CT News 2017, Issue 1

Director's Corner

Caltrans delivers when it comes to clearing roadways

Malcolm Dougherty

As recently demonstrated, when there is a landslide or a winter storm, Caltrans employees are there to clear the highway. When there is a traffic incident or fire, Caltrans employees help keep California’s traffic flowing. The nearly 39 million Californians who use the state’s 50,000 lane miles rely on Caltrans to keep their quality of life and the economy going strong – and we deliver.


Caltrans responds to storm damage

Caltrans used a spider excavator to remove loose dirt and rocks above SR-41 to prevent more landslides on the highway.

After five years of drought, rain came in abundance to California starting in December and continuing through the New Year. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued two emergency proclamations to help 50 California counties recover from severe winter storms that caused flooding, mudslides, erosion, and damage to roads and highways.

Aiding a stroke victim

Left to right Caltrans Equipment Operators Robert Giles, Chuck Wilcox and R.J. Hickman helped a U.S. Army veteran get to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Loma Linda after having a stroke while driving.

The morning of Dec. 8, began the same as any other morning. Caltrans Equipment Operators R.J. Hickman, Robert Giles, and Chuck Wilcox from the Paradise Valley Maintenance Yard in District 8 set out in a moving sweeping train to cleanup a remote segment of State Route 62 in Riverside County.

Caltrans recognizes longtime Adopt-A-Highway Volunteer

From left to right: Caltrans Maintenance Supervisor Alfred Lang, Adopt-A-Highway volunteer Don C. Becker and Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Mike Mahneke honor Becker’s service.

A special ceremony was recently held at the Elks Lodge in Santa Barbara to recognize Don C. Becker for his retirement after 25 years as an Adopt-A-Highway volunteer. Caltrans District 5 Maintenance Supervisor Alfred Lang presented Becker a plaque from Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty to honor Becker’s long commitment. 

New foundation board and events

The California Transportation Foundation (CTF) thanks exiting board members: Riverside County Transportation Commission Executive Director Anne Mayer; San Diego Association of Governments Executive Director Gary Gallegos; Contra Costa Transportation Authority Executive Director Randy Iwasaki; Union Pacific Public Affairs Director Lupe Valdez; Transportation California Executive Director Will Kempton; Nossaman, LLP Owner Stan Taylor; and HNTB West Division President Art Hadnett. 

Hats Off

Resourceful help

Caltrans Equipment Operator I Chris Conrad helped a grateful resident with a flat tire in a remote and muddy part of Northern California.

"I had a flat tire today on Highway 199 in Northern California. A Caltrans worker named Chris Conrad stopped, along with CHP Officer B. Cooke. Together they got the spare out from under the truck (while rolling in mud) even though the bracket was broken and the tire was stuck, and even though the jack for the truck would not extend far enough to put on the spare tire. "

Open roads, completed projects

"I just want to say that I'm impressed with how road work/construction is handled in California. I lived in the Midwest for 20 years and it was very common to have very long sections of road unusable for months at a time due to construction."

Snow fighters to the rescue

More than nine feet of snow fell over Donner Summit in a seven-day span in early January.

"I had a flat tire today on Highway 199 in Northern California. A Caltrans worker named Chris Conrad stopped, along with CHP Officer B. Cooke. Together they got the spare out from under the truck (while rolling in mud) even though the bracket was broken and the tire was stuck, and even though the jack for the truck would not extend far enough to put on the spare tire. "

Thankful for fast slide cleanup

During the early January storms, many Caltrans crews worked 12-hour shifts as they responded to over 100 short-term closures and worked tirelessly to clear and repair damaged roadways. .

"I commute on Highway 17 daily, and during these rainstorms I've seen some excellent work by the Caltrans crews. How fast they respond and clear the slides – from minor road blockage to the really big one on Jan. 9 – is such a relief."

Life savers

Left to right: Caltrans Equipment Operator II’s William (Bill) Silva and Miguel (Gus) Medina rescued a grateful couple who had been stuck in the snow all day on Troy and Donner Pass Road.

"On Jan. 17, we became stuck in the snow on Troy and Donner Pass Road around 1 p.m. We tried everything to get out to no avail. Shortly after that, a four-wheel truck got stuck right behind us. They managed to get out and tried to help us, but we just couldn’t get out. We called AAA and they gave us an estimate of two hours."

