Thursday, 30 May 2024

Regional

Locations around California where fallen workers signs will be located. Image courtesy of Caltrans.

Caltrans District 3 on Tuesday announced that it will install memorial signs in roadside rest areas along the California state highway system to honor its 14 workers who died in the line of duty and to encourage travelers to drive responsibly.

The memorial signs were designed, manufactured and will be installed by Caltrans workers to recognize the 191 highway workers who have been killed on the job statewide since 1921.

Every year, Caltrans employees, family members of fallen workers, and community members throughout California gather to honor these workers and to promote safe driving campaigns.

“Safety is Caltrans’ top priority,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “Lives are literally at stake every day. We hold a sacred duty to remember all the people who have lost their lives working with us, and I implore all Californians to please slow down and move over in every work zone, every time. A life may depend on it.”

Since 1923, District 3 has lost 14 employees who were performing their normal duties on the job.

“We will never forget our fallen employees who worked diligently to ensure our roadways were safe for the traveling public,” said District 3 Director Amarjeet S. Benipal. “The tremendous sacrifices by these public servants remind us of the enormous loss to their family, friends and Caltrans.”

District 3’s last on-the-job fatality occurred in 2010 after Chico Maintenance Leadworker Gary Smith, 57, was struck and killed by a motorist while performing traffic control for a detour around an earlier fatal crash. The driver of the vehicle that struck Smith later pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and sentenced to prison.

Three years earlier, 35-year-old Highway Maintenance worker Matthew White was struck and killed by a vehicle exiting at the Interstate 5 Southbound Elk Grove Boulevard off-ramp during the morning hours. White was a second-generation Caltrans employee.

On Monday, Caltrans crews installed the first District 3 memorial signs at the west- and eastbound Interstate 80 Gold Run rest areas. The signs also will go up at the I-80 Donner Summit and Interstate 5 Elkhorn, Dunnigan, Maxwell and Willow rest areas.

District 3 maintains more than 4,385 lanes miles of state highway in 11 Sacramento Valley and Northern Sierra counties. From 2013 to 2022, 1,424 people lost their lives on the region’s state highways stretching from Butte County to Sacramento County and from Colusa County to EI Dorado County. Of that number, 39 deaths resulted from 38 vehicle crashes in active construction zones.

The fallen workers sign. Image courtesy of Caltrans.

With the passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs of 2021 as well as Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, Caltrans and local agencies now have significant additional funds to repair and maintain California’s transportation system. The additional funding has increased the number of Caltrans employees and contractors working on the state highway system, highlighting the importance for drivers to stay vigilant and aware.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. In 2021, more than 9,500 work zone collisions occurred on California highways, resulting in an estimated 2,971 injuries and 73 fatalities. Nationally, drivers and passengers account for 85 percent of people who are killed in work zones.

In 2022, Caltrans announced a new Director’s Policy on Road Safety, which commits the department to the Safe System approach and reaffirms the vision of reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries on state highways by 2050. This policy takes steps to further a shift that began in 2020, as state transportation leaders recognized a bolder and more focused approach was necessary to combat the troubling rise in fatalities and serious injuries on California roads.

The state’s 2020-24 Strategic Highway Safety Plan — managed by Caltrans and involving more than 400 stakeholders — was updated to include the Safe System approach.

Caltrans has partnered with the California Transportation Foundation to develop two funds to benefit the families of Caltrans workers killed on the job.

The Fallen Workers Assistance and Memorial Fund helps with the initial needs a surviving family faces and the Caltrans Fallen Workers Memorial Scholarship is available to the children of these workers.

For more information or to make donations, visit the California Transportation Foundation.


Fallen workers signs in place. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce, or UCETF, has continued its work to combat the illicit cannabis market, conducting an operation in Siskiyou County last month.

The operation targeted illegal cannabis cultivation sites that threaten the environment, workers, and other members of the public.

The sites in question were associated with suspected environmental violations, including the use of unlawful pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

These dangerous chemicals not only degrade California’s natural resources, but also endanger workers and others exposed to them.

The operation included 24 search warrants, served between July 11 through 13 on unlicensed commercial cannabis cultivation sites in the Whitney Creek, Harry Cash and Shasta Vistas areas in Siskiyou County.

It eradicated 67,045 illegal cannabis plants, seized 8,019.75 pounds of illegally processed cannabis, worth an estimated $68.5 million, and seized a dozen firearms.

The UCETF actively coordinates with federal, state, local and tribal agencies to disrupt the illegal cannabis market. Co-chaired by DCC and CDFW and coordinated by the Homeland Security Division of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the taskforce is bringing together more than two dozen state, local, tribal, and federal partners to protect communities, consumers, and the environment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that the cities of Rohnert Park, Santa Cruz and South San Francisco have earned the state’s Prohousing Designation making them eligible for funding incentives and additional resources as a reward for their work to reduce barriers to building more housing – bringing the state’s total to 30 Prohousing communities.

“These cities are showing the local leadership California needs to tackle our state’s housing crisis,” Newsom said. “They stand in stark contrast to the handful of locals who are failing their constituents and refusing to help California families struggling with runaway housing costs. We will continue to celebrate cities like Rohnert Park, Santa Cruz and South San Francisco while holding bad actors accountable with executive action and in the courts when necessary.”

Newsom’s office said it is vital for local governments to cut red tape and implement policies that increase much-needed housing in California. 

Accountability measures and incentives like the Prohousing Designation are critical to help meet the state’s goal of 2.5 million new homes over the next eight years, with at least one million serving the needs of lower-income Californians.

