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[whitespace] CHP takes over A-Frame where fortunes were told

Los Gatos--The strange little A-frame building at Highway 17's summit, where palm readers once forecast futures, is now providing California Highway Patrol officers a place to compile more tangible material.

The new Highway Patrol facility, officially called the "Corridor Safety Center," will be used mostly as an information center for passing motorists. The office also will provide officers policing the accident-prone highway a more central location in which to write up reports.

According to Steve Oreglia, public information officer for the CHP, the center is operating on part of a $350,000 state grant from the Office of Traffic Safety. The grant has been used to create the "Safe on 17 Task Force," buy equipment, make road improvements and pay for more overtime hours.

"Basically, we were looking for a facility close and visible to the roadway," Oreglia said. "The volunteers come and open the doors, hang out, give directions and provide information, and the officers use it more for report writing." Oreglia added that officers would have a refrigerator available as well.

The office is staffed entirely by citizens and former cops who are part of the CHP Senior Volunteer Program. They possess no law-enforcement power, but have the ability to pass on reports of drunken or speeding motorists to officers patrolling the highway. They also can assist travelers.

The office's radios are linked with the Santa Cruz CHP, San Jose CHP and two different Caltrans districts, allowing volunteers to direct information to the appropriate agency.

"There are no posted hours. We're there when we can be," Oreglia said. "But when no one is there, there's a call box outside which goes directly to CHP dispatch."

Since the Safe on 17 program was initiated, injury accidents have decreased by more than 40 percent, Oreglia said. "Initially, we were writing more tickets," he said. "But through an aggressive educational campaign, we're now writing less tickets than before." There were two fatalities on Highway 17 in 1999.

The Senior Volunteers Program is looking for individuals 55 and older who can donate their time and energy. Anyone interested can call program administrator George Jordan at 408.467.5400.
Nathan R. Huff

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Web extra to the February 3-9, 2000 issue of Metro.

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