As state leaders race to fight climate change, Caltrans gets stuck

It’s been exciting in Sacramento recently, as California, already a leader, keeps pushing ahead to fight climate change:

– Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order requiring the state to cut climate pollutants by 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030. This makes sure that the state is on track to make the larger cuts required by AB 32, of 80% by 2050.

– Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León is leading a package of climate legislation to cut petroleum use in half and codify the state’s greenhouse-gas reduction targets.

Can Caltrans keep up?

As the executive and legislative branches race ahead, the state’s agencies need to keep up. To actually deliver on these policies, the state has to change how it chooses to invest in transportation, moving toward climate-friendly public transit, biking, and walking.

But is the state’s spending actually supporting its goals? At Caltrans, at least on one plan, the answer may be “nope.”

The Interregional Plan goes the wrong way

ClimatePlan partners have been working on several state transportation funding plans and policies. One, we are dismayed to report, seems totally stuck.

Caltrans recently released its latest draft Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan (ITSP). The ITSP is important because it guides large transportation investments and addresses how people are traveling between the state’s regions.

In December, we called for change: asking for ITSP vision, objectives, and goals to be better aligned with the state’s climate goals. Here, very briefly summarized, were our recommendations:

– Support the state’s climate goals.
– Prioritize interregional rail over highway expansion.
– Help people connect to local public transit, walking, and biking.
– Consider sustainability, equity, stewardship, and health in transportation planning and funding.
– Be transparent.

Unfortunately, Caltrans’ new draft does not acknowledge or incorporate any of our recommendations. Instead, the plan prioritizes highway expansion—which increases driving and pollution.  It does not address multimodal local connections to interregional travel.

Worst of all, the plan does not even address reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Moving forward

With California Walks and a number of other partners, we are calling for the ITSP to:

– Integrate GHG emission reductions, public health, and equity into project evaluation criteria
– Align highway capacity priorities with state climate goals
– Prioritize investment for non-automobile interregional options
– Address multimodal local connections to the interregional system

The ITSP must align with the state’s climate goals.

We submitted our new comment letter yesterday and are planning to meet with state agency officials to further these goals.

You can help: To join these conversations, please contact Tony Dang at tony [AT]


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