CT News 2020, Issue 1

Director's Corner

Caltrans adapts and sustains through the pandemic

Toks Omishakin portrait

I want to acknowledge the important work you are all performing to ensure Caltrans maintains a safe, efficient transportation system during a period when our state and fellow Californians need it most. It is a direct reflection of your professional diligence that critical infrastructure remains open to provide people with dependable access to medical facilities and essential goods and services.


Puerto Rico has a friend indeed in Caltrans

Caltrans engineers sent to Puerto Rico following the earthquakes of 2019-20

Following a series of destructive earthquakes and at the invitation of Puerto Rico’s government, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that 31 disaster specialists from the state work force would be sent to the island for 16 days. They were led by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) and included 12 Caltrans engineers and personnel from CalRecycle, General Services and Social Services.

An entry-level operation with big consequences

Superior Accomplishment Award winners Mark Sproul, left, and Ervin Pridgen flank their supervisor, Allison Harris, in the Statewide Operation Services office at Caltrans Headquarters in downtown Sacramento.

One inconvenient reality about our relentlessly tech-advancing world is that yesterday’s state-of-the-art software needs vital updates today and is irreparably outdated tomorrow. Caltrans’ security staff had to confront that reality when it learned the identification-badge system that the department’s 20,000-plus employees use was fast approaching obsolescence.

Engineer steps from Caltrans out into the spotlight

William Gee

Retirement means different things to different people. Sleeping in, reading, taking long strolls, volunteering. For retired Caltrans engineer William Gee, it means dancing before 20,000 screaming fans during timeouts and halftimes at Golden State Warriors home basketball games. The 22-dancer troupe, composed of people ages 55 and older, debuted in October 2018.

TRB extends a helping hand from Washington, D.C.

Neil Pedersen of the Transportation Research Board

One characteristic that all good workers share is a determination to improve. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) provides many Caltrans employees, in many ways, with opportunities to up their workplace game. Neil Pedersen swung by Caltrans Headquarters late last year to promote the nonprofit organization he represents.

Lincoln Highway: From trailblazing to memory lane

The Lincoln Highway sign across from the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

When on July 7, 1919, a young Dwight D. Eisenhower and 300 other men set forth in 81 Army vehicles and trailers to motor from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, there was no reasonable expectation that the transcontinental adventure would go smoothly. It would not go smoothly, in the literal sense, because there was almost no pavement between Illinois and the Pacific Ocean.

Team strives to give mass transit a boost

From left are Gary Atwal, Rich Williams, Jonathan Harmon, Anthony Serna (back wall), Brooke Garcher, Yesenia Ochoa, Susie Beesley, Jeff Ng, and Ezequiel Castro.

A team of Caltrans workers in the Division of Rail and Mass Transportation (DRMT) huddled late last year to explore how to help facilitate better public-transportation options in California. Specifically, they tried to figure out how reimbursement funds from the department’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) could be delivered more quickly and efficiently.

Foundation gives engineer-in-training a boost

Isabella Salgada, CTF scholarship winner

Congratulations to Isabella Salgada for winning the $1,000 California Transportation Foundation (CTF) H. Heckeroth Scholarship late last year. “Thank you, CTF, for your support and generosity,” Isabella said. “I am honored to have received the 2019 Heinz Heckeroth Scholarship."

Caltrans volunteer helped fulfill Our Promise

Our Promise breakfast celebration March 2020

Our Promise in March held its annual Thank You Breakfast to celebrate the 2019 statewide campaign’s achievements, and to recognize those who went above and beyond to aid in the success of the campaign. Congratulations to Sabrina Watts-Jefferson, named the 2019 Our Promise Outstanding Volunteer.

May Is Bike Month is off and rolling

Bike Month logo 2020

Physical distancing might keep us from hosting in-person events, but it won't stop us from bringing you inspiration and motivation to get out safely for solo rides. Hopping on a bike is a great way to enjoy the spring weather, get some exercise, and feel mentally refreshed.

Make every Californian count in the 2020 Census

Graphic for the California state campaign to get people to participate in the 2020 Census.

Starting in mid-March 2020, each household will get a letter in the mail. It will explain the different ways you can fill out the Census. If you don’t receive a letter, you can still go online or call to fill it out. Be sure you include any person living in your household, family or not.

Hats Off

Motorist thankful for Caltrans crew's 'awesomeness'

“This the second time in as many years that I must stop and say ‘THANK YOU’ to the Caltrans District 5 Salinas Maintenance Crew, which covers U.S. Highway 101 from Prunedale through the Aromas area in Monterey County. I’m sure they also cover a broader spectrum, but this is the area that I drive the most. And this crew is always spot on!"

Trending on Twitter: Compliments about Caltrans

Screen grab from District 2 Twitter page

Districts 2, 3 and 7 are singled out on the social media platform for exemplary work along the State Highway System.


Caltrans QuickMap is 'absolutely fantastic'

“I’m planning on heading up to Reno for Thanksgiving and am really, truly happy with what your team has done with the QuickMap. This site gives me all the information I need in one spot. Absolutely fantastic!"

