Breaking: Yolo I-80 Widening Not Funded!

image courtesy of CalTrans

Advocates Who Steamrolled Project Scramble to Save It

by Alan Hirsch

The Yolo I-80 widening project was not given the missing 60% funds ($103 million) at the Wednesday 6/28 statewide California Transportation Commission meeting. (CTC).  This means the initial $87 million ear marked federal fund for the project will be lost as it will time out before it is spent—at least this was what was represented on 6/6 to the Davis City Council.

At the June 6 meeting, council wanted to delay the EIR to add transit options but were told this was not possible due to the fact this money would time out.  The skeptic in me will watch to see if this really is the case and we will lose the money now.

I was the only “civilian” public commentator speaking on this or any projects at the CTC meeting, though many letters from public opposing the Yolo I-80 project were received. It notable no one showed up in favor of the project—or submitted late letters of support (note: some Yolo Cities had quietly written letters for support in winter and spring 2023).  A number of local agency reps and elected officials from elsewhere in the state commented uniform support on their projects, which affirm CTC staff recommendation to fund. I note even a state Assemblymember called in a comment—he was monitoring the 4-hour meeting.

The CTC gave out $3.3 billion so funding the $103 million gap in the Yolo I-80 project was almost a rounding error. The I-80 project itself got no CTC commissioner question or discussion. not surprising as it was one of 48 in the just the ‘Trade Corridor Enhancement” tranche … item 17 on 18 item agendas just that afternoon. There were only funds for 25 of the 48 in that tranche so it was competitive, but rarely are CTC staff suggestions overruled.

The “No-fund” recommendation for Yolo I80 was also unlikely to change as Caltrans itself listed it last on its own internal prioritization list.

What Will Happen Next: 

That the additional $103 mil funding was not approved makes it seem the $87M in federal “starter” money will time out before anything can be built—not an inevitable outcome but one setback as the EIR did on consider low-cost alternatives like bus queue jump lanes or dedicate bus priority on ramp, things  that could have been done for $87 million.

The YoloTD and Caltrans agencies will likely now try go back to Feds to “save” that money. Activists hope a new Federal ear mark grant will be written this time so it is more flexible so can be used for transit, not hard wired in advance by congress into freeway widening as the $87 million current grant was.

Draft EIR Slips & Activists Ask for Alternative to Be Expanded

It is already clear the steamroller process seen at the June 6 council meeting is being slowed: Caltrans has informally indicated the DEIR will slip at least 3 or 4 weeks to the end of July…or maybe more. Having the short EIR review period during August when Davis Council, commissions, and staff are not meeting certainly compromises the quality of input on the DEIR…and legitimacy of the process.

And seeing as state match money via CTC won’t be available for another 18 months, we have an opportunity to reopen the EIR to explore other alternatives. This would include low cost non-widening congestion pricing alternatives, as suggested by Professors Susan Handy and Steve Wheeler of UC Davis ITS.  And also consider transit upgrades for the entire I-80 corridor, not just Davis to Sacramento. Transit in the current alternative is considered a mitigation, not an alternative to widening.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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2 Comments

  1. Alan Hirsch

    As always the typos are mine.

    Readers should look for a piece in Enterprise Saturday/Sunday by reporter Monica Stark that might have interview with Autumn Bernstein, head of Yolo TD. This might give more insight as to next step, and how (if?) public will have an opportunity be involved to consider full corridor alternatives-

    I have concern they will continue just discuss EIR varation of Toll lanes to only ask the narrow the questions like:

    “What flavor  of widening do you like”  as in the current EIR
    or
    “who should get discounted tolls to use the new lane? ”

    A distract from existential climate change impacts— via an Illusion of choice.

    Elected are on in hot seat, and would rather avoid tough decisions and continue illusion we can do business as usual.. and it is comforting for them to turn to the Hiway folks at Caltrans, an institution skilled to reliably do the same thing again and again and again …

    What was the definition of insanity again?

     

     

     

  2. Alan Hirsch

    Correction. Enterprise has no stories on I-80 funding short fall so far.  This is correction from my hope they might further enlighten us as to YoloTD’s next steps.  But be sure to read the Enterprise which has three stories in Sat/Sunday edition covering Davis High School football.

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