker fire in the connector tunnel between northbound SR-2 and northbound I-5, the Traffic Management Team is “rolling,” and so is the media.

Firefighters are already on scene battling intense flames, the CHP and Caltrans have shut down the Golden State Freeway (I-5) near the Glendale Freeway (SR-2), and traffic is starting coagulate like a clogged artery.

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) was able to extinguish the flames and ensure that the fuel that ran down storm drains did not ignite in the nearby Los Angeles River. Several thousands of gallons of gas either burned or ran down the drains inside of the connector creating a hazardous materials (hazmat) situation.

Once the fire department deemed the fire extinguished at 4:30 p.m., and the concrete had cooled it was easy to see that the fire caused extensive damage to the structure. At this point, Caltrans engineers and maintenance crews could begin assessing the damage and begin to develop a solution to re-open all lanes of I-5 above the connector. Obviously, every Caltrans employee on scene understood the urgency to safely re-open I-5, but many of them were well aware they have experience and expertise to overcome this challenge.

“The pressure is always on whenever we close a highway or freeway down during wild fire, floods, tanker fire, rock slide, etc.,” said I-5 Principal Engineer John Yang, who was the Caltrans incident commander. “As the clock ticks and the emergency responders come together, we always come through. Failure never seems to be an option; we always prevail.”

The extreme heat from the flames severely damaged the concrete walls and ceiling, and the pavement. In many places the concrete was so brittle it could be removed by hand. Steel rebar was exposed and the outrigger support beams on the north side of the connector appeared to have hit with a sledge hammer. All that was left of the tanker was the chasis, tractor, and steel belts for tires.

An environmental contractor was hired to remove the tanker’s carcass, damaged pavement and concrete, charred paint, and other hazardous debris were removed from the connector.
The CHP, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, California Fish and Wildlife, LAFD, LA County FD Hazmat, US Environmental Protection Agency, Los Police Department, and other agencies remained on scene well past midnight.

During the following days, Rasmussen Inc., under the direction of Maintenance constructed a steel and wood support system to support the lanes on I-5 above the tunnel. All lanes were opened by Tuesday, July 16 before the early morning commute.

The following days Caltrans Hazardous Materials Office worked closely with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Hazmat Unit, Los Angeles Watershed Department, and a hazmat contractor to remove sediment that had elements of gasoline from the tanker fire from over a thousand feet of subterranean drains.

In the following months, Maintenance began to the process to secure a contractor and funding to repair the tunnel. The Materials Engineering and Test Services division began several tests to determine the extent of damage to the structure and concrete, and what solutions would be implemented to repair the structure.

The solutions to repair the tunnel included hydrodemolition, shotcrete, epoxy injections, carbon fiber wrapping, repaving, upgrading the connector’s lighting, metal beam guardrail, and add anti-graffiti coated paint. The result is a brighter tunnel for motorists safety.

On November 6, 2013, Rasmussen Inc., the contractor, began working around the clock to repair the tunnel.

During the repair project Structural Maintenance Engineer Tony Brake had the opportunity to work closely with Thomas Curwen, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Curwen wrote several stories about the technical challenges and aspects of the project. In the past, Curwen has spent hours with project staff to ensure that the public understands the details and importance of the projects.

On January 10, at 10:30 a.m. the northbound SR-2 to northbound I-5 connector was opened after a brief event with District 7 Director Carrie Bowen, Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, Los Angeles City Council Members Tom LaBonge, Gil Cedillo, and Mitch O’Farrell.

