Are Commissions Just Performative on CAAP Implementation?
By Alan Hirsch
This week the well-meaning volunteers of Yolo County’s Climate Action Committee will be hosting three open houses to collect public input.
However, I think these volunteers, like climate committee volunteers on four other Yolo County cities, are being distracted from the elephant in the room.
Each of the five Yolo government’s Climate Act Plans note we need a plan to dramatically reduce auto driving if we want to address our greenhouse gases (GHG), the source of 65% of Woodland and 69% of Davis’s GHG.
For example, the city of West Sacramento plan set a goal of reducing driving 40% by 2045 by a shift to transit and active modes.
Yet, the proposed widening of the I-80 Freeway is projected by UC Davis researchers to do the opposite: encourage more driving and longer commutes, forecasting 177.9 million more miles of driving each year. This means an increase in the county’s carbon footprint by 3% —larger than the entire City of Winters.
UC Davis research also demonstrated, like all past widening, this $380 million project one won’t fix congestion for long: the freeway is 100% certain to re-congest after a few years due to more car travel the widening itself encourages.
Yet not one of these five climate commissions have discussed this project and its tradeoffs or have a plan to provide input to Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in July.
It is not the volunteers on these committee’s fault: it is about city and county staff who haven’t put it on their agendas.
This is accomplished by the freeway advocates embedded in government who claim to want public input but actually discourage it by spin:
Inevitability Spin: The Yolo Transportation District (YoloTD) Planning Director has stated, regardless of EIR findings, he expects Caltrans will go forward by issuing a statement of “overriding consideration” so it’s too late for public to change anything.
Greenwashing Spin: YoloTD has a flier claiming a wider freeway will be “environmentally sustainable.”
Silo Spin: Davis City Manager decided the project only involved transportation and expressly forbid its climate committee from reviewing it even though the citizen on the NRC Commission were anxious to provide feedback. Though it violated the city council charter for commissions scope, he instructed review of the EIR to done by the Bicycle and Transportation Commission.
“Open Meeting” Spin: If staff fails to put it on the Commission Agenda for July meeting, staff can argue under the Brown Act the commission will not be able to talk about the widening during the short Draft EIR comment period that ends early in August. And even if they do have it on the July agenda, they need staff to agree to a special commission meeting to review draft comment for submission before Draft EIR deadline closes. Staff will no doubt remind commissioners they are blocked as individuals from meeting together—or even email—to discuss the Draft EIR outside the supervision of city staff.
I am hopeful there is still time for the climate commissions to question this project and its design, even if they miss the EIR deadline. They might begin with asking project cheerleaders in Yolo County why Caltrans itself rates this project design last on its 24 statewide projects list to improve mobility.
Links to other articles on I-80
Make Transit & Walkable Communities a Priority, Not Just a Mitigation for Freeway Widening. 2023 06 05
Caltrans Games System to Get Another ‘Environmental’ Award for Highway Widening: Why actually try to fight global warming and make a more sustainable future when you can just lie about it? 2023 05 16
Be Wary of Caltrans Pattern of Science Denial on GHG, Induced Demand 2023 05 13
My View: We Need a Strategic Vision for Transportation Not More Band-Aids Where are the studies to show that this will reduce traffic congestion? 2021 07 03
Press Release: $86 Million Federal Dollar Approved to Upgrade the I-80 Corridor in Yolo County 2021 07 01 “project to “reduce congestion” was funded thru “a collaborative team effort approach”
Master i-80 archive page: https://www.davisvanguard.org/tag/i80/
Is Davis CAAP just performative is freeway widening can’t be discussed in Davis by our climate committee?