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More Than 60 Organizations Urge Governor Newsom to Intervene at Caltrans

California is still spending billions of dollars on highway and interchange expansions that increase reliance on driving, drain household budgets, and make traffic worse. Governor Newsom should step in.

1:00 PM PDT on October 17, 2023

San Mateo County officials are desperate to widen Highway 101 from eight to ten lanes at a cost of over $300 million. Photo: Andrew Boone

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.

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.

The letter is reproduced below in full, and can also be accessed at this link.

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