Employees involved in the incident and repair project:

Darrell McKenzie
Ali Shalviri
Maher Subeh
Eddie Mojica
Cesar Orozco
Oscar Osorio
Ben Lima
Abdul Daaboul
Jonathan Asis
Danglong Tran
James Shih
Mark Amorsolo
Derek Chung
Jaroen Young
Matt Remo
Ricky Lee
Derek Higa
Kaz Kayoda
Steve Wells
Frank Perez
Jesse Sandhu
Mark Gonzales
Tyronne Calsadillas
Jerry Prado
Alex JaramilloI
Alfonzo Aguilera
Dana Smith
Minh Cun
Gary Iizumi
Ray Villalobos
Jason Heidrich
Joe Solis
Nicolas Lujan
Doug Johnson
Marcoz Hernandez
Gary Carlson
Patrick Chandler
George Castro
Mark Burkett
Joan Crews
Jesus Rodriguez
Kevin Sciotto 
John Valencia
Samuel Urbina
Bill Hansel
Jerry Gonzales
Richard Hung
Charles Issac
Tony Brake
Mesfin Hailu
Marcos Hernandez
G. Castro 
Steve Wells 
Steves Wells  
John Yang



The carcass of the gasoline tanker truck.Workers removing loose concrete from the tunnel walls.Group shot all of participants during opening ceremony on Jan. 10.Cars zoom through shortly after tunnel opened.
Heim and Heim Again  by Judy GishWork is progressing on the Schuyler Heim Bridge replacement project.
The Schuyler Heim Bridge, completed by the U.S. Navy in 1948 as one of three bridges that connect Terminal Island to the mainland, was named for Commodore Schuyler F. Heim, commanding officer of the Terminal Island Naval Base throughout World War II. The Navy then turned it over to the City of Long Beach, which operated the bridge until 1974. 
Historic records indicate that, by 1951, the lift-span bridge showed significant settlement caused by oil extraction in Long Beach Harbor. During the 1950s, the City of Long Beach pumped groundwater into depleted oil fields beneath the harbor, which mitigated the bridge’s rate of settlement. However, the harbor continued to sink, requiring bridge repairs.
 By the end of the decade, the shifting terrain beneath the bridge foundations had caused cracks in the reinforced concrete pillars beneath the bridge, necessating additional repairs. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, bridge repairs continued for routine maintenance, as well as for damage caused by trucks and marine vessels. 
Following the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987, in which a tower girder was twisted, a $2 million refurbishment project was undertaken. After the Northridge earthquake in 1994, the bridge was determined to be in need of seismic retrofit improvements and a project was planned. In the design phase, it was discovered that replacing the bridge would be more cost-effective and practical than retrofitting it and that project was scrapped.
The eventual $210 million replacement project started in October, 2011 and is estimated for completion in early 2017.  In addition to creating a new fixed-span bridge that meets current seismic standards, the project also adds 42 feet in width in the form of standard shoulders and a southbound auxiliary lane. The design will accommodate three 12 foot wide lanes, and 10 foot wide shoulders in the northbound direction. There will be three 12 foot wide lanes, a 12 foot wide auxiliary lane, and 10 foot wide shoulders in the southbound direction. The minimum vertical clearance of the bridge will be 46.9 feet over the mean high water level, allowing for accommodation of the new 45 foot fireboats. 
The project is being constructed in stages as follows:
• Stage One, involving construction of the northbound portion over Cerritos Channel, has been partially completed.
• Stage Two, where the project is now,  has demolished the northbound half of the existing bridge, shifting traffic to the southbound section.
• Stage Three will shift traffic to the newly-completed northbound bridge, demolish the remainder of the existing bridge and construct the southbound portion.
• Stages Four, Five and Six will consist of finishing work.
“This is an exciting project to work on because of the complexities of constructing a project in water but also because of the Heim’s historic past and current importance to goods movement throughout the state and the country,” said Resident Engineer Hammer Sui. “We want to ensure that it remains a vital piece of infrastructure well into the future.”

One of the biggest challenges of the project is working on and in the water.This project uses divers to work on underwater construction issues.The Schuyler Heim Bridge is vital to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.The bridge structure reveals many photogenic aspects.
Improving I-5 For Your Drive: A Construction Update  by 

The I-5 Corridor in District 7 is in the midst of a major makeover. Caltrans and it regional transportation partners — the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — are investing over $3 billion in 17 improvement projects through 2018. The 11 projects between SR-134 and the Kern County line are known as I-5 North, and the six projects between I-605 and the Orange County line as I-5 South. We’re almost halfway through this eight-year effort, which means it’s time for a mid-makeover update.


