Caltrans takes blame for damage to cars in construction zone

Caltrans takes blame for damage to cars in construction zone
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — At least five cars were damaged Tuesday morning at a highway construction project on Highway 99 near Lerdo Highway, and Caltrans officials said the state agency will pay for repairs. It happened when officials said a big pothole opened up in the northbound lanes.

"We were able to verify that it was directly related to our construction project," Caltrans spokesman Jose Camarena told Eyewitness News. "So, these drivers will be reimbursed for the damage that did happen."

On Tuesday afternoon, he said it was estimated five to seven vehicles had been damaged.

It's an area where Caltrans is putting in another lane. Camarena said they immediately called out the California Highway Patrol and the project contractor.

"We were able to seal off that pothole, and make things safe for our commuters and travelers right there on 99," he said.

The spokesman said Caltrans knows roadway damage can cause serious problems.

"We do know that -- again -- there can be damage to vehicles, as well as accidents can happen as a direct result of potholes," Camarena said. "So, we try to get these fixed as soon as we can."

That still leaves how to fix a car damaged by the roadway problem.

Camarena said drivers will have to get the vehicle repaired, then turn in a receipt to Caltrans, along with a claim form. He said the claim form includes information like the location of the incident, the date, and exactly what happened.

He said the department has an office and claims officers in Fresno. "They try to process the claims and get some reimbursement back to folks that did incur some damages," he said. "We try to make people whole wherever we can."

Camarena said drivers with questions about filing a damage claim can call his office at (559) 488-4067.

A viewer who called the Eyewitness News tip line said her car was damaged in a pothole on the Olive Drive on-ramp to Highway 99. This driver said she tried to contact Caltrans and the Kern County Roads Department but still wasn't getting a response. Camarena couldn't be sure if the area is under his department, and Eyewitness News made several calls to county roads on Tuesday, but hasn't heard back yet.

Camarena said the most frequent problems from these incidents include front-end realignment, tire damage and windshield damage. And he said the cause can be something like a pothole related to construction, or other paveway conditions from weather.

If road damage is weather-related, Caltrans can help provide information to a driver's insurance company.

"A lot of times we're able to substantiate the weather conditions or any type of traffic control patterns that we had in place that helps people to settle their claims with their own respective insurance companies," Camarena said.

He added that winter weather can be tough on roadway conditions, and it's also more people are traveling. So, Caltrans has a final thought.

"We're just asking everybody to take their time and get safely to their homes," Camarena said. "And celebrate the holidays safely."