PUTTING THE BRAKES ON CALTRANS
The Center has organized a statewide coalition to take on irresponsible and damaging highway-widening projects around the state by the California Department of Transportation. The Caltrans Watch coalition aims to put the brakes on Caltrans’ wasteful spending, institutionalized disregard of environmental regulations designed to protect natural resources, and pattern of refusal to address local concerns. More than two dozen community and conservation groups are working to call attention to pervasive problems at Caltrans — including the agency’s refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, lack of transparency, reliance on flawed data and disregard for public input.
The coalition is taking on five unnecessary highway-widening projects in Northern California with severe environmental impacts and a combined $350 million price tag:
• The $10 million Richardson Grove project to widen and realign Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County, damaging prized old-growth redwoods supposedly to increase access for large commercial trucks;
• The $210 million Highway 101 superhighway the size of Interstate 5 around Willits, not needed for local traffic volumes, requiring the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years, and running through headwaters of salmon-bearing streams and habitat for endangered plants;
• The $19 million Highway 197/199 widening projects in Del Norte County along the “wild and scenic” Smith River to accommodate oversized commercial trucks, with impacts to old-growth redwood trees;
• The $76 million Niles Canyon highway-widening project in Alameda County, a “safety” project stopped by a citizen lawsuit. Caltrans now admits the widening is not needed and the Federal Highway Administration recently concluded it is not warranted by the state’s safety data. It would have cut 600 riparian trees and added four miles of cement retaining walls and rip-rap along a regionally significant stream for steelhead trout;
• The $50 million Calera Parkway project to double the width of Highway 1 in Pacifica, in San Mateo County, with impacts to endangered frogs and garter snakes. Following a legal challenge by the Center and allies, in September 2016 a federal court ruled that the California Department of Transportation had violated the Endangered Species Act in approving this controversial project.
The Caltrans Watch coalition: Alameda Creek Alliance, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Campaign for Sensible Transportation, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Coyote Hills Committee, Friends of Del Norte, Friends of the Eel River, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Humboldt Baykeeper, Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont, Madrone Audubon Society, Marin Audubon Society, Mendocino Group of the Sierra Club, Native Songbird Care & Conservation, Northcoast Environmental Center, Pacificans for Highway One Alternatives, Piercy Watersheds Association, Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment, Save Little Lake Valley, Save Niles Canyon, Save Our Sunol, Save Richardson Grove Coalition, Sierra East, Tri-City Ecology Center and Willits Environmental Center.