Advocacy Groups Plead with Governor to Reign In Rogue State Transportation Department

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This article first appeared at Streetsblog California.

More than sixty climate and transportation advocacy organizations sent a letter to Governor Newsom asking him to investigate current state Transportation Department practices that are undermining California’s climate, safety, and equity goals. A full copy of the letter can be found at the bottom of the post.

Specifically, the advocates’ letter calls attention to the billions of taxpayer dollars Caltrans is spending on “highway and interchange expansions that increase our reliance on driving, draining household budgets and making traffic worse. These expansions also promote sprawl, which in turn undermines the emissions and affordability benefits of our state’s efforts to promote dense land use and build more infill housing.”

The advocacy organizations express deep concern about “Caltrans’ ongoing disregard for [Governor Newsom’s] own climate agenda for the transportation sector, the Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI). Caltrans’ implementation of CAPTI has been marked by continued expansions of highways and interchanges, persistent neglect of its own guidance for reducing VMT and GHGs, and repeated efforts to water down its Complete Streets policy – all of which demonstrates an insufficient dedication to building the sustainable, multimodal transportation network that Californians deserve.”

The letter was in part triggered by the recent demotion of Deputy Director Jeanie Ward-Waller, who says she was reassigned because she challenged the legality of Caltrans using maintenance funds to expand and widen highways.

The advocates ask the governor to initiate an external audit of the department’s use of State Highway Operations and Protection Program (SHOPP) funds and to impose a moratorium on all highway expansion projects until the matter is cleared up.

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