Work began on the 11 I-5 North projects in 2010. Four projects have been completed, one (a paving project) will begin in 2015, and another – the Empire Project – is expected to begin in late spring.

The Empire Project: The $355 million Empire Project is the largest of the I-5 North projects. It’s a series of improvements to I-5 in Burbank between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street, including high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, grade separations that will elevate the railroad tracks, realignment and reconstruction of the Burbank Boulevard bridge, and construction of a new diamond interchange at Empire Avenue. The start of the project has been delayed due to utility issues, but the construction team expects work to begin in May.

SR-134 to Magnolia Boulevard: Just south of the Empire Project is a $153 million HOV project between SR-134 and Magnolia Boulevard. Crews are currently working on concrete barriers and a mechanically stabilized earth wall near Flower Street. A long-term closure of the southbound Western Avenue off-ramp is expected to end this summer, and steel girders for bridge widening will be delivered in the next six months. The project is scheduled to wrap up in 2016.

Buena Vista Street to SR-170: Just north of the Empire Project is another HOV project between Buena Vista Street and SR-170. Most of the major work has been completed on this $69 million project. Crews are now focusing on finishing the soundwalls. The project will end this summer and will be open to traffic as soon as the HOV project to the north is complete. Together, the two projects will provide motorists with an uninterrupted eight-mile stretch of new carpool lanes.

SR-170 to SR-118: The northern segment of the eight-mile stretch of carpool lanes is a project that is constructing a direct HOV connector at the I-5/SR-170 interchange, as well as HOV lanes between SR-170 and SR-118. Crews are currently working on the HOV connector, which is on track for completion this summer. The $140 million project is expected to open to traffic at the end of the year.

Truck Lanes: The $72 million truck lanes project is also scheduled to complete this year. The project is constructing a southbound truck lane between Pico Canyon Road/Lyons Avenue and SR-14 in the southbound direction, and between SR-14 and Gavin Canyon in the northbound direction. Crews are currently working on mainline concrete paving, retaining walls, and electrical and drainage work. The median bridge widening of the Gavin Canyon underpass is currently in its final stages, and most of the bridge widening activities at Calgrove Boulevard are also done. The project is about 77% complete.

Vistal Del Lago Road to Kern County: The northernmost project – a paving project between Vista Del Lago Road and the Kern County line – will also wrap up this year. The project, which has been in winter suspension since November, will begin again in late March. Most of the remaining work to be done is on southbound I-5. A traffic split or bypass lane will be implemented to keep three lanes open to traffic. The project will be completed this fall – about a year ahead of schedule.


The Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) South Corridor Improvement Projects are engulfed in a variety of simultaneous construction activities including pile driving, soundwall construction, bridge abutments, falsework installation, lane transitions, frontage road realignments and ramp construction.
This work to widen the freeway to add one carpool lane and one general purpose lane in each direction is hard to avoid while traveling on I-5 from Los Angeles to Orange County. The $1.6 billion 6.7 mile corridor project will add a seamless carpool lane on I-5 from San Juan Capistrano to the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605).

The six projects that make up the I-5 South Corridor from the Los Angeles/Orange County line to I-605 are easily identified by their location at Valley View Ave, Alondra Blvd, Carmenita Rd, Rosecrans Ave, Imperial Highway, and Florence Ave within the cities of La Mirada, Santa Fe Springs, Norwalk and Downey. Four of the six projects are currently in construction; the fifth project at Florence Ave, will begin this summer and the final segment, at Valley View Ave, is scheduled to begin early next year.

Two bridges, the Alondra Blvd Bridge and the Shoemaker Ave Bridge (Rosecrans Project) were demolished in 2013. The new structures at Alondra Blvd and Shoemaker Ave are nearly complete and their reopening this spring and summer are among the first milestones for the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Projects.

