CT News 2020, Issue 2

Director's Corner

Caltrans rises to the challenge, safely and effectively

Toks Omishakin portrait

I am proud and thankful for how we have pulled together to make the most of a difficult time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in March, Caltrans has had to quickly and nimbly adapt to constantly evolving circumstances. First and foremost, we took immediate steps to protect our 20,000 employees.


Rock berm to the rescue on Tioga Pass 

A rock berm along State Route 120 on the Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass is a vital mountain pass for the Eastern Sierra, cutting an important east-to-west path through Yosemite National Park from Mono County to the Central Valley. In 2014, Lee Vining Supervisor Randy Walker and his team came up with an innovative way to minimize the impacts of rock slides for travelers.


National award is a reality for Caltrans project 

Caltrans' virtual reality project of 2019

On Aug. 25, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) awarded Caltrans with a gold medal – first place –for its virtual-reality project “A Day in the Life of Caltrans worker.” Consequently, the department will receive $10,000 that can be used for scholarship purposes or donated to charity.

Between a rock and a river: The Ferguson Project

Ferguson rock shed, artist's rendering 1

Corey Casey’s first thought as he looked up at the jumbled pile of rubble where the foundation for a rock shed was supposed to be was, “That’s the end of that project.” His second thought was, “OK, we need to call the team together and create a plan to get this back on track.”

Are days numbered for longtime SR 140 detour?

Ferguson Slide June 22, 2020

The Ferguson Slide is decidedly atop State Route 140, not alongside it. Thanks to rock slides in 2006 and 2015, more than 70,000 cubic yards of crumbled mountainside must still be removed from the roadway before it can be repaired and reopened.

For Caltrans PIO, Camp Fire hit too close to home

For Raquel Borrayo's CT News story

I was born and raised in Paradise and spent most of my life in the small town in the mountains. The day of the Camp Fire was only my eighth day as a Public Information Officer for Caltrans District 3. I was already at work, checking social media when initial reports of evacuations in Paradise started rolling in.

Bat boxes solve dilemma on South State bridge

Caltrans-built bat houses under a bridge of SR 33

Bats! The small mammals like to roost in small colonies under highway bridges near water. One of their favorite spots is the State Route 33 Tule Creek Bridge north of Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest. A Caltrans project added to their comfort.

Burbank Historical Society preserves bridge bits

This museum requested and received artifacts from the Burbank Bridge demolition in April 2020

At the request of the Burbank Historical Society, a section of the railing from the 60-year-old Interstate 5 Burbank Boulevard Bridge was preserved by Caltrans during the bridge demolition on April 25-26. Caltrans delivered the railing on April 28 to the Gordon R. Howard Museum in Burbank.

For highway safety, these kids are winners

2020 Highway Safety poster contest

Each year, Caltrans holds its annual Highway Safety poster contest. The contest is open to children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of Caltrans employees, and it gives the children an opportunity to express their messages about the importance of driving safely in or near highway work zones.


Caltrans honors workers killed on the job 

Caltrans Workers Memorial ceremony 2020 in West Sacramento

Caltrans honored the 189 fallen highway workers who have died on the job since 1921 at its 30th annual Workers Memorial in late April. This year’s tribute did not include a public event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each district also held its own tribute within the pandemic guidelines.

2019 transportation winners announced  

CTF logo for CT News

The California Transportation Foundation is proud to announce its 31st annual CTF Transportation Award winners in several categories. The CTF Transportation Awards recognize excellence in California transportation in 2019, all modes, public and private sector and from all regions of the state.

Caltrans retiree takes wing on a historical trip 

Dave Richardson, right

Diamond Point neighbors — and friends — John Johnson and Dave Richardson (a Caltrans retiree) are going on what they call a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride on a naval aircraft ship and fly with other historic World War II planes in Hawaii, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of the war with Japan.

Hats Off

Scholarship winner reiterates her gratitude

Karis J. Lawson

“Dear Caltrans District 5: I received a scholarship from your organization last spring and wanted to send another thank you to show my gratitude! I also thought maybe you would want to hear how my first year at Cal Poly SLO went!”


’I am truly grateful for his service!’