Health & Safety

Tips on coping during the pandemic

For homepage -- EAP graphic

While the pandemic may be causing you and your loved ones feelings of anxiety and apprehension, now is a good time to look for reasons to be happy. The Office of Employee Health & Safety (EAP) offers tips to nurture yourself, improve your mood and help others. The EAP also has some suggestions on how to protect your financial wealthy and how to talk with children about the Covid-19 crisis.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

For the EAP story May 2020

Mental health and substance use disorder diagnoses are more common than heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, migraines, osteoporosis and asthma.  Yet many individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders are afraid to talk about their experiences or to seek help.


Service Awards

A list of Caltrans employees who celebrated 25 or 40 years of service, or who received superior accomplishment awards, in November and December of 2019, and in January of this year.


A list of Caltrans employees who retired in November and December of 2019, and in January of this year.

Who's New

Rachel Carpenter, chief safety officer

Rachel Carpenter

Rachel A. Carpenter has been named the department’s first chief safety officer. Since 2016, Rachel has served as Caltrans' pedestrian and bicycle safety branch chief,where she envisioned and established Caltrans’ pedestrian and bicyclist safety program. Most recently, she was on a special assignment with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) as the project manager for the Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force.

Mike Keever, chief engineer and deputy director of project delivery

Mike Keever

Mike Keever is Caltrans’ new chief engineer and deputy director of project delivery. Keever has logged more than 30 years at Caltrans with a wide range of assignments that include his most recent position managing the multibillion-dollar capital program as the chief of the Division of Project Management.


Wadie Deddeh, the 'Father of Caltrans'

Wadie Deddeh

Wadie Deddeh had a particular interest in transportation and in 1972 authored legislation creating the California Department of Transportation. Previously, its highway functions were handled by a division in the state Department of Public Works.

Robert 'Bob' McDougald, oversaw reconstruction of Bay Bridge after ’89 quake

Robert "Bob" McDougald

Bob McDougald worked as a senior bridge engineer, bridge manager and maintenance chief for Caltrans from 1954 to 1991. He was the maintenance chief during the Loma Prieta earthquake and oversaw the reconstruction effort of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Arnie Raaymakers, retired survey party chief

Arnie Raaymakers

Arnold (Arnie) T. Raaymakers died on Dec. 2, 2019, in San Jose after a short illness complicated by Alzheimer's. After his military service, Arnie was a survey party chief for Caltrans from 1957 until his retirement in 1991.

Janet Schaffer, retired right of way district director

Janet Schaffer

Retired Caltrans Deputy District Director of Right of Way Janet Schaffer died on Feb. 5. She retired from Caltrans in December 2013. Janet spent her entire 36-year career at Caltrans in the Right of Way Division.

Michael J. Vujovich, retired resident engineer

Michael J. Vujovich

Michael J. Vujovich was a very passionate person and had a zest for life. He loved playing stand-up bass with The Veseli Seljaci Tamburitza Orchestra, which he did for more than 20 years with dates all over the country. He also played bass locally in a group called Dunav.

In This Issue

Workers Memorial photo gallery

Caltrans pays tribute to those it has lost

Caltrans Workers Memorial ceremony 2020 in West Sacramento

On April 30 in West Sacramento, Caltrans conducted its 30th annual Workers Memorial. We honored the members of our Caltrans family who have died in the line of duty. Even though we couldn’t hold our traditional ceremony at the State Capitol this year, we still found ways to honor our fallen heroes and their families and let them know that we are continuing to pay tribute to them.
(Photographs by District Headquarters)

Black History Month photo gallery

A meaningful and festive gathering at Headquarters

Grace and Yusuf Ali, the event's featured speaker, confer at the Black History Month event at Caltrans Headquarters on Feb. 27.

One hundred and fifty years after black men were granted the right to vote by the 15th Amendment and 100 years after women were granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment, this year's Black History Month Program at Caltrans Headquarters on Feb. 27 had plenty to reflect upon.
(Photographs by Scott Lorenzo)

Employee Appreciation Day photo gallery

We're all in good company

Employee Appreciation Day 2020

Director Toks Omishakin, above, led the celebration in early March as Caltrans celebrated its 21,000-plus employees.
(Photographs by John Milne, Scott Lorenzo and District PIOs)

Road trippin': Scooting up the Eastern Sierra

Take a drive on the quiet side

Beauty and desolation are two characteristics of U.S. Highway 395 as it hosts motorists going up or down the Eastern Sierra.

Anyone who has lived in California for a while or who has spent much time exploring the state likely is familiar with Interstate 5 and State Route 99 through the Central Valley. On the other side of the Sierra Nevada range, U.S. Highway 395 offers a slower, quieter and scenic alternative.


Reed Parsell
Editor, Caltrans News

Tamie McGowen
Assistant Deputy Director, Public Affairs

Contact the Editor
Reed Parsell

Are You Retiring Soon?

Would you like to stay informed of what's happening with Caltrans? If so, submit your home email address to CT News editor Reed Parsell and we'll notify you by email when we publish a new issue of CT News.