Last week, 39 organizations from all around the state signed onto our comment letter on Governor Brown’s proposed transportation budget. Collectively, our organizations are disappointed with the lack of forward-looking vision in the proposed transportation budget that is needed for our state to meet our ambitious climate, social equity, and public health goals. The proposed budget would raise billions of dollars in new and much-needed transportation revenues to repair and maintain our state’s roads but misses a huge opportunity to leverage these investments smartly to advance our state’s climate, health, and equity goals in tandem with the state’s highway and road system maintenance and preservation goals. In other words, investments in repairing and maintaining our existing roadway infrastructure should be matched with an investment in repairing and operating public transit systems and expanding transit, walking, and bicycling networks statewide, especially in low-income and otherwise disadvantaged communities.
A summary of our comments and recommendations can be found below. Click here to see the full comment letter.
- Mandate Complete Streets Improvements for People Walking & Biking during Maintenance & Operations Projects on Off-Freeway Highways & Local Roads
Despite the Complete Streets Act of 2008 (AB 1358, Leno) and Caltrans’ internal Complete Streets policy (Deputy Directive 64) adopted in 2008 and updated in 2014, the uneven and inequitable implementation of complete streets demonstrates the need for a stronger mandate. Our organizations urged the Legislature and the Administration to require repair, maintenance, and rehabilitation projects to include meaningful Complete Streets project components to ensure implementation of the 2008 state policies.
- Leverage Transportation Investments to Create Economic Opportunity for Vulnerable Californians
Our organizations urged the Legislature and the Administration to ensure that the state’s billions of dollars of new transportation revenue meaningfully benefit our most vulnerable Californians by requiring transportation agencies to implement workforce training and employment strategies–in effect, leveraging our new transportation investments to create pathways to economic opportunity for our most vulnerable Californians.
- Reject the Low Carbon Roads Program Concept & Invest in the Active Transportation Program Instead
Rather than creating the new Low Carbon Roads Program–which includes questionable road project eligibilities (e.g., traffic signal synchronization)–our organizations recommended redirecting the $100 million proposed for the Low Carbon Roads Program into the already existing and successful Active Transportation Program (ATP), which continues to be hugely oversubscribed.
- Increase Investment in Transit Operations and Discounted Transit Passes
Funding the expansion of our transit systems and replacement of our bus and rail fleets is absolutely an important component for reaching our climate goals; however, the fix-it-first principle should apply to transit systems as well as to roadways and be supported by traditional transportation dollars, not just GGRF monies. Of the $400 million one-time funding proposed for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), our organizations recommended allocating half ($200 million) to that program and half to the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP). Of the $200 million to the LCTOP, we also recommended earmarking $50 million for implementation by transit operators of a transit pass program for college, university, and K-12 students and low-income residents, an allowable use under the LCTOP Guidelines.
- Increase Dedicated Investment in Active Transportation
In each of the last two Cycles of the Active Transportation Program (ATP)–the state’s sole dedicated source of funding for walking, biking, Safe Routes to School, and trail projects and programs–local communities requested over $1 billion to implement transformational walking and biking projects and programs that respond to how Californians want to get around to access employment centers, schools, housing, and other key community destinations. Our organizations urged the Legislature and the Administration to increase funding for the Active Transportation Program by redirecting the $100 million in savings the Administration aims to generate from Caltrans efficiencies improvements to the ATP.
- Mitigate & Avoid Health, Safety, & Environmental Impacts of Trade Corridor Investments
Our organizations urged the Legislature and the Administration to include explicit direction for the proposed $200 million Trade Corridor Improvement Fund to proactively address the health, safety, and mobility needs of communities directly impacted by the freight traffic facilitated by these investments, as well as to discourage investments that expand highways contrary to our state’s climate goals, in recognition of the historic disproportionate health and safety impact freight operations has had on California’s low-income and communities of color.
Our organizations look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature, the Legislative Joint Transportation Infrastructure Conference Committee, and the Administration to structure our state’s transportation investments to not only meet our ambitious climate change goals but also to improve the health, safety, and livability of all of California’s diverse communities.