People At Work (Together) on the I-5 South Corridor
Collaboration Underway for a Successful Freeway Project
This story is not about construction work; it's about people working together. Many people - from all different backgrounds and perspectives - are working collaboratively and with a spirit of partnership to get the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Projects in southern Los Angeles County started and completed on-time, within budget and with minimal impacts to communities, residents, businesses and motorists.
The $1.6 billion Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) South Corridor Improvement Projects, six segments that extend from the Los Angeles/Orange County line to the San Gabriel River Freeway (I-605), will widen I-5 to add one carpool lane and one general purpose lane in Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, La Mirada and Downey. Four of the six projects are in construction and cranes, k-rail and pile driving equipment are set-up along this seven-mile corridor.
When an aging, well-traveled, three-lane freeway has seen no improvements since it was built in the mid-1950s, there's intense work to be done. During five decades, businesses and homes have moved closer to the freeway and telephone poles are sharing its space with other cell and cable company lines. Growing populations and new technology have brought more electricity, sewer, water, fiber optic and cellular lines and transmission lines above ground and underground sewer, water, gas and oil lines lie alongside the freeway.
The first order of business for any project is to acquire or possess property so that utility relocations can get started. To do that, you have to identify the utilities, meet with their owners and arrival of a relocation plan.
"Relocation of facilities wouldn’t be possible without the on-going communication and coordination with the utility owners, their staff and their contractors," said Suzie Kearns, Caltrans District 7 Utility Designer.
Caltrans surveyors and designers partner with utility crews to clear the way to allow construction to begin. Chevron Pipeline, Southern California Edison, Time Warner, Verizon, SoCal Gas, Charter, and more companies, have been working above and below ground since early 2012 to move their utility lines so that work can begin for the Carmenita Road, Alondra Boulevard, Rosecrans Boulevard, Imperial Highway projects.
In a different kind of relocation, a team of professional animal handlers and staff from the City of Norwalk Recreation and Park Services Department, transferred alpacas, goats, roosters, rabbits, sheep, a pony, two heifers, one donkey and an emu from the city's Nature Center petting zoo to the prestigious California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Caltrans will support the cost to board, feed and provide veterinary care for the animals during the freeway project at a farm overseen by their Animal and Veterinary Sciences Department.
"I'll never forget this relocation assignment," said Sinead Gross, the Caltrans Right of Way agent who facilitated the move. "It was one of a kind and I'm grateful to have had this experience to work with so many great people who care deeply for the animals and their well-being."
There's also consideration for the well-being of the children. The La Mirada-Norwalk Unified School District transports 4,000 children to and from school daily with scores of school buses that traverse the Shoemaker Avenue and the Alondra Boulevard bridges. When the Carmenita Road Project began construction in early 2012, Caltrans, city and school officials met to coordinate school and construction schedules and to identify core locations that will require a change in the school bus routes and relocation of some bus stops. The overall goal for both agencies was to get the children to and from school safely and on time. This partnership will remain in effect throughout the life of the I-5 South Corridor Projects.
Many city employees are involved and motivated to inform their citizens of closures, detours and impacts - like daytime dust and nighttime noise. At the forefront are the city engineers from the cities of Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs who attend up to four weekly construction meetings (one for each project) to mitigate and minimize the potential impacts. On the flip side, the city staff communicates to the group about on-going or upcoming city-related public works projects that could potentially coincide with freeway-related work, like for paving projects or traffic signal timing issues, for example.
City Engineer Daniel Garcia; Associate Engineer, Randy Hillman, from the City of Norwalk Community Development Department (CDD); and Noe Negrete, Robert Garcia and Frank Beach from the City of Santa Fe Springs Public Works Department are a huge part of the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Project's successful partnership efforts.
"Mitigation efforts help to expedite construction schedules and ensure that city, state and county public works projects do not conflict to cause unnecessary delays," said Garcia. "Issuing permits to contractors and utility companies, reviewing traffic flow, minimizing lane and ramp closures, and monitoring signal timing and signage on city streets helps to keep everybody and everything moving safely in the right direction."
These are the people at work to extend the spirit of partnership and keep the lines of communication open. There would be no successful construction project without them.