The job of the Government Affairs Committee is to attend meetings with City Councils, Boards of Supervisors, members of the Legislature and whole bunch of local agencies, but “normal” is a little different now

We have been working on stuff, just not the things you would expect. 

Take, for example, Zoom meetings with Caltrans, CalTech and contractors that involve communicating at near the speed of light to improve traffic flow in Los Angeles where the traffic usually flows like molasses. 

Something incongruous in that statement? Throw in the Rose Parade, measuring how long a float gets stuck, how loud a band plays while marching down Colorado Blvd., and how to make traffic on Interstates and other significant highways function better.

The Fiber-Optic Revolution

The technology has been around since the 1960s when researchers at Corning Glass created the first fiber optic cable that could carry telephone signals. In 1977 the first functional fiberoptic phone cable was laid between Long Beach and Artesia. The technology took off recently in delivering high-speed Internet for business and residential customers.

Caltrans makes roadside access available for private companies to lay fiber-optic lines, for a fee, and is now starting to use the technology for internal purposes. In the 42-page 24-month project look-ahead report for March of this year, they scheduled a half-dozen such projects scattered around the state, including L. A. County (I-10), as well as roadways in the San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento and San Bernardino areas.

Enter the Rose Parade  

Last November, the City of Pasadena rolled out a fiber-opticbased earthquake detector capable of mapping how strong the land movement shakes the city down to the millimeter-scale. It wraps around and through the town, including a section of the Rose Parade route.

As with all of man’s creations, there are imperfections in the glass fiber cable. The geniuses at Caltech, who designed the system, spent their New Year’s holiday shooting lasers through two unused strands of the system in the Parade route area. Abit of the light bounces back to the laser source when it hit an “imperfection.” Seismic waves moving through the ground from the floats and bands caused the cable to expand and contract slightly, which changes the travel time of light to and from these waypoints creating “virtual” seismometers. 

Caltrans picked up on the story and is talking with both the university and our industry (we’d get the installation work!) to see what develops for measuring traffic count, road deterioration and communicate it in real-time


By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]