Tag Archive for: Caltrans

CalBike Joins 100 Organizations Urging More Oversight of Caltrans

CalBike, along with over 100 climate, mobility, and transportation justice nonprofits, signed a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting greater oversight of Caltrans. The letter, spearheaded by NextGen California, made three specific requests:

  • An external audit of the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) to ensure that funds aren’t being illegally used to widen roads.
  • A third-party investigation of allegations by former Caltrans Deputy Director Jeanie Ward-Waller. Specifically, Ward-Waller said Caltrans District 3 is widening a freeway in what was supposed to be a repaving project. The letter requests an investigation of all Caltrans districts to ensure none are using funds for unauthorized road expansion. 
  • A moratorium on all road and interchange expansions until the investigations are completed.

Scroll down to read the full letter and add your name.

Transportation is a critical element of climate mitigation

The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to California’s greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and investing in low- and no-carbon transportation are essential. In 2021, California adopted the Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI). CAPTI calls for “investing billions of discretionary transportation dollars annually to aggressively combat and adapt to climate change while supporting public health, safety and equity.”

Yet Caltrans continues to build and widen freeways guaranteed to induce greater VMT. As Ward-Waller’s firing showed, the agency includes staffers, and perhaps whole districts, determined to stick to the old mission of moving high volumes of motor vehicles, with little regard for the safety of people not in cars or the environment.

This year, CalBike urged legislators to allocate half of California’s state transportation budget, about $10 billion, on active transportation: biking, walking, and public transit. Those uses require less asphalt, have much smaller carbon footprints, and promote the health and vibrancy of whole neighborhoods. 

In 2024, we will continue our Invest/Divest campaign to invest in clean, green mobility options and divest from climate-killing and inequitable freeways. As the past few years of extreme weather have made extremely clear, California can’t afford old ways of thinking about transportation. We need radical transformation of our transportation systems, and we need to make it happen quickly. 

At CalBike, we believe a future filled with safe and convenient low- and no-carbon transportation is possible. We will never stop working for it.

You can support this effort by adding your name to the letter in the form below.

Sign on to support greater oversight of Caltrans.

Governor Signs Bill to Bring Transparency to Caltrans

For Immediate Release: 10/9/23

Contact: Jared Sanchez, CalBike (714) 262-0921, Jared@CalBike.org

Gov. Newsom Signs Caltrans Freeway Data Bill into Law

SACRAMENTO – Governor Newsom has signed SB 695 (Gonzalez) into law. This bill, supported by CalBike, will increase data transparency by adding requirements to the CA Vehicle Code that Caltrans must prepare and make available information and data about activities on the state highway system on a public website.

Specifically, SB 695 will require Caltrans, beginning January 1, 2026, to annually prepare and make available on its internet website information and data about projects on the state highway system from the prior fiscal year, as specified, and to present this information and data to the California Transportation Commission at a regularly scheduled commission meeting on or before April 1 of each year.

Public oversight of Caltrans projects is crucial for Californians. Caltrans has a history of ignoring the wishes of state legislators and the public. The recent firing of Caltrans deputy director Jeanie Ward-Waller as she was preparing to make a whistleblower complaint shows that SB 695 is a necessary step to reigning in a rogue agency. 

“Recent staffing controversies have shown Caltrans’ resistance to adapting California transportation to address the climate crisis,” said Jared Sanchez, policy director of CalBike. “This new public data portal will help Californians understand where our money is going and enable the public oversight needed to help the old Department of Highways become the modern transportation agency California needs.”

Data to be required on the Caltrans Freeway Data portal:

  • Total lane miles in the state highway system.
  • New total lane miles added to the state highway system.
  • Breakdown of the number of miles added by type, including, but not limited to, general purpose lanes, auxiliary lanes, managed lanes, including high-occupancy vehicle lanes, and interchanges, as well as information on improvements to interchanges.
  • A project description of each project that added lane miles to the state highway system.
  • The number of miles of the state highway system that were relinquished.
  • The number of miles of the state highway system that were converted from a general purpose lane to a managed lane, including a high-occupancy vehicle lane, and a high-occupancy vehicle lane to a high-occupancy toll lane or other type of lane.
  • The number of homes and businesses that were relocated due to the acquisition of rights-of-way for the new lane miles on the state highway system.
  • The number of new bike lane miles added to state highways, broken down by Class I, Class II, Class III, and Class IV.
  • The number of new sidewalk miles added to state highways and the number of existing sidewalks that were reconstructed to improve accessibility and the safety of pedestrians.

