Mendocino Man Wins 1/3 of $25K After Three Way Tie in Caltrans’ Contest

A Mendocino man has won a share of $25,000 in the Caltrans Innovation Contest. Mark H. Akin of Redwood Valley submitted the same idea as two other winners. They all suggested that freeway signs give information earlier on what lane a motorist should be in at freeway entrances.

Information from Caltrans Distric 1’s Facebook page:

caltransBig Congratulations to Mark H Akin of Redwood Valley in Mendocino County! He is one of the 1st place winners of the Caltrans $25K find a new way innovation contest for submitting his idea of Advanced Directional Signs! (Photo below)

Mark is not the only winner… There are two other first place winners… Jordan Safine of Alamo and Ellen Atkins of Orange— These winners were chosen from more than 600 eligible entries for their idea to have freeway signs indicate earlier which lane will lead to which freeway direction. By improving the advance information signs when approaching a freeway entrance and better indicating which lane—left or right—a motorist should be in, this idea can prevent last-minute lane changes, reducing gridlock, and make it easier for those unfamiliar with an area to plan ahead.

Caltrans will implement this idea by developing statewide maintenance guidelines to include clear indication of proper lane assignment at every freeway onramp (as demonstrated in the image mockups to the right.) 10258968_992831617424782_196176514779001984_nThis effort will get a jump start to rapid deployment as Caltrans will incorporate it into the department’s current sign replacement effort to install highly reflective signs to enhance visibility and reduce electricity and maintenance costs. The cost of implementation is expected to be absorbable within the existing sign-replacement program.

Caltrans will also award $4,000 to second place winner Anita Weaver of Glendale for her entry the “Caltrans Freeway League,” (CFL) an online travel app concept that would encourage Californians to voluntarily monitor and modify their behavior to achieve safer and less congested commuting.

The CFL challenges Caltrans to develop an app in which participants score points for safe driving behavior, rewarding points when drivers shift travel modes, drive during off-peak hours or choose actions that align with department goals of safety and sustainability—a “fitbit” or sorts, but for commuting. The app would combine drivers’ shared responsibility with personal actions with the concept that Californians themselves can make transportation better.

Caltrans plans to explore partnerships with technology firms that are developing or that already provide travel-information apps. A data collection app such as the CFL would also provide valuable driver behavior and travel demand information so Caltrans can better target resources for reducing traffic congestion.



  • Hey how about this idea, use that 25K to fill some pot-holes.?

    • We typically don’t see potholes on the state highway system, Redear. When we do, we fill or pave over them in short order.
      If you’re seeing potholes on roads that aren’t a numbered state highway, those belong either to the county or a municipality – not Caltrans.

      • There are definitely quite a few potholes on the 101. But I’m sure they’ll be repaired “shortly”.

        • If you can give me specific locations, I’ll put a call in to maintenance to have them check those areas out. We were just doing some paving near Crescent City to repair some damage to the roadway surface – you wouldn’t be thinking of that area, would you?
          If you happen to catch a cross-street or specific postmile, that’s usually most helpful. Please also remember to specify the county!

          • I’ll start keeping track. I know of three total as of right now. I’ll get the mile marker numbers and get back to you. They’re all in Humboldt County on Hwy 101.

        • I drive to San Franciso often, I never notice a single pothole on 101.

      • Great, but a contest with a big cash prize giveaway State municipality just seems like a bad idea with our infrastructure in need of upgrades. Hey Eli, by the way is there a link with complete contact info for local Caltrans where the public can submit suggestions for improvements? Thanks.

        • You can drop us a line by messaging the Caltrans District 1 Facebook page, by calling our main office line at 445-6600 weekdays between 8AM-4:30PM, or by emailing us.

          This website is for the Eureka office, which serves Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, and Mendocino counties:

          • Thanks Eli. I have I already submitted my concern to Caltrans under the “Submit a maintenance service request link” tab that you provided.

      • Can Caltrans repave the southbound lanes, specifically middle lane, on the hill past Pepperwood exit and the lanes between Weott & Myers Flat. Those stretches have horrible water pooling spots where patchwork has been done many times over and have been for many years.

        • It’s possible we already have a project in place for that – I’ll shoot this recommendation over to our Maintenance and Construction folks and see what’s what. Thanks!