“On April 8th I was on my way to 'shelter' with my son in Crescent City as he was concerned about me being alone in Hayward. As I was driving up 101 I swerved to avoid hitting a rock and instead skidded off the pavement. …”

Caltrans driver’s kind gesture appreciated

"Writing to say THANKS to the Caltrans driver who stopped to see if I was OK on Saturday mid-afternoon, July 25. I had just crossed the San Rafael Bridge into Richmond, and pulled over to the emergency parking area across the roadway from the toll booth office. I needed to check an address on my phone, and of course you can't do while driving …”

Trending on Twitter: Compliments about Caltrans

Social-media posts by workers in Districts 4, 7 and 11 attract positive attention in early August.

Health & Safety

Learning to manage stress helps keep you healthy

Graphic for EAP story summer 2020

Fear, uncertainty about the future, and life changes can cause stress levels that affect our health, productivity and relationships. Responses to stress can be physical, such as getting headaches or stomach aches. The changes in your body, such as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and muscle tension, can take a toll and lead to mental and physical fatigue and illness.

Service Awards

A list of Caltrans employees who celebrated 25 or 40 years of service, or who received superior accomplishment awards, in February, March, April, May and June of this year.


A list of Caltrans employees who retired in February, March, April, May and June of this year.

Who's New

Kris Balaji, deputy district director for District 3 Program/Project and Asset Management

Kris Balaji

Kris Balaji is the new deputy district director for District 3 Program/Project and Asset Management. He has experience in almost every aspect of transportation infrastructure lifecycle as he has worked in the areas of planning, programming, environmental, design, construction, operation and maintenance.

Patrick Bishop, District 3 Maintenance and Operations deputy

Patrick Bishop

Patrick Bishop has accepted the assignment to act as the District 3 Maintenance and Operations deputy. Patrick has been a supervisor for Design Branch M7, the new Utility Engineering Workgroup and North Region Office Engineer. He also spent a year on rotation in Maintenance Design delivering the major maintenance program.

Gustavo Dallarda, District 11 director

In mid-June Gustavo Dallarda was installed as the new District 11 director. He served as chief deputy district director for two years with executive-level responsibility for the Operations and Maintenance programs, and a portion of the Capital program. Since September 2019, Gustavo has acted as the District 11 director.

David DeLuz, deputy director of civil rights

David DeLuz

David DeLuz has been appointed by Director Toks Omishakin to serve as the deputy director of civil rights. David joins Caltrans with more than 20 years of progressively responsible executive leadership, policy and program management experience as a chief executive and senior leader in government and non-profit organizations.

Ryan Dermody, District 9 director

Ryan Dermody

Ryan Dermody this spring was named District 9 director. Ryan began his career with Caltrans District 9 in 2001. He has served as the deputy district director of planning and environmental analysis for District 9 since 2013. In this role, he led a team that articulated a long-term transportation vision while fostering local, regional, state and federal partnerships.

Elizabeth A. Dooher, broadband facilities program coordinator

Elizabeth Dooher

Elizabeth A. Dooher has been named the Caltrans broadband facilities program coordinator. During her 29 years of state service, Elizabeth has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in project delivery, program management and business management while building strong and effective partnerships throughout the state.

Kristine (Kris) Escarda, assistant division chief of administrative services in the Division of Business Operations

Kristine Escarda

Kristine (Kris) Escarda is the Division of Business Operations’ new assistant division chief of administrative services. Kris spent 12 years working for community-based organizations including two AmeriCorps programs focused on fisheries restoration and youth mentoring, as well as an in-home care program for seniors and people with disabilities.

Shanna Everts, assistant division chief of Safety and Management Services

Shanna Everts

Shanna Everts has been appointed as the assistant division chief of Safety and Management Services. Shanna will lead the Offices of Learning and Development, Employee Health and Safety, and Workplace Violence Prevention. Shanna has had many roles, most recently as the office chief over Employee Safety and Health.

Diana Gomez, District 6 director

Diana Gomez

Diana Gomez has been appointed to serve as District 6 director. For the past seven years, Diana has been a member of the executive team at the California High-Speed Rail Authority. As the Central Valley regional director, she was responsible for ensuring the high-speed rail project continued forward on the planned schedule and budget.

KC Handren, division chief of budgets

Earlier this year, KC Handren ascended to the role of division chief of budgets. KC is coming back to Caltrans from the Department of Developmental Services, where she has been the assistant deputy director of administration for the past two and half years. She has been in state service for almost 20 years, 13 of those with Caltrans.