Response to Caltrans Firing Jeanie Ward-Waller

For Immediate Release: 10/9/23 

Contact: Kendra Ramsey, CalBike, (707) 469-3387, kendra@calbike.org

CalBike Statement on Caltrans Firing of Active Mobility Expert

Caltrans Must Serve All Californians, Not Just People in Cars   

Re: Caltrans to Ward-Waller: Our way or the highway – Politico 10/3/23

SACRAMENTO – In her role as Deputy Director of Planning and Modal Programs, former CalBike policy director Jeanie Ward-Waller was instrumental in moving Caltrans toward investments in transportation infrastructure that supports low-carbon mobility options for all Californians, and divesting from traffic-inducing practices and infrastructure. CalBike is disappointed that Caltrans removed Ward-Waller from this post, despite her record of positive achievements, including helping the agency draft its Complete Streets policy.

“Jeanie is a tireless advocate for better biking and walking infrastructure,” said CalBike executive director Kendra Ramsey. “Her firing is a huge loss for Caltrans, for climate justice, and for anyone who cares about creating safer roadways in California.” 

As the agency responsible for 50,000 miles of roadways–almost 20% of which serve as local streets–Caltrans plays an enormous role in making roads in California safe places for people to bike and walk. The agency is also tasked with moving our transportation network away from car dependency to support the state’s climate change goals. But as the recent firing of the person responsible for keeping Caltrans on track with those goals shows, the agency that used to be called the Department of Highways still sees its primary role as increasing California’s highway capacity, working against the transition to a green transportation future.  

California Must Invest in Complete Streets

It is a critical time for transportation in California; vulnerable road users are subject to an epidemic of traffic violence, and our state is not advancing quickly enough toward viable low-carbon transportation options. Now more than ever, Caltrans must be a leader in fostering Complete Streets throughout the state and rebuilding our transportation networks to support safe, accessible, and convenient options for walking, bicycling, and taking transit. 

At the same time, it’s critical to stop expanding freeways. Decades of research confirm that increased highway capacity induces more driving, and California and the world must invest in alternatives to transport goods and people and divest from polluting roadways that fracture communities and habitats. Caltrans removed Ward-Waller from her post after she raised concerns that pavement rehabilitation funds were being used for roadway widening. This underscores the disconnect between Caltrans practices and California’s stated commitment to climate-friendly transportation policies.

What CalBike is Doing

CalBike worked to institutionalize a commitment to supporting active transportation at Caltrans when it sponsored the Complete Streets Bill in 2019, which would have mandated a more transparent process at the agency and more Complete Streets. Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill citing the direction of new leadership, and Caltrans vowed to do better. While we have seen some improvement, Ward-Waller’s firing is an ominous sign that the agency’s priorities and vision remain car-centric.

CalBike is digging into how well Caltrans has lived up to its promises to consider the needs of people who bike and walk, and we expect to start releasing data this winter as we prepare a full report.

CalBike is also working with our partners in local and regional agencies as well as local and regional advocates to demand that Caltrans interchanges be subject to new Complete Streets design guidance under Design Information Bulletin (DIB) 94. We applaud the governor for signing SB 695, which will bring more transparency to Caltrans projects, but that’s just the first step.

CalBike remains committed to holding Caltrans accountable for honoring the will of the legislature to protect the climate and the safety of people biking and walking. California needs a moratorium on highway expansions and a strong commitment to creating Complete Streets that make biking and walking safe and appealing. 

