Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sac News & Review Coverage

Cosmo Garvin writes about the Highway 50 lawsuit in this week's SN&R.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lawsuit Update: We Win!

Judge Frawley today released his order in the NAST/ECOS lawsuit challenging the adequacy of Caltrans' environmental review of the proposed Highway 50 expansion. The short story is that we won. Here's a quote from the soon-to-be-distributed press release:

Judge Timothy M. Frawley of the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, issued a ruling halting the progress of CalTrans’ plan to widen Highway 50 between Sunrise and Watt Avenues. Neighbors Advocating Sustainable Transportation (NAST) and the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) filed the suit because CalTrans’ analysis of the project’s air pollution and climate change impacts was inadequate, and the project did not consider options that did not involve widening the freeway. The ruling was issued on July 15th. The lawsuit was originally filed in June of 2007.

Among other findings, Judge Frawley found that CalTrans failed to:

  • Complete an analysis of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and disclose the air quality impacts associated with the traffic increase.

  • Consider a reasonable range of potential alternatives, including the feasibility of a transit only alternative as way of meeting the project objectives.

  • Adequately address the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project.

  • The entire text of the judge's order is available here. I'll post the press release as soon as it is ready.

    Thanks to everyone who provided logistical, financial, and moral support over the past year. This victory is a triumph for the transparent and thorough public process that CEQA demands. We look forward to a more thorough and honest debate about the value of more freeway lanes in the Sacramento region. Given what's happened to gas prices in the past year, that debate should be very interesting!

    Update: Here is the press release.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Lawsuit Update

    The lawsuit filed by ECOS and NAST challenging CalTrans' environmental analysis of the proposed Highway 50 expansion is scheduled to go to hearing on March 21 in Sacramento Superior Court. The case will be heard before Judge Timothy Frawley in Dept. 29. The hearing is open to the public.

    The opening briefs have been filed and are available on the Sacramento Superior Court's website. You can access their document viewing system here. Choose "other" for format, and then type in the following case number: 07CS00967.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    NAST Silent Auction Details

    As previously posted, NAST is holding a lawsuit fundraiser at Revolution Winery in midtown Sacramento on February 22. It should be a blast!

    Among the events of the evening is a silent auction, and local vendors and citizens have contributed an astonishing list of items. Click here for a list of items donated thus far.

    Plan on joining us on February 22, bid generously to support NAST, and thank our donors for their support!

    Saturday, January 26, 2008

    Highway 50 Litigation Fundraiser!

    NAST is organizing an exciting event for an important cause-- raising cash to fund the litigation against CalTrans over the Highway 50 Project. Join us February 22 at Revolution Winery in midtown Sacramento for an evening of wine tasting, a silent auction, and other surprises. Details are available here.

    Friday, July 27, 2007

    NAST and ECOS file suit against Caltrans

    ECOS and NAST have jointly filed a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of
    Caltrans' environmental analysis for the Highway 50 expansion project.
    While it's unfortunate that we had to resort to litigation, it's also
    exhilerating that we've been able to put together a coalition to
    forcefully stand up to the state's leading transportation agency to demand
    honesty and accountability concerning the impacts of this project for our
    region and our neighborhoods.

    I've posted our press release that gives more details.

    The story has also been picked up by the Capital Public Radio and by the Sacramento Business Journal.

    Litigation is, of course, expensive, and we are actively soliciting support. PLEASE continue to support this effort by sending us a check. Friends of ECOS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is accepting donations specifically for this lawsuit. Mark your check "Highway 50 litigation fund" and send it to:

    Friends of ECOS
    909 12th Street, Suite 100
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    Donations are tax deductible.

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Lawsuit Fund

    On June 21st, Caltrans approved a project to add lanes to Highway 50
    for what APPEARS to be a noble cause: carpool lanes. What's not to

    The PROBLEM: These lanes will only be carpool lanes a few hours of
    the day. The vast majority of the time, they will be UNRESTRICTED,

    Despite that, Caltrans has the AUDACITY to claim that the project
    "will not have a significant effect on the environment." YES, YOU
    READ THAT RIGHT. They claim that adding new lanes will not increase
    car trips, gas consumption or air pollution.

