Guest Commentary: Last Chance to Stop Yolo I-80 Widening & $10 Toll Lane

By Alan Hirsch

At the California Transportation Commission (CTC) Meeting Thursday 5/16 they will vote to fund I-80 widening with tolling lanes which is a rejection of key policies in the State Climate Plan—and Caltrans policy that rejects freeway widening as a sustainable solution to congestion.

Public comments are needed to show the Commissioners that people understand widening the freeway is a waste of money due to induced demand and is a climate disaster.

Also at this meeting the (CTC) will vote to set up a tolling authority to impose tolls to use the new lane to manage it so it never congests. This is by auctioning off the new capacity to the highest bidder so it never congests. The staff for the proposed tolling authority has estimate toll will typically be of $1/mile at rush hour—$10-15 one way from Davis to Sacramento.

It is particularly important to note for the Commissioners the lack of a FUNDED Environmental Justice plan for the project to address the high toll level.  They expect tolls for the lane fall $2 Million short of funding the VMT mitigation program—so there is clearly no money for an Environmental Justice program.

How you can be heard:

Zoom in verbal comments at 2:30? 3? At: Please visit:  https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_M6_ImNifTtecMpCuCd6c0A
Or day 1 of the meeting:: (669) 444 9171, Webinar ID: 942 9110 0510,  Passcode:495570

Write no later than Monday 4 PM to CTC@catc.ca.gov 

Meeting Material – Agenda only: https://catc.ca.gov/-/media/ctc-media/documents/ctc-meetings/2024/2024-05/00-agenda.pdf  

Link to (massive) full packet I-80 page 1-3, 114-201 — of 1547 total pages!!
https://catc.ca.gov/meetings-events/commission-meetings-2024/2024-05-16-17
Index of these I80 page: Staff memos begin at:   p114 (4.3 Adv fund $105M) p121 (future fund/NEPA/CEQA FONSI/FOC) p134 (CTC finding overriding considerations) pg. 138 future funding findings) p157 (tolling application)   p199 (funding)

CTC email Talking Points:

To: Chair Carl Guardino and members, CTC    CTC@catc.ca.gov

Re: Yolo80 widening and Toll lanes – Agenda items 17, 18,19 & 20. 

  1. The alleged benefits of the project are grossly overstated as the computerized traffic model used by Caltrans-SACOG ignores induced demand and thus overstates congestion relief. It is a not a sustainable transportation fix and instead is a waste of money.
  2. The EIR ignores the safety impacts of narrowing the lanes and eliminating a shoulder on the causeway. The project will increase the danger of driving on the causeway.
  3. But the mitigation plan in the EIR offsets only 55 million of the 158Mil VMT (including trucks) projected generated by the new lane.  The mitigation plan fails to comply with the State’s climate plan to reduce VMT.
  4. In addition, the mitigation plan claims of 55 million VMT offset in the Final EIR mitigation plan is both grossly over-optimistic to the measure proposed, and highly underfunded and is limited to Yolo County residents, even though 89% of the drivers are from outside Yolo County.
  5. The project lacks a FUNDED Environmental Justice plan for the project to address the high toll level expected on the project—$1/mile at rush hour.  They expect toll for the lane to fall $2Million short of funding the VMT mitigation program—so there is clearly no money for an Environmental Justice program.
  6. Failure to share public information as required by law: This project was rated last out of 24 projects to receive funding when it was before the CTC in June 2023. At that meeting, the CTC did not vote to provide additional funds. Now Caltrans/CTC staff are recommending the project be funded. There has been no response to an 11-month-old public records request to obtain the documents reflecting the analysis Caltrans did prior to the June 2023 meeting.  In addition, there has been no response to an updated public records request to obtain the documents reflecting the analysis Caltrans has done more recently that now recommends the project be funded. How can we “disagree better” without shared facts: in Caltrans and the CTC is withholding public documents.
  7. A review of Final EIR show it has bad calculations, bogus assumption and is in gross violation of CEQA. While it will be challenged in court, the freeway will already be widened before the case is settled.  Your body is the last hope to stop construction.

This project violates Caltrans’ Climate plan (CAPTI) and is contrary to Newsom’s climate plan. Far from being a benefit, the project creates an environmental debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay.

FYI: How to get the final EIR.

This is a state CEQA document clearing house to download a copy: 

I80Yolo project “SCH” Number  2021060117

Official name: I-80 Corridor Improvement Project 03-3H90

Targeted search for new posting of I80Yolo doc:  https://ceqanet.opr.ca.gov/Project/2021060117

About The Author

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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