Several I-5 ramps have closed permanently, including the northbound ramps at Alondra Blvd, Carmenita Rd, Imperial Highway and Adoree St. Others, like the southbound I-5 off-ramp at Pioneer/Imperial Highway and Carmenita Rd, have closed temporarily. Temporary on-ramps have been constructed at Alondra Blvd and at Carmenita Rd to help manage traffic flow and freeway access in the area. Four of the six corridor projects will begin work on the mainline this year at Alondra, Carmenita, Rosecrans and Imperial Highway.

Here’s a quick update by project on the I-5 South Corridor: 

Carmenita Road Interchange Project
The project is all about pile driving. Approximately 2,500 steel piles will be driven into the ground as part of the foundation structural support for the new Carmenita Road Bridge. The existing two-lane steel structure will be replaced with a 10-lane concrete structure. Most recently, the southbound I-5 off-ramp at Carmenita Rd was transitioned so that crews could begin falsework installation on the south side of the bridge. The northbound I-5 on-ramp at Carmenita Rd will close for 18 months from July 2014 through December 2015. By April 2015, it's estimated that traffic will be switched onto the new Carmenita Bridge and demolition of the existing bridge will begin. Carmenita Road and the bridge will remain open for traffic throughout the project.

Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project
Alondra Boulevard, between Freeway Dr and Marquardt Ave, that includes the bridge, has been fully closed in both directions for about one year. Today, motorists can see attractive bridge abutments, soundwalls, and retaining walls. Falsework placement is on-going on both ends of the new bridge structure. The 57-year-old bridge is being reconstructed as a wider and longer structure to accommodate a wider freeway and will be widened from four lanes to six lanes. Both the Alondra Blvd. Bridge and Alondra Boulevard are expected to open by late summer 2014.

Rosecrans, Shoemaker and Bloomfield Bridges Project
The project broke ground in February 2013 and the first order of business was to demolish and reconstruct the Shoemaker Avenue overcrossing. Today, the new Shoemaker Avenue Bridge will reopen to local traffic in late April 2014. This summer, motorists can expect the northbound I-5 lanes to transition eastward between Carmenita Road to Rosecrans Avenue and by July, the southbound I-5 on-ramp and off-ramp at Rosecrans Avenue will be closed. Similar demolition and reconstruction is in progress for the Rosecrans Ave Bridge, the Bloomfield Ave Bridge, the Silverbow Ave pedestrian overcrossing.

Imperial Highway, Pioneer Blvd Bridges Project
This project began in May 2013 and has progressed very rapidly. One of its large structures to reconstruct is a new southbound I-5 flyover off-ramp at Imperial Highway. The old off-ramp closed in August, 2013, and upon completion, scheduled for this summer, the ramp will extend the new Pioneer/Imperial Highway off-ramp nearly 1,200 feet from the widened freeway, and it will flyover Pioneer Blvd. to put traffic onto Imperial Highway. Motorists will exit the new off-ramp using one lane, but the ramp will widen to three lanes at Imperial Highway. Also scheduled for this summer is a new southbound I-5 on-ramp at Norwalk Boulevard and the northbound I-5 lanes will transition at Imperial Highway. 

For more information on I-5 projects, visit


The I-5/SR-170 direct HOV connector, now in construction, is expected to be completed this summer.A retaining wall on southbound I-5 just south of the Weldon Canyon overcrossing.New Southbound I-5 flyover off-ramp at Imperial Highway in NorwalkAlondra Blvd abutments, retaining walls in Santa Fe Springs
Transportation Management Plans: Striking a Balance Between Dozers and Delays  by Kelly MarkhamTraffic Management Area Managers (left to right): Martin Oregel (North), Denis Katayama (South), and Albert Yu (West).

In some ways, Caltrans sets for itself an almost impossible goal when undertaking construction projects: complete major improvements on some of the nation’s most congested freeways, but minimize the inconvenience to motorists. It’s the infrastructure equivalent of ripping a tablecloth off a dinner table without disturbing the dishes. Remarkably, in most cases, we come pretty close to executing this trick, albeit with some rattling of the flatware. That’s possible in large part due to an essential tool most motorists have never heard of: the transportation management plan, or TMP.

