August 6, 1989
Burch Bachtold, District Director
Caltrans District 4
P.O. Box 7310
San Francisco, California 94120
Re: Rebuilding the Cypress Structure (I-880)
It is clear to anyone who attended your 1/13/90 public hearing on your "interim solution" that the community will not accept any form of roadway in the Cypress right-of-way, interim or permanent. They are unanimous, and have the legal and political power to effect their wishes. It is also clear that there is no "emergency", and thus no need for any type of "interim solution": although there are, according to Irene Itamura of Caltrans, 90,000 fewer vehicles going through the corridor, there is no great increase in congestion in the area, and no outcry calling for a replacement for the freeway section lost. Of approximately 200-300 people in the hearing, about 30-40 of whom made comments, only 3 asked for any freeway construction. Even the Port of Oakland, which was represented there, did not ask for any roadway construction there. For this reason, the "interim solution" idea should be dropped, unless the money could be used to turn the right-of-way into a park or housing for the homeless (a much greater need in this area than that for road construction!). The fact that thousands of Bay Area residents are homeless in the middle of winter is a true (life-threatening) emergency, which the Cypress is not.
Although the legislature made the mistake of exempting these "emergency" projects from our only state environmental protection (the California Environmental Quality Act), federal law (the National Environmental Policy Act) still applies: You are required to study all feasible alternatives. The best long-term solution -- the only one that will satisfy our air quality and other environmental needs, as well as our economic needs -- is to put the available funds into public transit, preferably rail. Ms. Itamura admitted that I-880 serves primarily regional (long-haul) traffic. Long-haul traffic is most efficiently handled via rail. The flexibility of route provided by private vehicles is needed only at the ends of the trip, which are a minute portion of its mileage. Due to the extreme inefficiency in the rolling friction of rubber tires, as much traffic as possible (both goods and people) should be handled by rail. Using private vehicles to transport people or goods long distances is like using a teaspoon to transport your food from the kitchen to the dining room!
There are two fallacies you use to justify your continual insistence on highway construction as the only answer to all transportation needs: (1) "highway expansion improves air quality"; (2) "vehicle traffic demonstrates that there is a need for vehicle traffic". The first myth has been thoroughly discredited by scientific research which I have repeatedly brought to your attention (see the references below). Your refusal to acknowledge the facts constitutes corruption very similar to that in eastern Europe and Central and South America which we have lately been self-righteously publicizing. The second assumes that our goal is to move metal boxes from one place to another. Your mission is rather to move people and goods, which is a very different thing. In the former case, we would need lots of pavement; in the latter, mass transit (trains where possible, otherwise buses) is far more efficient. The earthquake has provided a perfect demonstration of this point: although a lot of roads were closed, people and goods were still transported as needed: mass transit took up the slack. We already have the transport capacity we need. The roadway capacity, we don't need. In fact, in order to clean up the air in the Bay Area enough to meet state air quality standards, such decreases in traffic are essential! This is the whole point behind the California Clean Air Act and the Cortese legislation.
Another point was made abundantly clear in the hearing: The public does not trust Caltrans! If you value your reputation (and your jobs!), you should stop trying to deceive the people who pay your salaries. When you say you will put a 6-lane expressway in the Cypress ROW and residents find that it is only 67 feet wide and that additional ROW will have to be taken (which you have not mentioned), your credibility is not increased. If you were truly trying to serve the community, rather than preserve your obsolete jobs, then you might start learning how to provide us with transportation, rather than just more pavement. Nobody wants to see you lose your jobs; we just want to be healthy, and that will require that you begin learning to build more environmentally sound, modern transportation systems, like light and heavy rail. (And don't tell me about "smart streets"; they are an expensive, mostly useless, joke.)
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
Californians for Turning Caltrans Into a Transit Organization (Caltransit)
Encl: "REVERSING THE TREND TOWARD AUTOMOBILE DEPENDENCY -- A RATIONALE FOR HALTING FREEWAY EXPANSION", An Excerpted Bibliography of J.R. Kenworthy, P.W.G Newman, and T.J. Lyons. Michael J. Vandeman, July 19, 1989.
Newman, P. W. G. and J. R. Kenworthy, "The Transport Energy Trade-Off: Fuel-Efficient Traffic Versus Fuel-Efficient Cities". Transportation Research-A, Vol.22A, No.3, pp.163-174, 1988.
Newman, P.W.G., J.R. Kenworthy and T.J. Lyons, "Does Free-Flowing Traffic Save Energy and Lower Emissions in Cities?" Search, Vol.19, No.5/6, September/November, 1988.
Kenworthy, J.R., H. Rainford, P.W.G. Newman, and T.J. Lyons, "Fuel Consumption, Time Saving and Freeway Speed Limits", Traffic Engineering and Control, September, 1986, pp.455-459.