    More lanes means more cars and more AGGRAVATION. Who hasn't felt
    ROAD RAGE being stuck in traffic, burning ever-more-costly gas,
    breathing fumes and getting nowhere? There is an epidemic of OBESITY
    in this country, partly because most of us are stuck in our cars and
    can't easily walk or take transit to our destinations. Serious car
    accidents, skyrocketing insurance premiums, lifelong health
    problems. IT DOESN'T HAVE BE THIS WAY. We CAN become a society less
    dependent on cars, with healthier, more enjoyable and less costly
    options for getting around quickly and conveniently.

    We believe that carpool lanes have a place in our future
    transportation plans. But WE THINK OUR GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE HONEST
    ABOUT THEIR REAL IMPACTS, and allow for public debate about their
    total costs and benefits relative to alternatives like light rail,
    commuter rail, expanded bus service, and neighborhood shuttles.

    The time to shift our public investment to support more sustainable

    Neighbors Advocating Sustainable Transportation (NAST) is a
    Sacramento coalition of neighborhood, community and environmental
    associations. We have no staff. We have no budget. But we have a
    vision of a better future for Sacramento.

    WE HAVE ONLY ONE MONTH to file a CEQA lawsuit to STOP THIS
    PROJECT, so we need to raise money to hire a lawyer RIGHT NOW.
    Friends of ECOS is hosting a litigation fund for NAST.

    Please spread the word about this critical need. MAKE YOUR CHECK OUT
    TO "FRIENDS OF ECOS", include a note directing it to the NAST
    Litigation Fund, and send your donation NOW to:

    909 12th Street, Suite 100
    Sacramento CA 95814

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Final EIR for Hwy 50 Expansion Released

    Caltrans has released the Final EIR for its proposed Highway 50 expansion. Moreover, prior to sending out public notice of the document's release, Caltrans made the requisite findings and approved the project.

    Yet more evidence of Caltrans' deep commitment to transparency and public participation...

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Why so quiet?

    It's been a while since I've posted on this blog, but that's not because NAST has gone away. Instead, I've been posting my musings on the relatively new ECOS Transportation/Air Quality Blog. The interests of ECOS in transportation largely overlap with the interests of NAST, and I hope that the new ECOS blog will foster more dialogue between the self-identified enviros and the self-identified neighborhood activists. Check it out!

    I will continue to post NAST-related items on this site from time to time. Stay tuned for an announcement of our next meeting to discuss the forthcoming final EIR on the Highway 50 project.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    Oh Irony, Thy Name is Caltrans!

    Most, if not all, of the organizations in Sacramento that commented on the Caltrans DEIR
    analyzing Highway 50 expansion expressed disbelief at the idea that expanding the carrying capacity of the freeway by somewhere between 20 and 25 per cent would not increase traffic volumes. Nevertheless, that's what Caltrans claimed.  The Caltrans party line is that the 
    project would accomodate growth (and an increase in traffic) rather than inducing it.  What's really growth inducing, they say, is land use policy.  From Caltrans' perspective, transportation planners merely work to clean up the messes created by land use decisions by local governments that permit sprawling urban and suburban growth.  Highways don't cause traffic; people cause traffic.

    Caltrans' denial that its projects induce traffic demand may sound disingenuous or tongue-in-cheek.  Apparently, however, the agency is dead serious.  Caltrans has developed this notion to the point where its legal arm is now suing local governments to recover "impact fees" for increased traffic on the state's freeways caused by urban development.  Until very recently, one of the local jurisdictions to feel the wrath of the Caltrans lawyers was the City of Sacramento.

    Local governments, needless to say, are not happy about competing with the state 
    transportation agency for impact fees.  And advocates for
    equitable and sustainable transportation might be tempted to view the Caltrans
    position with equal measures of cynicism and disbelief.  When Caltrans focuses its litigious energies on high-density 'smart-growth' projects in highly urbanized areas (as it did in Sacramento), it is particularly easy to view the agency's position with a jaundiced eye.

