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California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA)

CalSTA Secretary David Kim to Step Down

CalSTA Secretary David Kim at a recent CicLAvia. Photo: CalSTA

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Citing personal reasons, CalSTA Secretary David Kim told his staff yesterday that he is stepping down from his post as of next week.

Kim has headed up the California State Transportation Agency since April 2019, and in that short time has proven to be an ally of advocates for better, more sustainable transportation investments. He guided the creation of the state Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI). Pushback from industry and labor tried to water down the report's recommendations, but Kim and CalSTA staff held firm, producing a remarkable document that outlines principles on equity, safety, climate risk, and active transportation to underpin all state transportation policy decisions going forward.

Kim has supported Caltrans' adoption of a safe systems approach to replace its traditional focus on keeping traffic moving. He has frequently reiterated the importance of reining in California's investments in widening and expanding highways, when we can barely maintain what we have.

He has also supported investing in active transportation, and came out as a big fan of CicLAvia, which he called "an absolutely glorious event" and "in line with the future of transportation in California."

Under his leadership, California got its policy priorities included in the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including historic levels of funding for transit, support for passenger rail, and a program to help reconnect communities ripped apart by past transportation policy decisions.

The federal investment will help move forward some of the policy and investment shifts championed by Kim in California. Still, his departure will be a loss. Having an ally at the very top - CalSTA oversees all transportation agencies and departments in the state, including Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission, the California Highway Patrol, and the Department of Motor Vehicles - has made some of these necessary changes easier for other leaders to champion.

Kim is rightly proud of these accomplishments. In his letter to his staff, he wrote:

I very much believe these actions... represent a bold departure from past practice and will set the stage for lasting, profound changes in the way transportation improvements are delivered in California – to prioritize climate, health, equity and safety goals like never before.

All of these accomplishments, including those not listed here, are a direct result of your contributions, energy, creativity and leadership. Thanks to you, we’ve built a high caliber, high performing team – and I’m incredibly proud of what you’ve done and will continue to do.

But these efforts are still in their infancy. CAPTI was adopted just this past summer, and it will continue to need time and focused attention to get it incorporated it into state policies and funding decisions. There have already been signs of resistance, with opponents pushing scare-tactic economic and even false equity arguments to resist change.

A stalwart champion will continue to be needed at the top to keep these nascent efforts going.

Kim will be replaced for the moment by CalSTA undersecretary Elissa Konove, who will become acting Secretary until Newsom appoints a permanent replacement. Konove was previously deputy CEO at Metrolink in L.A., and has shown herself to be aligned with CalSTA's current direction toward climate-friendly and sustainable transportation policies.

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