Caltrans: We Need Complete Streets at Freeway Interchanges

When Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed CalBike’s Complete Streets bill in 2019, he assured Californians that we didn’t need the mandate for safer streets. Caltrans, he noted, had new leadership and would implement the needed changes without legislation. 

Caltrans does appear to have made some positive changes in the past four years. CalBike is working on a report to assess how well the agency has done and where Complete Streets upgrades are lacking. Take our Complete Streets Survey.

However, as the agency prepares to approve new Complete Streets design standards, a last-minute change would exempt freeway interchanges from Complete Streets evaluation, ensuring that some of the most dangerous spots on our roadways will remain lethal to vulnerable road users.

Last week, CalBike sent a letter to Caltrans and CalSTA leadership urging them to apply Complete Streets design standards to all of Caltrans’ rights-of-way that serve as local streets, including interchanges. We hope you’ll add your voice, too (see below).

Complete Streets design guidance for Caltrans engineers

A new Caltrans Design Information Bulletin, DIB-94, Complete Streets Contextual Design Guidance, will set official standards and guidance for state, regional, and local transportation agencies when adding Complete Streets to the state-controlled road network. CalBike has been impressed with the development of the standards as Caltrans works to prioritize Complete Streets. The latest DIB is exactly the type of guidance we need in California to realize Caltrans’ and California State Transportation Agency’s (CalSTA) Complete Streets vision; meet climate action goals; and create a cleaner, safer, more equitable, and more connected active transportation system for all users. 

However, there’s a major exception in the bulletin that is, literally, big enough to drive a truck through. None of the official standards and guidance are required where a street intersects with a Caltrans-controlled freeway.

In other words, on any local street that interchanges with a freeway, arguably the most dangerous part of the transportation system, safety upgrades at the interchange are not required and won’t be added without a lengthy additional process. 

With this exception, Caltrans makes it difficult, if not impossible, to create connected bikeway networks in many communities. The agency would never build a road that dead-ended at an intersection, then started up again on the other side, yet that’s what this guidance would effectively create for bike improvements.

According to transportation officials, this is because converting an interchange into a Complete Street, with narrower lanes, would be too difficult for freight trucks to navigate. But trucks already navigate narrower roads as soon as they enter a right-of-way that has a safer street in place. This justification, once again, reveals the supremacy our transportation leaders give to freight in our transportation system. More evidence of this, as Streetsblog recently reported: Caltrans routinely makes VMT-reduction exceptions to freight truck traffic induced by new highway capacity. 

This change, unfortunately, was introduced at the last minute of the DIB-94 development process, giving the public little time to take notice before the final version of DIB-94 is approved. Removing interchanges from the purview of the DIB effectively creates an onerous process for local agencies working to improve biking and walking networks across state routes and makes Complete Streets much less likely. 

Tell Caltrans what you think

Interchanges — overpasses and underpasses with ramp connections to the State or National Highway System — are the only means to cross the highways that bisect many neighborhoods in California. 

Before DIB-94 is approved, we’re working behind the scenes to get it to a place that will align with Caltrans’ official complete streets policy (DP-37). Please contact Caltrans to remind them of the importance of applying Complete Street design standards to Catrans’ non-freeway rights-of-way, including interchanges.

CalBike Insider: Street Safety, Budget Surplus, and the Death of a Good Idea

A great deal of the work your CalBike staff does in Sacramento is behind the scenes. We attend technical advisory committee meetings, advise senior (and junior) staff on best practices, and nudge state agencies to advance in our direction: toward better communities where more people can experience the healthful joy of bicycling, with equity, prosperity, and inclusion as top priorities. This week we’ve been reflecting on advances at Caltrans, advocating for active transportation allocations from the budget surplus, and mourning the speed camera bill, which died in committee.

Some of our work is necessarily private, but here’s what we can tell you.

Caltrans is Making Progress 

Changing a huge bureaucracy is often difficult. It’s been a slow process to transform Caltrans from an agency that safeguards the interests of cars to one that responds to our current challenges, and there is much more work still to be done.