    But to tell the truth, Caltrans may have a point.  Both
    land use policy and transportation policy have direct impacts on traffic volumes and air quality.  Allowing jurisdictions to build out at will without accounting for the costs of the increasing traffic demand is just another way that we subsidize automobile travel.  And if developers and local governments were forced to pay for the impacts of their projects on state highways, then they might seriously consider whether congestion-reducing mass transportation projects offer more bang for the buck.

    Could Caltrans' aggressive position toward land use policies eventually drive local governments to increase investment in 
    light rail or other forms of mass transit? 

    No CEQA review for highways?

    Even when talk of global warming, alternative fuels, and reducing dependence on petroleum is all the rage among the elected set, too often it's still the legislation that facilitates traffic and 
    sprawl that moves forward.  

    Case in point: This story from the Victorville Daily Press about the plans of the San Bernadino Associated Governments and certain Republican legislators to exempt some road projects from environmental review mandated by CEQA.
    Many Victor Valley officials share a frustration with EIRs and have alleged that they hold up road construction when cities have the funding to move them forward.

    [Victorville City Councilman Mike] Rothschild is a vocal opponent of the studies on some projects, and initiated the discussion at SANBAG by asking the association to lobby for elimination of EIRs on interchange projects along existing highway corridors.
    Thankfully, the Legislature's leadership has turned a cold shoulder in recent years to legislation that would further soften up CEQA.    It's a good bet that this proposal won't get very far either.
    Still, it's indicative of the mentality of those policymakers who continue to see road construction as the panacea for traffic-related growing pains in California.  For some, the environmental impacts of road projects are unimportant, or at best incidental.  And the legal  requirement that an agency need to determine the impacts of road projects is a bureaucratic inconvenience that keeps federal funds from raining down on local construction projects.


    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Land Use Humor

    Wanna see something funny?

    If you're ever down on your own job, take a moment to pity the poor
    planning staff in Sac County who are working on the General Plan. Their
    job is to pretend to treat with utmost seriousness the suggestions made by
    AKT, and similarly mercenary developers, that capture the fancy of the
    supervisors. They must treat these proposals without condescension or
    sarcasm. Unlike us, they're not allowed to dismiss proposals based on
    common sense or suspicions about the source.

    We already know that AKT has proposed opening up portions of rural
    Sacramento County at the extreme eastern frontier to development, in total disregard of the existing Urban Services Boundary. We know
    that county staff opposes the suggestion, pointing to the immense amount
    of developable land within the existing USB and the moderate expansion
    area proposed by staff. We know that even SACOG objects to the idea of
    developing the Eastern Sacramento/El Dorado frontier, since it would
    effectively eviscerate their "Blueprint" land use model. Still, county
    staff has to take this proposal at face value.

    This is county staff's response.

    Don't be fooled by the sober and understated tone. Page by page, this
    document makes a mockery of the Tsakapoulos development plan. With
    admirable restraint, county staff destroys the notion that the development
    of this region is justified by the minimial amount of development
    occurring on the El Dorado side of the line. With a saintly lack of
    sarcasm, they consider the question of whether the proposal is consistent
    with the blueprint, and whether the project would result in traffic
    impacts or increased infrastructure demands on the county.

    Please take a moment to thank county staff for their hard and honest work
    by speaking to their bosses on Wednesday afternoon at 4 PM-- that's when
    the BOS will hold a workshop on the proposed "update" of the county
    General Plan.  If there is any justice in the world, the whole county planning staff should get a raise that is recuperated from the salaries of any supervisors who support the AKT land use scheme.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Mass Transit To Lose Federal Funding?

