I am replying to Jerry Fennell's letter (March 19) and to his concerns on the planned construction on the Ventura Freeway between Toluca Lake and Woodland Hills. He suggests nighttime construction as opposed to daytime construction, stating that work during the day would be an "impending nightmare," and implies that the welfare of the majority of the public is not given the priority.
I do not know the specifics concerning the Ventura Freeway project, but I do know that the safety and welfare of all, both the traveling public and the workers, was given top priority on the freeway projects I've worked.
I've had the privilege of working for the California Department of Transportation as a construction inspector on the recently completed Harbor Freeway-Artesia Freeway Interchange, as well as on projects on the San Bernardino, Long Beach, and Santa Ana Freeways. All were day construction jobs on busy stretches of road.
Yes, traffic was slower, but it was not "nightmarish." It is a strict policy to keep lanes open during the commuting hours, to facilitate the flow of traffic as much as possible.
As on most construction projects, some night work is unavoidable. I had two nights of it on the 110-91 Interchange, and it was scary . I was literally on the highway from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Most of the people driving at those hours are either unfamiliar with the road, tired, lost, or very partyed out. They get confused when they see bright, glaring lights, flashing arrows, and lit cones in the night darkness. I couldn't concentrate fully on my job because I had to be constantly aware of the extra dangers of night work, and I felt like a walking target in my reflectorized vest.
Although we did have extra CHP patrols and a lower speed limit that night, as suggested by Fennell, people still drove into our lane closure. Fortunately, no one was injured. It only takes one confused driver to cause a tragedy.
Dodging cars at night aside, night construction would reduce the quality of workmanship of our roads. People are not owls--we can not see well or function well late at night. Good and safe construction depends on good sight.
Imagine heavy equipment moving and backing up at night, surveying at night, inspecting work by flashlights. Would any person live in a house or work in a building that was built at night? Granted, roads won't collapse on top of us, but roads can crack and dip (then needing repair) and we do have overpasses and large interchange structures.
Night construction has too many disadvantages: (1) increase of injury/deaths due to less safe conditions, (2) lower quality of workmanship, (3) increased construction costs, (4) lower worker morale due to lost social/time at home with family and unnatural working hours.
Day construction has one major disadvantage: Inconvenience to the public during the day. The inconvenience is temporary, the price all of us pay to have better roads.
Highway workers and administrators are not ogres, delighting in frustrating the public! They just try to do their jobs the best and safest way possible, as we all do.
JAYNE S. BERG