TMPs are basically a blueprint for minimizing traffic delays associated with lane closures and other planned activities on Caltrans freeways and highways. TMPs can be fairly simple for common operations, such as repairing guardrail, or extremely complex for projects with significant impacts, such as a full closure on high-volume freeway (think Carmageddon). They include some combination of strategies from six categories: public information (e.g., press releases), motorist information (e.g., changeable message signs), incident management (e.g., the Construction Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program, aka COZEEP), construction strategies (e.g., lane requirement charts), demand management (e.g., transit incentives), and alternate routes (e.g., retiming signals on nearby roads).

In District 7, TMPs are particularly important. Currently, there is over $2 billion in work underway in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, while at the same time, 100 million miles are traveled by motorists on our freeways and highways every day. The sheer volume of traffic in District 7 and resulting congestion mean that keeping everyone moving is more difficult here than anywhere else in California — and arguably in the nation. Add construction to the mix, and serious delays seem not only likely but inevitable.

Except that it’s not inevitable, thanks in large part to the unsung heroes in the Office of the District Traffic Manager (DTM), a team of about 27 people. District 7 has three traffic management areas, each with its own area manager: Denis Katayama (South), Martin Oregel (North), and Albert Yu (West). The area managers and their staffs are the minds behind TMPs and the painstakingly detailed lane requirement charts and associated contract specifications contained therein.

District 7 is unique in that it also has a District Lane Closure Review Committee (DLCRC) required by a district directive (DD 21), underscoring the importance of high-level review of major closures. The DLCRC is made up of deputies who evaluate TMPs with significant closures — such as those involving a full closure of a major freeway — and make final decisions. In some cases, they may ask staff to gather additional information to justify closure strategies.

Such scrutiny is necessary because delays are one of the most common sources of complaints District 7 receives – from businesses, elected officials, commuters, residents, etc. Motorists, it turns out, do not like being inconvenienced, though they tend to be more forgiving when they understand the reason for closures and the extensive planning required to implement them, which is often a years-long process. The development of a TMP for a major construction project begins during project initiation and planning.

“We don’t have a lot of information at that stage, but that’s when it begins,” said Transportation Management Plan Manager (South) Denis Katayama. “Once the project gets to design, more information comes in, and then in construction, we’re constantly modifying the TMP because things are so dynamic. We do our best, but we can’t anticipate everything.”

For example, traffic patterns resulting from a detour might indicate that signals should be retimed on a nearby surface street, or additional portable changeable message signs (PCMS) may be needed, or a lane closure might need to be picked up earlier. Finding ways to reduce delays is as much art as science, requiring a creative intellect and an intuitive sense of traffic behavior.

“TMPs are very subjective. There’s no one way to do things,” said Katayama. “Every project is different. No TMP is the same, and that’s what makes it interesting.”

Essentially, TMPs are an ever-evolving balancing act. Caltrans must minimize delays while at the same time providing contractors with an adequate work window. As peak hours begin earlier in the morning and end later at night, striking that balance becomes increasingly difficult. Contractors would love to shut down an entire freeway from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and lay miles of slabs in one fell swoop. That, of course, would leave motorists seething and dialing up their elected officials. To avoid this scenario, a contractor might be given three lanes to work with between midnight and 7 a.m. on the weekend, while motorists get a lane or two squeeze by. It’s not perfect, but it’s a workable compromise.

In the 13 years since Caltrans began requiring TMPs, we’ve learned a number of valuable lessons. One is that TMPs do significantly reduce delays – so says Federal Highway Administration studies examining Caltrans’ use of TMPs. Another is that of the six TMP strategy categories, the most effective is good public outreach that encourages motorists to avoid the impacted area entirely. Additionally, maintaining close coordination with local agencies on detours and signal timing is crucial. Also, sometimes it makes more sense to use extended closures or full closures rather than numerous night closures — the sometimes being cases in which there’s no other way to complete the work, such as when demolishing an overcrossing.