    Mary Brill sends along this link to a piece in the February 15 issue of the APA Advocate:

    The president's fiscal 2008 budget proposal requests $9.42 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), down $430 million (4.4 percent) from the $9.85 billion provided by Congress in fiscal 2006. The proposed funding is $309 million less than the level authorized by SAFETEA-LU. The proposed funding represents an 18 percent cut from anticipated levels. Most of that cut would come from the New Starts program, which would drop from $1.7 billion to $1.4 billion. The Small Starts program, authorized in SAFETEA-LU, is included in the transit budget at $100 million, however that funding is part of the larger New Starts program. Small Starts was created to expedite development of smaller transit projects, such as streetcars. The cut in transit funding from SAFETEA-LU targets already has sparked bipartisan criticism from leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    DEIR Comments a Go-Go!

    Several organizations and individuals have submitted comments on the Highway 50 expansion DEIR. As I locate copies of those comments, I will post them.

    So far, in addition to NAST's comments, I've added links to comments from the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, Southside Park Neighborhood Association, and ECOS member and air quality expert Earl Withycombe.

    If other organizations can forward comments, preferably in PDF format, I'll post them as well.

    Added to the list are DEIR comments from: East Sacramento Improvement Association, Winn Park/Capitol Avenue Neighborhood Association, Sierra-Curtis Neighborhood Association, Land Park Community Association, and Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education.

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    NAST and ECOS submit DEIR Comments

    ECOS and NAST jointly submitted their comments on the CalTrans DEIR for the Highway 50 expansion project last night. The comments are available here.

    Many people helped with the drafting and review of these comments. I won't try to thank them all by name, especially because some of them would prefer to remain nameless. Nevertheless, my heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who pitched in on this project!

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007

    Planner "Pete" spurns driving alone in HOV lanes

    Sacramento Bee reporter Tony Bizjak notes the following in his "Backseat Driver" Column:

    Since we're talking reports, here's one about hybrid cars in carpool lanes.

    Remember the state law allowing 45-mile-per-gallon hybrids with just one occupant to use the carpool lane? It's an incentive for people to buy environmentally friendly cars.
    A state report tells us there are 3,000 hybrid owners zipping around Sacramento with the yellow decals.

    That is, minus one guy we know, Pete. Pete got a decal, but he won't use it. He just wanted to take one decal out of circulation, on principle.

    He's a planner. Carpool lanes are for carpools, he says.

    It's good to know that at least one policymaker sees the disconnect between current HOV lane policy and the objective of increasing the number of carpools. (We can only wonder whether "Pete" is SACOG's Pete!)

    Tuesday, January 30, 2007

    If You Build It, They WON'T Come?

    Whatever one's opinions about Caltrans' plans for Highway 50, nearly everyone agrees that the so-called "carpool lane" is about expanding capacity so that the freeway can carry more cars. Pete Hathaway says so. Caltrans also says so in the project description.

    It boggles the mind, then, that the planners and engineers at our state's largest transportation agency think that they can expand the capacity of a freeway by 20% to 25% without any effect on the volume of traffic! However strange it sounds, it's true. Below is an excerpt from an email from Caltrans in response to a question asking for justification of their claims that widening Highway 50 will not increase the total number of Vehicle Miles Traveled, and furthermore will not increase the total number of Diesel Vehicle Miles Traveled:

    This project will not increase average daily VMT, but rather it will help to maintain mobility in the face of such growth.

    The bus/carpool lanes are not built to facilitate diesel truck traffic or accommodate more diesel trucks to use the carpool lanes. The percentages of heavy trucks were not assumed to change in the future build models. The bus/carpool lane was not assumed to have any effect on heavy trucks, as they are not allowed to use the bus/carpool lane, even if they have the required number of occupants.

    The only percentages that did increase over time were for bus/carpool vehicles (buses, vanpools, 2+, 3+ autos). There was a corresponding decrease in single-occupant vehicles. Buses can be either diesel powered or other (e.g. gasoline-hybrid, CNG). It's likely that non-diesel powered commuter buses would increase over time. Small delivery trucks were not considered as HOV vehicles.

