Copper crooks strike again along Highway 168

March 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Caltrans is once again playing catch up after being hit by copper thieves. The latest area to get hit is along Highway 168 between Fowler and Temperance. That's where wires were cut, impacting landscaping systems and possibly lighting.

Caltrans first learned of the damage late Tuesday morning and a spokesperson says the full extent of the damage won't be known until crews begin their repairs. "It ends up affecting the public. We end up having lights that don't come on, traffic signals that may not come on when they're supposed to? All of this contributes to congestion and a reduction in safety, in operations, and really, a reduction of resources," said Jose Camarena, a spokesperson for Caltrans. Camarena says metal theft costs the agency millions every year.

Infrastructure across the Central Valley has been impacted but the City of Fresno says its effort to curb theft has been successful. Last year, city crews sealed up thousands of street lights to prevent more outages and crews are now trying to complete repairs. Public Works Director Patrick Wiemiller says some of the lights have been out for nearly a year. "At this point we have about 3,000 lights that need to be repaired. We're working through the list but we can only move as fast as what we have funding for," said Wiemiller.