DTM staff continue to improve their TMP strategies, develop new techniques, and experiment with new tools, such as Automated Work Zone Information Systems (AWIS). AWIS uses advanced computer technology and wireless sensors to collect and process traffic data to provide motorists with real-time information on PCMSs upstream of the construction zone.

For example, if a closure is causing traffic speeds to drop, the upstream PCMS might read, “Slow Traffic Ahead.” The signs could also encourage motorists to use another route. The beauty of AWIS is that it transfers traffic monitoring duties to a computer program that also controls PCMS content, freeing up DTM staff for more complex tasks. AWIS also improves work zone safety because fewer Caltrans employees are exposed to live traffic. And by providing motorists with relevant real-time traffic information, we can reduce incidents and complaints.

“This is the future,” said Katayama. “It’s all automated. We set it up, but we don’t have to be there.”
Traffic management staff may not be physically there, but their imprint is all over every successful closure. At core, the most important part of every TMP isn’t the high-tech tools and strategies detailed within – it’s the experience, insights and creativity of the people who develop them.

Changeable message signs are used to inform motorists of delays, travel times and alternate routes.The Construction Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program, aka COZEEP, is used to increase traffic enforcement above normal levels in situations where traffic problems are anticipated, to reduce the potential for traffic accidents within a construction zone, and to reduce traffic speeds to the posted speed limits.Most construction in District 7 is performed at night when traffic volumes are lower. The TMP will specify the work windows.A motorist information plan for a closure of Lincoln Street in Burbank showing the location of detour signs and portable changeable message signs.

Caltrans Student VolunteersCaltrans District 7 Student Volunteers
From left, Panaiota (Yota) Georgalis, (center) Rochelle Mann, and Sarah Kevorkian.

The next generation of civil engineers have arrived in District 7 ---- and four of six are women!

Through the district's student volunteer program, six civil engineers and engineering students have called District 7 Maintenance Division 'home' for awhile.

Rochelle Mann is a UCLA graduate who is close to earning a master's degree in structural and seismic engineering. Sarah Kevorkian is a junior at UC Irvine studying civil engineering, Panaiota (Yota) Georgalis, is a junior at Cal Poly Pomona.

These young ladies are spending at least one day a week to "sponge up stuff" as they say, while on field trips to Caltrans various work sites to job shadow, collect data, navigate site plans and read Caltrans manuals.

" I love being a woman in engineering," said Rochelle Mann, who is new to Los Angeles and a newlywed. "While studying architecture, I found that it was a bit intimidating. I'm very sure that engineering if is definitely what I want to do."

The ladies agree that some paid internships don't always prepare you for the realities of work life in a particular field. That's not the case with this Caltrans student volunteer program, they say.

"There no pressure, therefore it's easier to just sponge up stuff," said Mann. "That makes me want to be here [at Caltrans] as much as possible."
Sarah Kevorkian shares her recent findings from the Wall Street Journal (or, was it her other favorite, Fortune 500 magazine), "I've recently read that only 11 percent of engineers in the US are women!" she exclaimed.

"It's good to see that women are moving forward," said Kevorkian. "Engineers make so many decisions in the things we have, things we use, and things we see," she says making her case by pointing out the window at the downtown Los Angeles landscape, City Hall and the Disney Concert Hall, and of course, our own District 7 Headquarters.

Trying to find the common denominator among the girls, they all spoke highly of their parents who set examples and encouraged their daughters to pursue their dreams. Mann's father is a California Highway Patrol officer in northern California, who encouraged her to look for an internship at Caltrans, knowing what he knows of the vast work we do to engineer the state's freeways and structures.

Kervokian is the daughter of District 7 Senior Transportation Engineer Gary Kevorkian, and Georgalis is the daughter of an electrical engineer and a teacher, whose hopes are for their daughter to do anything that inspires her.

Mann's inspiration comes from her Danish heritage of simple, clean lines. For Georgalis, its Greece, the ancient architecture and waterways, and for Kervokian, it's the lost city of Petra, Jordan.

Hopefully, they all will transition from student volunteers and apply for civil service positions with the State of California, especially here at Caltrans.