    In other words, Caltrans thinks that you can add an extra (HOV) lane to a congested freeway without affecting any increase in the total volume of traffic on the freeway! Furthermore, Caltrans thinks that no trucks or diesel vehicles will be added to the freeway, even though the project creates more space for them in all lanes. "Increased capacity" apparently doesn't mean "increased volume" to Caltrans planners.

    What a relief to know that our state's engineers have mastered the magical thinking skills that allow us to continue to build freeways free from negative impacts of the increased traffic that they are built to accomodate!

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Photo from the NAST press conference

    NAST supporters with Sacramento City Council Member Rob Fong and California Assembly Member Dave Jones at the NAST Press Conference, January 17, 2007.

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Highway 50 Workshop Recap

    It's as if we showed up for a gunfight and instead were treated to reruns of "Bonanza"...

    Thanks to those of you who took time out of your busy schedules to come to the Highway 50 workshop this evening. We had expected an opportunity to engage CalTrans staff, on the record, and get some clarification on some important questions on apparent gaps in the environmental review of their proposed Highway 50 expansion. I'm sure there were others, like me, who made a point of taking off from work early so we could be there at 5.00 PM sharp.

    CalTrans, clearly, had other, less ambitious plans. The informal, science fair-style workshop offered no chance to ask the agency as an entity to clarify or explain the DEIR, and there was no opportunity to verbally enter comments onto the record. We were offered the opportunity to drop handwritten comments in the suggestion box, however!

    CalTrans clearly missed a chance to take substantial public input on the DEIR. Consequently, our clarifying questions will need to be submitted along with our written comments, and CalTrans' only chance to respond will be in the Final EIR. That means that there is less chance that the public and CalTrans will be able to come to terms on the proper content of the environmental impact report, and there is a greater chance that the final document will be deficient. Nevertheless, we clearly showed that the community cares about the potential impact of this project.  And we learned more about how democracy works in the world of California transportation planning, where the region's decision makers are one level removed from the will of the voters.

    Thanks again to everyone who took the time to turn out!

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    Highway 50 Expansion: Congestion relief—or accommodation for more traffic?

    “The project purpose is to…improve traffic operations by reducing congestion and travel time.”

    - Sac 50 Bus/Carpool Lanes and Community Enhancements Project DEIR, p. i (emphasis added)

    “Do carpools relieve congestion? Temporarily, but basically, no. They add capacity to the corridor and they provide more people per vehicle.”

    - Pete Hathaway, SACOG Director of Transportation Planning, in comments to the Sacramento City Council,
    November 1, 2005

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Public Hearing on Hwy 50 Expansion Next Week!

    CalTrans has released the DEIR on its proposed project to widen Highway 50 from Sunrise into central Sacramento. They have scheduled two public workshops-- one in Rancho Cordova and one in Sacramento-- to hear public comments on the project. For most of us living in Sacramento, this may be our best chance to demonstrate the level of community opposition to this project.

    The Sacramento hearing on the Highway 50 project takes place NEXT WEDNESDAY, January 10th, from 5 PM to 8 PM at David Lubin Elementary School, 3535 M Street. PLEASE take this opportunity to share your thoughts on the impact, on our region and our neighborhoods, of increasing vehicular traffic along the 50 corridor. Even if you're not willing to speak, your presence to support the speakers is crucial. A strong public showing of opposition is politically very important.

    For those of you who have been waiting for an opportunity to help NAST fight this project, this really is, um, where the rubber hits the road. Or the steel wheels hit the rails. You choose the metaphor!

    Please distribute widely! Bring your friends and neighbors!

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007, 5 PM to 8 PM
    David Lubin Elementary School
    3535 M Street
    Sacramento, CA 

    Saturday, December 16, 2006

    Sac Business Journal Poll

    The Sacramento Business Journal is running an online poll regarding the Highway 50 

    You can vote in their poll here.

    As a reliable indicator of what people in the region actually believe, these online polls are almost as valuable as reading the entrails of the chicken you cooked for dinner last night.  But who knows, maybe somebody is paying attention.  And nobody pays for internet service by the hour anymore, so vote away!  At minimum, you'll be skewing whatever reader data the Business Journal imagines it can collect from their website.