      • The potholes that are filled come unraveled once it rains and in short time. The only correct permanent solution on A/C (Asphalt Concrete) roads are to grind and overlay. Too expensive. That is why they will always exist. Period point blank. This coming from a Caltrans Engineer.

    • This contest was rigged. Stupid ideas like “gawker blocker” was a finalist. I freakin removable shield to keep motorist from looking at something that might distract them? I entered and offered 7 different options. One was a discounted program for verified carpool drivers who use there vehicle 9 months out of the year mom-fri as designated car pool and reward them by reducing there vehicle registration fee by 15-25%. Giving reduced registration incentives for commercial vehicles to operate on off peak hours. But no a stupid movable shower curtain to block people’s view. Gawker blocker will make people try to see what your hiding. Stupid. Caltrans judges have there dirty hands in the cookie jar in this one. Shame on them

  • This is pretty cool. But I can’t help but wonder who gets the extra penny?

  • What do I get for getting CALTRANS to change the signage at the northbound exit off 101 at Myers Flat so people no longer drive off the north road edge into the field?

  • Just what I wanted the taxes that were confiscated from me to go to. Thanks Caltrans.

    • Taxes don’t pay for infrastructure and services, silly rabbit! Taxes pay off the interest on debts to creditors who floated bonds which pay for infrastructure and services.

    • Also somewhat concerning that I’ve never heard about this contest until today. Other contests are well publicized such as the restaurant essay contest in Fort Bragg. This contest was announced, updated, and resolution announced unlike the CalTrans contest. Maybe it was for family and employees only. Dunno.

      • I received an press release on it. I didn’t post it (ran out of time to do everything) but many media outlets did cover it. If you google the contest you can see multiple posts about it.

      • As Kym noted, we did speak to several media outlets and post this to our District 1 Facebook page a few months ago. State employees and their families were barred from entering the contest.

  • Wow…

    Just another example of beaurocrats living without creativity and using their union as cover to live a life of leisure on the backs of Humans.

    Honestly, are they not able to come up with a silly thing like this?

    The only thing they forgot was a sign that says All Toyotas Next Right For U turn….

  • I, and many others, would have given them that advice for FREE. Anybody that has ever driven through Sacramento would have told them to give a little warning before they merge all the lanes to the left as your turn off is disappearing to your right.

    Sacrament is so bad that they even had a graffiti artist spray painting traffic sign info. Instead of arresting him they should have given him the $25,000. Such is life in the fast lane. Other than the fact that I’m happy as hell that the people “won” the money, I’m mad as hell to see that Caltrans has the money to piss away on such nonsense.

  • Well, it’s about time. If I’d have known about that contest, I would have submitted the same answer. Not knowing what lane I should be in at what point is one of the main reasons I hate driving in the Bay Area. Congratulations to the winners!

  • Doesn’t CalTrans already have engineers that should’ve come up with this idea already?

    • Yeah I know right? These signs have been in place for years now but Caltrans just doesn’t know it I guess. Something seems really grade-school about this. I am the first to call for an investigation on this. You heard it here first.

  • They really needed a contest for this? Seems like it should of taken some existing already paid employees about 5min to come up with

    • Yeah I know I thought that these signs were already in use. I know i’ve seen them in numerous spots most notably in the Bay Area. After you go through Richmond, southbound, these signs tell you specifically which lane to be in for 880 Downtown Oakland, Bay Bridge, etc. Really well spent 25K? Oh well, Corporate will just log the loss as R&D and move on.?

  • Ernie, Ur Dreaming Caltrans (We) doesn’t have the money to piss away on such nonsense

  • Maybe the whole undisclosed contest was simply a way to launder money to friends of relatives?

    Did anyone know they were even doing this?

    Reminds me of calfire moving half a billion offshore to claim being broke for their fire fee.

  • This whole thing is a waste of time and money and if what all of you say is true and can be proven then shame on cal-trans for wasting tax payers money on this oh and not asking us if that’s how we wanted our money spent on something they get paid to do everyday.maybe I chose not to pay my taxes anymore..

  • Thanks Uncle Jerry!

  • I dont get it, What exactly did they do? The pic of the signs looks like signs I already see.

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