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Linda Mar Beach: Between a Rock and a Soft Place


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Caltrans is having a lot of problems with the Bay Bridge, which has a number of fundamental flaws still being discovered, and which was built on a cost overrun of some 300 percent or more.

No cost-benefit alternatives for widening Highway 1 in a segment of highway in Pacifica have been adequately studied -- singly or in combination -- any of which would be cheaper than a massive highway segment widening project, proposed for $50 million (some of which has already been spent by Caltrans in a very expensive, vague EIR process).

The proposed widening will take out several businesses along Highway 1, and gut the iconic and historic Rockaway business district.

Pacifica residents will be left with a slab of highway, and no effective public transit.

There are several stories in the press about this; here is just one:

Readers might be interested in this report (posted recently on Riptide): "The California Department of Transportation: SSTI Assessment and Recommendations" on Caltrans, published last month by State Smart Transportation Initiative.


"Caltrans, like other state DOTs, was organized to build a network of trunk highways linking cities. In metro areas, local traffic began to overwhelm these highways, leading to massive construction. Eventually the highway system was largely built-out, and system operation and maintenance became more critical to Caltrans’ job. Yet the department continues to be oriented toward projects—both for new capacity and reconstruction of the existing system.

Two crucial policy changes, unusual if not unique for state DOTs, have reduced Caltrans’ power and capacity to act. One is the evolution of “self-help” counties, which allows local government to fund and often dictate the shaping of transportation systems, including the state highway system. The other is the state’s practice of sub-allocating state funding by formula to the local level, again empowering stakeholders vis-à-vis Caltrans and reducing funds available at the state level.
Demands and expectations on Caltrans have also changed since the Interstate-building era. As early as 1972, when Caltrans was formed out of the Department of Highways, there were calls for more multimodalism and less reliance on auto-mobility. More recent passage of state planning goals in AB 857 (2002) and transportation greenhouse gas reduction strategies SB 375 (2008), signal a need for Caltrans to support reductions in auto travel via low transportation-demand land use patterns. These outcomes are precisely the opposite of what Caltrans was set up to do—foster higher auto-mobility—and the department has not adapted to them. At the same time, Californians are driving less, a trend that creates optimism for achieving state planning and policy goals and that should allow for less spending on highway capacity. "

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