    (This week's print edition of the Sac Business Journal has an article on the release of the DEIR for the Highway 50 expansion.)

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Big Picture

    While much of the NAST coalition's energy right now is focused on a single (incredibly important) regional transportation project, every now and then it's good to disengage long enough to ask what longer-term goals neighborhood and transportation advocates might articulate for the Sacramento area. I came across a provocative web page maintained by the Project for Public Spaces in New York that articulates an intriguing, if somewhat problematic approach to transportation planning. The essence of PPS' perspective seems to be that transportation is a place in itself just as much as it is a means of getting places. As a result of thinking about transportation as a place, PPS places less emphasis on speed (or mobility) and more emphasis on the quality of transportation corridors as social, public spaces:
    Roads can be shared spaces with pedestrian refuges, bike lanes, on-street parking etc. Parking lots can become public markets on weekends. Even major urban arterials can be retrofitted to provide for dedicated bus lanes, well-designed bus stops that serve as gathering places, and multi-modal facilities for bus rapid transit or other forms of travel. Roads are places too!
    I'm not certain that PPS' approach applies unproblematically to the planning of interregional transit, like freeways or medium-distance mass transit. And certainly, freeway expansion disguised as HOV lane is an approach that fails to perform even according to traditional, common-sense, mobility-oriented standards. Nevertheless, the PPS transportation site is provocative. What are the specific objectives of a just, equitable, and sustainable transportation system?

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    US 50 Expansion DEIR Released

    The DEIR for Caltrans proposed project to expand Highway 50 has been released:

    You can view the DEIR online here.  The document is also available for review at a variety of locations, including the Central Library, the McClatchy Library, and the McKinley Neighboorhood Library.

    At first glance, there are a couple particularly interesting (and dubious) conclusions in the Summary:

    1. Caltrans projects "isolated traffic volume increases" near entrance and exit ramps, but concludes that the project's impact on traffic would be "less than significant."
    2. The Air Quality impacts are limited to "short-term construction-related air emissions." If construction contractors comply with best management practices, Caltrans procedures, and applicable law, Caltrans claims the air quality impact will be "less than significant."

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    DEIR Release this Wednesday!

    One of our esteemed and connected members learned from Caltrans today that the DEIR on the proposed expansion of Highway 50 in Sacramento County will be released this WEDNESDAY, December 13.  After it is released, the public will have 60 days to review and comment on it. Caltrans will also conduct two 'workshops' to hear public commentary on the DEIR.

    (DEIR stands for Draft Environmental Impact Report-- a document prepared by state agencies to review the potential environmental impacts of their actions and to propose mitigation of those impacts.)

    This is our best opportunity to air our concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed project at both the regional and neighborhood levels. If you or your organization is worried about the prospect of increased traffic through central Sacramento and development of a regional transportation grid that encourages sprawl and automobile dependence, PLEASE take time to submit comments on the DEIR. Environmental analyses can be challenged in court, but only to the extent that the issues are raised during the public comment period following release of the DEIR. 

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    Sustainable Transportation Projects

    In case you were wondering how SACOG might otherwise spend the $195 million that CalTrans seeks for Highway 50 expansion, here are some suggestions (courtesy of Warren Cushman). These are all projects that should be included in the MTP and receive priority for funding:

    1. Double-tracking the Folsom light rail line.
    2. South line (light rail), phase 2.
    3. Street car service between West Sacramento and downtown
    4. Neighborhood shuttle service in Arden Arcade
    5. Expanded RT service on Watt Avenue
    6. Neighborhood shuttle service in South Sacrmento
    7. BRT (bus rapid transit) along Sunrise Blvd.
    8. Sacramento RT bus service to the airport

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    The City Follows Through?

