If you held the purse strings to Caltrans, how would you spend your tax dollars?

By
Monday, August 24th, 2015

CRTP_LOGO_2ColorWould you build bigger freeways or fix existing failing roadways and infrastructure?

Would you chose to bulldoze through a wetland in order to reduce a five and a half hour drive time by five minutes or would you make improvements to portions of the road known to regularly cause deadly accidents? Would you design projects to accommodate the needs of commercial interests or the regional community who use the roads?

These are the questions, we at EPIC continue to ask ourselves and we would like to know what you think—what are your transportation priorities?

For the past 7-years, EPIC has defended the ancient redwood forest of Richardson Grove State Park and the Wild and Scenic Smith River from two highway realignment projects the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has designed in order to allow oversized trucks into sensitive environments. The purpose of these projects is questionable, with dubious economic justifications and known negative environmental impacts. Are these projects what the North Coast wants and needs?

Our court cases have stopped the projects and have shown a lack of agency consideration to legal obligations; and over the years public perception has changed, especially in Sacramento, regarding what should Caltrans’ priorities be. EPIC is committed to holding the line for the legal defense for Richardson Grove, and the Smith River 197/199 Project; however lawsuits slow, they do not typically make projects go away. We believe that with increased public pressure and new information, we can build the political momentum needed to stop these projects once and for all.

I would like to introduce you to a newly created organization called the, Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP). CRTP is dedicated to a new vision for transportation on California’s North Coast. Their vision is to build on the geographic advantage of the North Coast by encouraging spending of limited transportation infrastructure dollars on projects that ensure a high quality of life for the community. They reject the outdated idea that limited transportation dollars should be spent on building ever-wider roads, but instead, focus on maintaining the roads and bridges we have in order to ensure that people can continue to get to local homes and businesses—and then improve our community-level infrastructure to ensure that they want to stay.

The Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities will be on redwood coast community radio station, the KMUD Environment Show, on Tuesday, August 25th, from 7-8pm. Listen live at 99.1FM or stream it live or archived at KMUD.org

On Wednesday, August 26th CRTP is hosting a “Meet and Greet” from 5-7pm at the Chapala Café (201 Second St, Eureka). These are informal occasions for anyone interested in the issues to talk about CRTP’s plans and priorities as well as other local transportation topics.

CRTP Priorities

Spend our limited transportation dollars on maintenance and repairs first. For many years, our state and our nation have built more and bigger infrastructure than we can afford to maintain. On the North Coast, the rugged and unstable terrain combined with the age of our roads and bridges make this problem particularly acute. Our crumbling roads and bridges put basic access for residents and emergency services at risk. Fixing these problems needs to come before we even consider expanding existing roadways.

Only fund new infrastructure that supports healthy, livable, sustainable communities. The road-building, road-widening approach to transportation planning is a relic of an earlier era—a fact reflected by Caltrans’ current mission and policies. When we build new infrastructure today, it should be with the goal of supporting safe, environmentally sustainable, community-building modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, mass transit, and responsible marine transportation.

Cancel counterproductive road expansion projects. We can no longer afford new infrastructure for the biggest fossil fuel-burning vehicles. Thanks to the “Buckhorn Grade” project, the biggest trucks on the road will soon have two ways to enter Humboldt and Del Norte Counties—via US 101 from Oregon and Highway 299 from Redding. The proposed Caltrans projects at Richardson Grove and on Highways 199/197 would add two more segments to this STAA trucking network, inviting even more big trucks into our communities and increasing greenhouse gas emissions at a time when Governor Brown has required Caltrans to reduce them. These projects are expensive, unnecessary and damaging to our roads, communities and environments. They reflect outdated planning priorities, and they do not serve our local needs. They can and should be canceled.