Director's Corner

Safety is the department's highest priority

Caltrans Director Laurie Berman

Laurie Berman

Challenges confront us every day at Caltrans, and together we find ways to not only meet those challenges, but to exceed expectations. None of the challenges we face is more important than improving safety. As your director, I’m taking actions to ensure safety remains our highest priority.

Highway construction and maintenance are some of the most hazardous jobs in the nation. Because of SB 1, we are doing critical work statewide that was long deferred because we lacked necessary funding. This is extremely positive for our aging transportation system and all of us who use it. As a result, we are seeing a lot more construction zones on our highways and local roads. This means more mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters, friends, and all loved ones working next to speeding traffic, distracted drivers and drivers under the influence.

Sadly, we recently lost District 11 Highway Maintenance Lead worker William D. Casdorph. He was with the Department nearly 20 years and was the 189th Caltrans employee to lose his life working for the people of California.

This spring, our annual Workers Memorial will honor our Caltrans family members who lost their lives working to keep our highways safe. We are also gearing up to kick off a three-year “Be Work Zone Alert” safety campaign, similar to our 2015 campaign, to continue educating motorists with a compelling message from the children of Caltrans highway workers.

With that in mind, Caltrans recently convened a Safety Summit in Sacramento. It wasn’t just a summit. It was a call to action with our construction industry partners to talk about, “How are we going to improve work zone safety?” We shared best practices, identified work zone safety items to improve, and discussed safety initiatives we are working on for construction, traffic operations and research.

One death on our highway system, whether it’s a Caltrans employee, a local resident or someone visiting our great state, is one death too many. That’s why Caltrans adopted “Toward Zero Deaths” as our statewide safety goal. It’s a goal many of our partners are also embracing. We are working aggressively with Vision Zero cities across the state to reduce fatalities and serious injuries and improve safety for everyone on our roadways, no matter if they are working or traveling, and no matter where or how they travel.

The state highway system also includes key city streets like Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica, main streets in many of our rural communities, and scenic highways like the Pacific Coast Highway that are destinations for cyclists around the world. This is why we are working with our transportation partners at all levels to support all travel options that make cities and neighborhoods more walkable and livable while improving safety, equity and the environment, and—all while working Toward Zero Deaths.

Caltrans is specifically addressing bicycle and pedestrian safety through pilot monitoring programs launched in the last two years. We are conducting safety investigations at high-collision concentration locations and corridors on the state highway system. What we learn from those investigations will help guide us toward taking steps to reduce bicycle and pedestrian-involved incidents.

We also are developing Active Transportation Plans for the entire state. Caltrans staff are working with a consulting team and local partners to take an inventory of our system and identify priority corridors for pedestrian and bicycle facilities, safety improvements and connections to local transportation networks.

Together we are going to do the right thing to keep our employees and the traveling public safe. Let’s all commit to a culture where safety is the most important thing we do as we work Toward Zero Deaths.