However, under the leadership of Toks Omishakin, Caltrans has impressed us with structural changes. One great example is the creation of a high-level Division of Safety Programs and the appointment of longtime bicycle advocate Rachel Carpenter as its Chief Safety Officer. Carpenter previously worked on Livable Streets at SFMTA and she’s a regular bike commuter. The division will bring additional focus to the goal of zero traffic deaths. This should have influence over other offices within Caltrans which impact safety, such as Traffic Operations and the Division of Design. 

Budget surplus provides an opportunity to fund active transportation projects

California’s May Budget Revision showed a $76 billion surplus, with $38 billion in discretionary spending. The competition for that money is fierce. It’s the source of the $600 checks that most Californians will receive, and a welcome boost to early childhood education and afterschool programs. It’s also a great source for infrastructure funding, especially since it’s a one-time boost. The competitive statewide portion of the Active Transportation Program is funded annually at about $220 million. In 2020, California communities submitted applications for $2.3 billion of projects. It desperately needs an infusion of cash.

Yet active transportation advocates had mixed reactions to a proposal from a cohort of California Transportation Commissioners with ties to the road-building industry. The commissioners asked for an incredible $2 billion infusion into the ATP. However, their intention was to derail an earlier proposal suggested by the California State Transportation Agency in its draft “Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure” that called for an ongoing increase in the ATP by taking a little bit from other programs that mostly fund highways.  

Advocates promote an alternate proposal for the budget surplus

CalBike and our allies made an alternative proposal to the Budget Committees, seeking $1 billion for the ATP and an additional $1 billion for other active transportation projects, such as the 15-minute neighborhoods and bicycle highways envisioned by AB 1147.

The governor’s May revision proposed a $500 million augmentation to the ATP and $500 million for regions to implement the goals of AB 1147, although the governor’s proposal is not as visionary as that bill imagines. 

This week, CalBike is advocating to win our original request of $1 billion for the ATP and $1 billion for other active transportation projects. The coalition of road builders has joined us in asking for $1 billion for the ATP, but we parted ways on the additional funding for the programs that expand highway capacity that the road builders wanted.

Whatever happens, it looks like the ATP will get a huge infusion of funds. By law, half of the funds enter the statewide competition and half are distributed to local agencies. The state’s portion of the funding will help to implement scores of projects that were unfunded in last year’s round. Also, CalBike will continue to advocate for a longer-term solution to the underfunding of the ATP. The governor’s proposed expenditures on transportation in the next fiscal year are $32.6 billion. Unfortunately, much of this is for highways and other subsidies for driving that make bicycling and walking harder. The ATP does not stand a chance to achieve its goals unless the balance of funding shifts. 

CalBike endorses speed camera bill, but the Appropriations Committee does not

AB 550 proposed a pilot project to test the efficacy of speed cameras in several California cities. The bill would have required local agencies to develop guidelines for the program with strict limitations that ensured the system would not increase inequities in California. Fines would have to be low, and only charged at speeds 10 mph or more over the speed limit. Fines could not have additional fees tacked on. The car owner would get the fine, like a parking ticket. Police would not be allowed to be involved. The bill also put privacy controls in place. 

The bill’s author, Assembly Member David Chiu, did such a good job addressing these equity concerns that we were excited to support it. Camera speed enforcement reduces crashes and saves lives, and it might be the only acceptable solution to scofflaw speeders on certain streets.  

However, the Appropriations Committee killed the bill at its May 20 hearing. The committee didn’t offer any clues for their reason for killing this bill, but the demise of AB 550 is a loss for safe streets. CalBike supports the concept of speed safety systems. If another bill is introduced that addresses equity concerns as comprehensively as AB 550, we’ll support it. 

Thank Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin

Here’s something we don’t often say at CalBike: Good work, Caltrans!

As we reported here, Caltrans pulled $100 million in funding from its biannual road repair program to add bike and pedestrian safety elements to some of the projects. This directive came from the top: Director Toks Omishakin.

This was an explicit and unprecedented admission that Caltrans made a mistake in excluding such safety improvements when these projects were first planned. Even better, as Caltrans staff choose how to allocate that $100 million, they are putting disadvantaged communities first. The people most impacted by inequities in our transportation system will benefit from positive public investment for a change.

