Caltrans Road-Closure List Questioned

Closure notices could jeopardize emergency response

A review of 126 Caltrans road closures by the yields some surprising results.

In any emergency, time is of the essence, and for San Diego Fire-Rescue teams, taking an unnecessary detour could affect the time it takes to reach a patient.

Caltrans faxes a list of scheduled road closures to area emergency responders every day around 4 p.m., giving emergency crews a day's notice of shutdowns throughout the county.  But one list  of 126 closures was widely inaccurate, according to a report  by our media partner To conduct its study, the VOSD sent a reporter and photographer out to major San Diego highways recently  to check out whether the roads were indeed closed. They found that 86 percent of scheduled closures were, in fact, open.

Several local emergency officials told the voiceof that inaccurate road closures could delay response time.

“It’s always a concern, “ said Jeff Carle, San Diego Fire-Rescue’s assistant chief for operations. “We can’t get everywhere we need to get within six minutes. This is another factor. Could you be taking a longer route because you have bad information? It’s absolutely possible.”

Calrans spokeman Ed Cartagena questioned the accuracy of  the sample, so the voiceof drove out again for another check and came up with a list that was 51 percent inaccurate.

"Misinformation or inaccurate information from Caltrans could potentially cause delays in response routing, " said Augie Ghio, chief of the San Miguel Fire Protection District.

But Cartagena said that Caltrans is still frustrated over how the conclusions were reached, saying the agency is compiling information about its error rate and will hand it over to through the California Public Records Act sometime in July. He said the facts will come out then.

Caltrans is working on issuing the road closure lists in real time, but, Cartagena said, the agency is strapped by technology in their ability to dispense the information over the Internet.  He adds if there has been a problem, "it should have been brought to light , but we've not heard from EMS crews or fire departments" about any problems with the closure list.  

"In all my 10 years with Caltrans, we have had one conflict a few weeks ago when there was a mistake by a contractor which resulted in consecutive closures downtown,"  Cartegna said.

The Caltrans spokesman said there were some concerns raised but that was the only time.

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