“We commend Rohnert Park, Santa Cruz and South San Francisco for their commitment to housing forward policies that will remove barriers to building and preserving affordable housing,” said Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez. “We are proud to work with these cities to create housing near jobs, transit, and other amenities to build a strong housing market and provide homes to working Californians.”

“I’m thrilled that we now have 30 communities that have achieved the Prohousing designation,” said HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez. “The cities and counties are leading the way by reducing unnecessary barriers and red tape that discourage new housing production, instead they are signaling to developers that they are ready to support more housing production, faster.”

California is the leader in the Prohousing space. Last week the Biden-Harris Administration announced its own Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing program designed to provide funding to local jurisdictions to assist them in removing barriers to housing production and preservation.

GLENN COUNTY, Calif. — Caltrans is alerting motorists to expect daytime travel delays on State Highway 45 from Hamilton City to about one mile south of the State Highway162 west junction for paving work over the next three months.

Starting Monday, Aug. 14, construction crews will begin roadwork at the first of two separation locations on Highway 45.

Motorists can expect one-way traffic control from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday until late October.

The first segment of roadwork is from County Road 52, or Gum Avenue, to 1.2 miles north of Bayliss Blue Gum Road. Crews plan to work in this area until early September.

The contractor, Knife River Construction of Chico, will then shift paving operations to a six-mile stretch of highway from Country Road 29 to the Highway 32 junction in Hamilton City.

Flaggers at each end of the construction zone and a pilot vehicle will be used during one-way traffic control.

Motorists are reminded that pilot vehicles are to be followed at all times within the project zone for the safety of construction crews and travelers.

Failure to follow pilot vehicles may result in a $220 citation with traffic fees doubled in construction zones.

Roadwork is scheduled for completion by the end of October. The schedule is subject to change due to weather, equipment or material availability or other unexpected events.

Caltrans advises motorists to “Be Work Zone Alert.” The department will issue construction updates on Twitter @CaltransDist3 and on Facebook at CaltransDistrict3. For real-time traffic, click on Caltrans’ QuickMap quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ or download the QuickMap app from the App Store or Google Play.

The female black bear known as 64F. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wildlife biologists for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday morning safely immobilized a large female conflict bear responsible for at least 21 DNA-confirmed home break-ins and extensive property damage in the South Lake Tahoe area since 2022.

Her three cubs were also captured in the effort.

Pending a successful veterinary check, CDFW has secured permission from the state of Colorado to transport the female black bear, known as 64F, and place it with The Wild Animal Sanctuary near Springfield, Colorado, which has agreed to care for it in its expansive facilities. This large black bear is one of multiple bears identified by the public last year as “Hank the Tank” based on visual observations.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has the authority to approve only one such placement and is using that authorization for this bear. Relocation is not typically an option for conflict animals over concern that relocating an animal will relocate the conflict behavior to a different community.

However, given the widespread interest in this bear, and the significant risk of a serious incident involving the bear, CDFW is employing an alternative solution to safeguard the bear family as well as the people in the South Lake Tahoe community.

The sow’s three young cubs, which have accompanied the bear on recent home break-ins, will potentially be relocated to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, a CDFW-permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility in Petaluma, in hopes they can discontinue the negative behaviors they learned from the sow and can be returned to the wild.

All three cubs were given a health assessment in the field before transfer and will receive additional examination at the facility.

One of the cubs is believed to have suffered serious injuries from a vehicle strike earlier this month, though is still mobile. The injured cub will be given a thorough veterinary evaluation.

Bear 64F has been monitored closely by CDFW since 2022. In March of 2023, she was discovered denning under a residence in South Lake Tahoe along with her three male cubs of the year.

Staff from CDFW and the Nevada Department of Wildlife immobilized the bear, collected DNA evidence, attached an ear tag and affixed a satellite tracking collar to the bear.

Staff also implanted passive integrated transponders, known as PIT tags, into the cubs for future identification. The PIT tags contain a microchip similar to what’s implanted into pet dogs and cats for identification.

Bear 64F shed the satellite tracking collar last May. The bear’s DNA, however, has been confirmed at 21 home invasions in the South Lake Tahoe area between February 2022 and May 2023 with the bear suspected in additional break-ins and property damage.

CDFW’s updated Black Bear Policy, released in February 2022, allows for the placement and relocation of conflict bears in limited circumstances when other management options have been exhausted and as an alternative to lethal actions.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Tuesday launched an independent investigation into the redistricting process of Butte County.

The investigation by the California Department of Justice, or DOJ, will seek to determine whether Butte County violated the California FAIR MAPS Act and other voting rights laws during the county's 2021 redistricting process to redraw election district boundaries.

"In a democracy, every eligible voter deserves fair and equal representation,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The allegations raised regarding the redistricting process in Butte County are serious and warrant a thorough investigation. We must ensure that the voting rights of all communities are protected and upheld. Our goal is to maintain the integrity of the redistricting process, and promote a fair and inclusive electoral system for all Californians."

Under the California Constitution and Government Code, the attorney general has broad authority to investigate any potential violations of the law, and ensure the laws of the state are uniformly and adequately enforced.

At this stage, the investigation will be conducted by California DOJ’s Racial Justice Bureau within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

During the course of the investigation, state attorneys will work diligently to consider all relevant information related to Butte County’s 2021 redistricting process and adopted map.

However, it is important to note that the Office of the Attorney General has made no determination at this time with regard to specific complaints or allegations related to the conduct of those involved in the county’s redistricting process. California DOJ is committed to conducting a thorough and independent investigation.

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