These steps give us confidence that, when this program comes up for funding again in about 18 months, the projects will include bike and pedestrian safety improvements from the beginning.

Please take a moment to thank Director Omishakin for this important shift in direction at our state DOT. We’ve included draft language. Feel free to add your own thoughts.

California Bicycle Coalition Applauds Caltrans Move to Add Complete Streets to SHOPP Projects

For immediate release 5/14/2020

Contact: Dave Snyder, dave@calbike.org, 916-251-9433

California Bicycle Coalition Applauds Caltrans Move to Add Complete Streets to SHOPP Projects

At the May 13, 2020 meeting of the California Transportation Commission (CTC), the Director of the State Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Toks Omishakin, asked the CTC to set aside $100 million from the 2020 State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) for bike and pedestrian safety improvements in SHOPP projects. CalBike applauds Caltrans leadership for championing the Complete Streets improvements that many California streets desperately need. Please take a moment to thank Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin.

A technicality at the CTC meeting prevented the commission from approving the whole $100 million. However, the conversation among commissioners made it clear that they intend to approve the rest of the funding at its next meeting in June.

The request came as part of the director’s stated commitment to make good on the governor’s promise that Caltrans will implement the intent of last year’s Complete Streets Act despite his veto. “While the state has a long way to go to turn the SHOPP and other state programs into funding sources for safety and sustainability and equity, this unprecedented action indicates the agency is serious about changing how it implements the SHOPP. These funds are essential to make desperately needed improvements for biking and walking safety,” said Dave Snyder, CalBike Executive Director.

Prior to the meeting, Commissioners received a letter from CalBike as part of a coalition of organizations led by Esther Rivera of California Walks. The letter commended the proposal to set aside $100 million, but expressed concern that Caltrans might not spend that money on the projects that would make the most difference because of its poor record of community engagement. Caltrans did identify 22 projects that would benefit from $50 million of the funding, but at the CTC meeting, Director Omishakin made clear that Caltrans would work with community partners to improve outreach. Several other high-ranking Caltrans staff have already reached out to CalBike offering to collaborate on outreach so that they can make the best decisions on how to prioritize that $100 million.

When Governor Newsom vetoed the Complete Streets for Healthy Living bill (SB 127 – Wiener) last year, it was a blow for the safe streets movement. The bill would have required Caltrans to consider adding Complete Streets elements to repair projects on state routes that double as local streets. It also created a public comment process if Caltrans decided Complete Streets features were infeasible. However, the governor issued a statement with his veto that made it clear that he expected Caltrans to find a way to implement the spirit of the law. With the 2020 SHOPP, we can see that Caltrans takes the need for Complete Streets seriously.

There has never been a more important time to build streets that encourage biking, walking, and taking transit. Changing our transit choices is a critical element of climate change mitigation. In addition, the current pandemic has shown us how vital California’s street spaces are to provide safe places to exercise and get fresh air. And bikes have become an even more important transportation option, to create space on public transit for those who need to ride and provide healthy and inexpensive transit for essential workers. 

CalBike Joins Group Urging Community Participation for Caltrans Complete Streets Projects

CalBike has joined with a coalition of advocacy groups to press Caltrans to follow a transparent process when it adds Complete Streets elements to projects. The letter was signed by transportation advocacy groups, environmental organizations, a government association, and a Catholic diocese, among others.

In 2019, CalBike sponsored the Complete Streets for Healthy Living bill (SB 127). The bill, which passed both the State Assembly and the Senate, would have required Caltrans to include Complete Streets features in repair projects whenever feasible. Although Governor Newsom vetoed the bill, Caltrans has moved forward with some promising changes. Most importantly, it has delayed the 2020 State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) funding round to reexamine projects and find places to include Complete Streets.

While CalBike supports the direction that Caltrans is taking, we want to emphasize the importance of community involvement and input into Complete Streets elements that get added to projects. The complete letter is below. You can download the pdf at SHOPP CTC Complete Streets Letter.

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