Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Caltrans?
The State of California, Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of the California State Highway System, as well as that portion of the Interstate Highway System within the state's boundaries. Alone and in partnership with Amtrak, Caltrans is also involved in the support of intercity passenger rail service in California, and is a leader in promoting the use of alternative modes of transportation. The current framework of Caltrans was set down by Assembly Bill 69 in 1972.
Can I ride my bicycle on the freeway?
Of the more than 4,000 miles of freeways in California, about 1,000 miles are open to bicyclists. These open sections are usually in rural areas where there is no alternate route. California Vehicle Code Section 21960 says Caltrans and local agencies may prohibit bicyclists from traveling on freeways under their jurisdiction and that they must erect signs stating the prohibition. There are no signs permitting bicyclists on freeways. When a bicyclist is legally traveling on a freeway, he/she may be directed off the freeway at the next off-ramp by a sign that says "Bicycles Must Exit." The freeway will be posted at the next on-ramp with a sign that says "Bicycles Prohibited."
What's a "Sig-Alert?"
"Sig-Alerts" are unique to Southern California. They came about in the 1940s when the L.A.P.D. got in the habit of alerting a local radio reporter, Loyd Sigmon, of bad car wrecks on city streets. These notifications became known as "Sig-Alerts." Later Mr. Sigmon developed an electronic device that authorities could use to alert the media of disasters. Caltrans latched on to the term "Sig-Alert" and it has come to be known as any traffic incident that will tie up two or more lanes of a freeway for two or more hours.
How do I file a claim against Caltrans?
If you feel that you have lost money or property as a result of any action or inaction by Caltrans and your claim is for $10,000 or less, you can file your claim directly with Caltrans. No fee is required for claims against Caltrans which are $10,000 and under. Look up where to file your claim.
If your claim is for over $10,000 or concerns a different department or agency of the State of California, you must file a claim with the Government Claims Program. This program gives you the opportunity to formally demand compensation for your loss, and may lead to a settlement of your claim without the need to file a lawsuit. For more information about the Government Claims Program or to request a claim form, write to:
Government Claims Program for claims over $10,000
Government Claims Program
Office of Risk and Insurance Management
Department of General Services
P.O. Box 989052, MS 414
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9052
Phone (toll-free): 1-800-955-0045
What's an HOV lane?
"High Occupancy Vehicle" lane, or car-pool lane. The central concept for HOV lanes is to move more people rather than more cars. Some HOV lanes carry almost half of the people carried on the entire freeway. Regular "mixed-flow" lanes are never converted to HOV lanes. Rather, HOV lanes are always added to existing facilities. Each vehicle that travels on an HOV lane must carry the minimum number of people posted at the entrance signs. Usually that means at least two people, or in some cases three people. Each child counts as an occupant, but pets, infants still in the womb, inflatable dolls or ghosts do not (we've heard 'em all). Violators are subject to a minimum $481 fine. Exceptions: Motorcycles, even those carrying just one person, are allowed to use the HOV lanes. Some HOV lanes are in operation only during certain hours, which are posted. Outside of those hours, they may be used by all vehicles.
What Caltrans road work is planned in my area?
Our Highway Information Page lists current or immediate-future conditions and road work. To find out more about Caltrans road work in your area we recommend that you contact your local Caltrans district office. Some districts post the week-ahead road work schedule on-line, and others you will need to call or e-mail for the information.
How can I get a report on highway accidents in California?
Where can I get information about the State of California Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE)?
Thank you for your interest in participating in the State of California Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) program.
The purpose of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Civil Rights Program is to increase the level of participation of disadvantaged businesses in all Federal contracting activities. Pursuant to Federal regulations, to participate in our program, qualifying firms must first be certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) by the Caltrans Civil Rights Program. Firms interested in certification as a Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) should contact the Department of General Services, Office of Small and Minority Business (OSBCR) (916) 322-5060.
Does my hybrid vehicle qualify for use in the HOV lane with just the driver?
The Air Resources Board (ARB) has information regarding qualifying vehicles for carpool lane use. The DMV is the agency that provides the carpool lane sticker to vehicles that qualify once the customer fills out the necessary DMV application form. To view the complete list of vehicles that do qualify, or to download the DMV application form, please click on the link listed below:
Should you have other questions or need further assistance please call (800) 242-4450 for more information.
Where can I get information about child car seats or child car restraint systems?
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is primarily responsible for designing, building and maintaining the state's highway system. For information about child car seats, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. Legislation requires (operative on January 1, 2002) that children be in a car seat (age appropriate) until the child is 6 years of age or weighs 60 pounds or more. You can check with the Department of Motor Vehicles for clear language and laws on child passenger restraint systems at this address:
Statewide Alerts and Other Information
Winter Driving Tips
- Caltrans News Flash #106: Caltrans to Drivers: Preparation is Key for Winter Driving Conditions
- Watch Caltrans News Flash #106 - Winter Driving Tips: Video
- Read more on our Winter Driving Tips page
- And, before you leave, always remember to check roadway conditions, including chain controls, road closures and more with
General Information Line: (916) 654-2852
You can also call
California Department of Transportation
1120 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814