    On November 22, Sacramento Vice Mayor Rob Fong and City Manager Ray Kerridge sent a letter to CalTrans Director Will Kempton. In the letter, they reiterate the City's
    opposition to the expansion of Highway 50. They also clearly state the City's support of
    "transportation investment that promotes density, increases transit ridership and walkable communities, and also alleviates congestion and improves air quality." The letter closes by requesting a meeting with Director Kempton "to further discuss the HOV lane project."

    You can read the entire letter here.

    The Vice Mayor and the City Manager deserve our congratulations for following through on the City Council's official position opposing this project. This is the sort of leadership we expect from elected officials and city staff. You might consider contacting them to thank them for their support.

    (You also might consider contacting Mayor Fargo, who also serves as SACOG chair, to ask what she intends to do to make the City's opposition clear!)

    Sunday, November 26, 2006

    Bond funding and Highway Expansion

    Paul Trudeau forwards a link to Daniel Weintraub's column on potential political wrangling over the expenditure of transportation bond funds authorized by Proposition 1B.  For many people, myself included, it was frustrating to be confronted with a bond measure that created a substantial pot of money ($4 billion) for transit projects at the same time that it earmarked more than twice that much for freeway expansion projects.  The devil is, of course, in the details, and it will take vigilant elected officials and voters to ensure that freeway funds are not used on boondoggle projects that provide only temporary congestion relief rather than sustainable solutions to our transportation issues.

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Update on Highway 50 Expansion

    CalTrans' proposal to expand Highway 50 from Sunrise Boulevard through
    downtown appears to be in jeopardy! On November 14, Caltrans Region 3
    Chief Jody Jones wrote to the Sacramento Transportation Authority (the
    body charged with overseeing Measure A Transportation funds) to give a
    "status report" on the Highway 50 Project. What her letter reveals is not
    so much a status report as it is an entire redefinition of the project.
    Ms. Jones' letter revealed that CalTrans has scaled back its plans to
    expand Highway 50. Rather than widening the freeway all the way through
    downtown/midtown, CalTrans is now considering whether to stop the
    expansion at Watt Avenue or whether to continue as far as the 99/50
    Interchange (in Oak Park). These are apparently the only "build"
    alternatives that will be considered at length in CalTrans' environmental

    It appears that CalTrans has, for the moment, decided not to defy the
    wishes of the City and the central Sacramento neighborhoods by expanding
    Highway 50 through downtown. I have absolutely no doubt that this is due
    in large part to the pressure that NAST has exerted on our elected
    officials and policy makers. It is not a coincidence that the new
    alternatives avoid the areas where resistance to the project has been
    greatest. However, despite our collective impact on the Caltrans planning
    process, the project is still a threat.

    Expanding Highway 50 from Sunrise to Watt or the 50/99 interchange will
    still massively increase the number of cars travelling from the eastern
    part of the region to downtown. Ultimately, those cars will filter
    through Sacramento neighborhoods, either via the existing Midtown exits,
    or via neighborhood streets between downtown and the terminus of the HOV
    lane. As it currently stands, Cal Trans' proposed alternatives will not
    only increase traffic in the neighborhoods immediately around downtown
    (the point of departure or destination for most of the new traffic), but
    will also have severe impacts on neighborhoods around the Watt Ave. exit
    or the 50/99 interchange. Furthermore, widening the freeway to Watt or 99
    is clearly an attempt to build out Highway 50 in stages. If completed, we
    would undoubtedly see proposals to continue the expansion through the
    downtown area. Although we have clearly had an impact on the design of the
    project, we STILL have not convinced our transportation planners to
    examine more sustainable, less auto-dependent transportation solutions to
    the needs of our growing community.

    NAST will be meeting on Thursday, December 7 at 7 PM at the common house
    of the Sacramento Co-Housing Project (5th St. and T St.) We will be
    discussing the next steps to take in response to the changes to the
    project and in anticipation of the release of the environmental study of
    the project. Please plan to attend this meeting, particularly if you
    represent one of NAST's member organizations. We have demonstrated our
    ability to have an impact on this project. However, to realize our goal
    of seeing the resources from this project diverted to more sustainable,
    transit-oriented alternatives, we will need to coordinate our efforts.