February 19, 2019 3:30 PM, EST

Caltrans Scrambles to Hire Road Maintenance Workers

Construction siteTraffic moves on the old Gerald Desmond Bridge next to its replacement bridge under construction in Long Beach, Calif. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Caltrans will consider hiring nearly anyone for 333 maintenance jobs it is trying to fill. The transportation department is on a spree to hire enough workers to improve road upkeep as called for in a 2017 gas tax bill that in November survived an initiative that would have repealed it.

The agency has worked with hiring organizations to consider candidates ranging from recent college graduates and veterans to people who have been homeless or incarcerated, said Michelle Tucker, chief of human resources.

“They are good, entry-level jobs for people with a variety of backgrounds,” Tucker said.

Those without experience can start at about $39,000 per year, while those with more experience or skills can make up to about $75,000 per year, according to the department’s figures. The department also is planning to hire more engineers, planners and surveyors in its Capital Outlay Support Program, a spokeswoman said, but the number of those positions wasn’t readily available.

The department has hired more than 1,000 new employees since July for a variety of jobs, including at mass-hiring events during which people could interview and get a job offer the same day.


The department could hold more rapid-hire fairs this spring and in the fall depending on need. Otherwise, the process typically takes about two months, Tucker said.

The money for the jobs comes from Senate Bill 1, also known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act, which the Legislature passed in 2017 and voters affirmed in a November ballot measure.

“Maintenance is the backbone of our organization,” Caltrans spokesman Matt Rosenberg said. “Having more boots-on-the-ground maintenance employees is part of our strategy to deliver on the promise of SB 1.”

Besides the maintenance jobs, the department is hiring 13 equipment specialists to draft specifications for new equipment ranging from dump trucks and bridge-repair trucks to more specialized vehicles.

The law increased California’s gas tax by 12 cents, bringing it to 30 cents per gallon. The bill also hiked the diesel tax and added annual vehicle fees. It is expected to garner about $5.4 billion per year for road projects over 10 years.

Construction site

Nick Ut/Associated Press

An American Society of Civil Engineers assessment of California’s roads in 2018 rated them the second-worst in the country, saying 51% of the state’s major urban roads were in poor condition and that its aging bridges faced a backlog of maintenance and repair needs.

A budget request Caltrans filed with the state said that by keeping on top of repairs, the department can prevent roads from deteriorating to the point that they require more costly and substantial repairs.

Maintenance workers patch roads, fix bridges, keep up guardrails and lights, take care of rest areas, pick up litter and perform other needed tasks for the state, Tucker said. Workers will be hired across 12 Caltrans districts according to work loads for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which starts July 1, Rosenberg said.

The department expects to patch about 220,000 potholes in the coming fiscal year, up from about 86,000 in fiscal year 2017-18, according to the budget request. It anticipates improving its response to wrecked guardrails, responding to 90% of them within 72 hours. The department plans to perform maintenance work on 112 bridges in the coming year, up from 38 in 2017-18.

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