Erin E. Holbrook, Legal Division’s chief counsel

Erin Holbrook

Erin E. Holbrook on May 18 was sworn in as the department’s chief counsel. For the previous three years, she served as Caltrans’ assistant chief counsel. “I am excited to step into this position under the new leadership of Director Toks Omishakin and Chief Deputy Jim Davis,” said Holbrook, who has been with Caltrans since 2010.

Said Ismail, deputy division chief for system management, Division of Traffic Operations

Said Ismail

Said Ismail has been named deputy division chief for system management position in the Division of Traffic Operations effective Sept. 1. Said has more than 30 years of experience in transportation engineering, which includes research and design of bridges and roadways, construction, information management, project/program management, and project delivery professional development.

Ashley McGuckin, chief of the Division of Human Resources

Ashley McGuckin

Ashley McGuckin has been appointed as chief of the Division of Human Resources. Since 2011, Ashley has served in a variety leadership capacities within DHR. In 2017, she was promoted to her most recent role as assistant division chief, Office of Examinations, Executive Selection (CEA & MSP), and Talent Management.

Aaron Ochoco, deputy director of administration

Aaron Ochoco

Aaron Ochoco has been appointed as deputy director of Administration. While in the Division of Administration, Aaron has served in various leadership roles in Labor Relations, Workplace Violence Prevention, the Office of Driver Certification and Substance Testing, and as the acting deputy director of administration for District 7.

Carlos Portillo, division chief for North Region Project Development

Carlos Portillo

Carlos Portillo has been appointed division chief for North Region Project Development. Carlos has held several positions such as North Region environmental division chief, acting Department of Engineering Services program project management division chief, acting North Region engineering division chief, and several other positions.

William Segraves, assistant to the director

William Segraves

William Segraves has joined the Caltrans team as the assistant to the director. William’s knowledge and experience comes with more than 13 years of administrative background, both in the private and public sector. Most recently, William served as the administrative assistant to the Director’s Office at California Housing and Community Development in Sacramento.


Doug Menzmer, bridge engineer

Doug Menzmer

Doug Menzmer passed away in August after a brief illness. Doug spent the majority of his Caltrans career with Structure Design starting in Bridge Design Branch 01 and promoting to Senior Bridge Engineer in Bridge Design Branch 12.

William Albert Suitor, retired civil engineer

William Albert Suitor

Retired Caltrans engineer William Albert Suitor, 83, of Tehachapi passed away on Monday, June 8. Bill was born on Jan. 17, 1937 in Barre City, Vt., to James and Ethel Suitor. Their family later moved to York, Maine, where he and his three sisters were raised by their mother and dad.

Leo J. Trombatore, Caltrans director in mid-1980s

Leo Trombatore, Caltrans director 1983-1988

Leo J. Trombatore, who served as Caltrans director for five years in the 1980s, died Sept. 3 in Yuba City. He was 94. Prior to being named Caltrans director in 1983, Leo served 35 years with the department, including seven years as District 3 director in Marysville, eight years as deputy district director for planning and design in the San Francisco District 4 office, and 20 years as assistant district director in the Los Angeles area.

Harry J. Valentine Jr., retired civil engineer

Harry J. Valentine

Longtime Caltrans engineer Harry J. Valentine Jr. died on Feb. 29 in Fair Oaks. He was 93. Harry was born in Phoenix in 1926 to Harry J. Valentine Sr. and Berna Mae (Bangs) Valentine. He served in the U.S. Army from 1946-47 and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering in 1951.

In This Issue

State Routes 243 and 74 photo gallery

A cool escape from what's often a hot place

Motoring along the state routes up, behind and back to Palm Springs, through Idyllwild

If you're in or near Palm Springs and find that you need a break from the heat, consider driving up and around the San Jacinto Mountains via State Routes 74 and 243. Up, up and away you go, away from the desert-valley floor into a heavily forested oasis of cool.

Road trippin’: Tracy to Cholame

An unhurried drive through the central state

James Dean, a matinee idol from the 1950s whose fame has endured and even strengthened long after his death, died in a car crash.

This past spring, CT News needed to get from Northern to Southern California, but rather than high-tail it through the Central Valley on State Route 99 or Interstate 5, we veered off to a less-traveled route. Sure, it included a stretch of U.S. Highway 101, but the rest of the drive was pretty peaceful.


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.