Clear and smooth

Motorist appreciates improvements on U.S. Highway 101 south of San Jose.

"The crew that resurfaced Highway 101 between Morgan Hill and South San Jose has done an outstanding job. First, the annoying rut in the asphalt is gone. And the dashed dividing lines are now white followed by black, making them much easier to see in any weather. Thanks! "

Angels to the rescue

Caltrans Trinity Center Highway Maintenance Leadworker Mike Haigh was among those who helped a motorist and her dog from her car after a collision in a wooded ravine in rural Northern California.

"I hit a patch of ice Dec. 23, sending my car into a ravine and hitting a tree head-on. I want to thank the Caltrans driver [Caltrans Trinity Center Highway Maintenance Leadworker Mike Haigh] who cut away branches from the door and helped me and my dog Zip from the car, helped us climb out of the ravine and gave us shelter in the warmth of his truck."

Health & Safety

Embrace optimism

Optimism is to your mind what healthy food is to your body. Having a positive attitude and hopeful outlook for the future offers a number of physical and emotional benefits. People who think of themselves as optimists generally report better health, less stress, and more satisfying relationships than people who consider themselves pessimists.


A list of Caltrans employees who retired or for whom certificates were requested.

Service Awards

Employees who are celebrating 25 and 40 years of service..

Who's New

Rambabu Bavirisetty, chief of the Office of Capital Improvement Programming

Rambabu Bavirisetty

Rambabu Bavirisetty is the new Division of Transportation Programming’s Chief of the Office of Capital Improvement Programming. The office was led for many years by recently retired Kurt Scherzinger. The office produces the Interregional Transportation Improvement Program, coordinates State Transportation Improvement Program activities with the California Transportation Commission (CTC) on behalf of the Department, and is liaison to the CTC for Proposition 1B Bond programs.

Kyle Gradinger, assistant division chief of the Division of Rail and Mass Transportation

Kyle Gradinger

Kyle Gradinger joins the Division of Rail and Mass Transportation as the Assistant Division Chief, Network Integration. He is excited to work for a state committed to combating climate change with ambitious goals and effective mechanisms to encourage a greater share of trips by rail, transit, on foot and by bike. 

Ellen Greenberg, deputy director for sustainability

Ellen Greenberg

As Caltrans new Deputy Director for Sustainability, Ellen Greenberg oversees Caltrans’ continued efforts to shift and align policies and practices to improve the environment, the economy and social equity for all Californians. Ellen has more than 30 years’ experience working with cities, transportation agencies, and non-governmental organizations to guide development, conservation, and transportation decisions. S

Karl Kopper, chief information security officer

Karl Kopper

Karl Kopper is the Caltrans Chief Information Security Officer. The office is responsible for developing and implementing the security policies to protect the confidentiality, availability and integrity of the systems and data used to further the mission of the Department. Kopper comes to Caltrans from CalPERS where he worked since 2008, managing systems engineering, storage engineering and administration teams responsible for developing a secure, stable operating environment for the CalPERS business systems.

Blair Thompson, chief of innovation, risk and strategic management

Blair Thompson

Blair Thompson is Caltrans' first Chief of Innovation, Risk and Strategic Management, overseeing a newly created office, and developing ways to streamline and improve department performance. The office manages and implements the 2015-2020 Strategic Management Plan, as well as additional innovation initiatives and risk management projects.


Todd Byers, District 6 archaeologist

Todd Byers

Caltrans District 6 Archaeologist Todd Byers and his 14-year-old son, Brayden, died Saturday Nov. 12, 2016, in a hiking accident near Shaver Lake in Fresno County. Byers, 49, worked in Caltrans’ Environmental Division for the last nine years. He had a great sense of humor and was a dedicated employee who taught himself and his coworkers how to use Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software.

Manuel Ramirez, District 6 civil transportation engineer

Manuel Ramirez

Caltrans District 6 Civil Transportation Engineer Manuel Ramirez, who worked in the Office of Encroachment Permits for the last 16 years, unexpectedly passed away at home on Dec. 6. Manuel previously worked in Design and had more than 22 years of state service.

CT News - Caltrans' employee newsletter


Reed Parsell
Editor, Caltrans News (May 2019 to the present)

Tamie McGowen
Assistant Deputy Director, Public Affairs

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