Major Pushback Against Caltrans Over Complete Streets Bill Fiscal Impact
On August 21, Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (Dem-80, above right) did something unusual. Gonzalez chairs the Appropriations Committee. She allowed testimony on The Complete Streets for Active Living Bill (SB 127 – Wiener), even though the bill was, by rule, headed for the suspense file. The Chair prefers that members waive testimony for bills going to the suspense file, but Gonzalez took the opportunity to rake Caltrans over the coals for making unfounded claims about the Complete Streets Bill fiscal impact in an effort to sink the bill.
The Complete Streets Bill requires Caltrans to accommodate people walking or biking when it repairs or rebuilds a state route that also serves as a local street. The bill allows exceptions, but will require the agency to explain at a public hearing why Complete Streets additions to maintenance projects are infeasible. The legislation will simply require Caltrans to follow its own stated Complete Streets policy.
Apparently, this is all too much for Caltrans. The agency has issued wildly inflated estimates of the cost to implement SB 127, in an attempt to sink the bill.
In the hearing, Gonzalez called out Caltrans for its inaccurate numbers and incendiary tactics. Senator Scott Wiener who introduced the Complete Streets Bill earlier this year, took to Twitter to call out Caltrans in no uncertain terms.
“I’m authoring #SB127 to ensure state roads that run through cities – eg 19th Ave, Santa Monica Blvd, San Pablo Ave – are safe for pedestrians & cyclists. Caltrans has now issued a grossly inflated, fake cost estimate of >$1B to tank the bill. Here’s my letter pushing back hard.”
I’m authoring #SB127 to ensure state roads that run through cities – eg 19th Ave, Santa Monica Blvd, San Pablo Ave – are safe for pedestrians & cyclists. Caltrans has now issued a grossly inflated, fake cost estimate of >$1B to tank the bill. Here’s my letter pushing back hard. pic.twitter.com/9sMo15ImvD
— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) August 21, 2019
Weiner attached to his Tweet a copy of a letter he sent to David Kim, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), of which Caltrans is a division. In it, he calls out the inaccurate assumptions behind the sky-high cost estimate for Complete Streets projects presented by Caltrans. According to Wiener’s letter the Caltrans estimate that Complete Streets would add $1.1 billion annually (Caltrans’ estimate was actually $1.3 billion) to state road-building costs was based on the assumption that bike and pedestrian facilities cost $4.5 million per centerline mile. Wiener pointed out that Complete Streets elements are often the least expensive part of a project. He cited costs between $20,000 and $600,000 per centerline mile. The Caltrans figure is 7.5 times the high end of this range.
Many thanks to Senator Wiener and Assembly Member Gonzalez for strongly backing this important bill. The Complete Streets Bill is CalBike’s most important legislation in 2019. Vocal support from elected representatives, our coalition partners, and CalBike members has carried the bill so far.
The Complete Streets Bill has made it through some tough fights. The toughest of all may be ahead, as Caltrans pulls out all the stops to try to block SB 127. We’ll need all hands on deck to make sure this important bill passes and is signed into law.