Caltrans working to repair lights damaged by metal thieves

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Caltrans working to repair lights damaged by metal theives
Highway 99 is a major focus for Caltrans right now as crews work to repair damage lights. Many lanes along valley freeways are dark because of copper theft.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Highway 99 is a major focus for Caltrans right now as crews work to repair damaged lights. Many lanes along Valley highways are dark because of copper theft.

A small team of electrical crews are reconnecting wiring to get lights back up and running. But as more fog rolls in lights are still out along other highways.

Driving through parts of the Central Valley at night we know it's usually very dark. But along highways, like 168 in Clovis, these usually lit lanes have been dark for months. Copper thieves stripped the wiring. And with this week's treacherous fog conditions comes a reminder that crews are working quickly to fix the lights and improve your safety.

"We do get a lot of complaints from drivers but we ask that they be patient," said Caltrans spokesperson Gloria Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says two major projects were just completed. Crews re-strung wiring along all major freeways in the Fresno-metro area to get lights and landscaping equipment working again. This comes at a taxpayer cost of more than $11 million. Caltrans is hoping it stops future metal theft.

"We've corrected that by using now the aluminum type material, that's less appealing to copper thieves," Rodriguez said. "So we're hoping with the new methods we have in place, the new antitheft lids we have, that's going to make a drastic decrease in the theft we had."

Crews focused on Highway 99 first, connecting the new wiring to turn these lights on. Then the repair work will move east to 180, 41 and 168.

In the meantime, the CHP says be careful in the sometimes dark and foggy conditions.

"Really simple, let off the gas, slow down," said CHP Officer Vance Wedeking. "Give yourself that extra distance if you're following somebody."

Caltrans crews installed locking steel lids on electrical connections recently. It's a massive and expensive project driven by crime but planned to improve your commute.

Advice from Caltrans and the CHP is that if you see someone suspicious along the side of the highway, you should report it.

Barring any future theft, all the lights on these Valley highways should be back on within the year.