December 23, 1990
Preston W. Kelley, District Director
Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 7310
San Francisco, California 94120
Re: I880/Cypress Replacement Draft EIR/EIS
It is very clear that the public doesn't want more freeway construction, and will only vote for it if they are deceived. MTC did a survey in the Bay Area and asked residents what should be done about traffic congestion. Only 18% said they wanted more freeway construction; 34% said they wanted more rail transit. Of course, MTC has since then buried this report and kept very quiet about it. In 1988, Governor Deukmejian tried to pass a $1 billion bond measure purely for highway construction. Since it was hard to disguise such a measure, it lost. In June, 1990, pro-highway folks got smarter with Prop. 111, and successfully deceived the voters into thinking it would bring more money for transit. All Prop. 111 advertisements contained pictures of light rail vehicles, Caltrain, or other such popular transportation modes. After it passed, voters discovered that almost NO money from Prop. 111 will go to transit: for example, in the Bay Area, MTC recommended that about 99% of the so-called "Flexible Congestion Relief" funds be used for highway projects!
But when it comes to deception, nobody can even come close to Caltrans. The Cypress EIR is almost entirely lies, from start to finish. You lie about the need for the project, the nature of the project, and the effects that the project will have on people and the environment. But, of course, you have to! No one would allow such a project in their community, if they knew the truth about it! And the fact that you feel the need to lie about it just shows that you know this!
You call the collapsed Cypress freeway a "missing link" [p. i]. This is a lie. It is still possible to drive from anywhere, to anywhere, in the region. The Cypress was redundant and unnecessary, and served only long-distance travellers. If we are to meet our environmental goals (e.g. as set out in the California Clean Air Act), and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we will have to start moving all long-distance freight and passenger traffic onto rail.
You admit "major adverse impacts ... in the areas of relocation, noise and air quality". Then you go on to assert that these can be "mitigated" with "relocation assistance and benefits, installation of sound walls, ... and transportation control measures". Under CEQA, "mitigate" means "reduce to insignificance". None of those so-called mitigation measures can make the impacts insignificant! Just ask the people who have to move, to listen to the constant droning of the freeway, or to breathe the pollution from the freeway if they consider the effects "insignificant"! The notion that freeway impacts can somehow be "mitigated" is pure fantasy. If you and your Caltrans employees were required to live next to the freeways that you build, then we would see some real mitigation: the freeways would never get built! The only reason such monstrosities ever get built is that those who have to suffer their effects have less power in our plutocracy than the people who profit from them.
You state that the purpose of the project "is to restore continuity and capacity to the interstate and regional network" [p.I-1]. This is a lie. Since there are many other routes for that traffic (e.g. 980/580), there is no lack of continuity. And since the purpose of transportation is to move people and goods, not vehicles, there is no need to build roads: people and goods can be moved much more economically (and safely) by means of rail transport. This point is demonstrated by the fact that, by your own admission, 90,000 vehicle trips simply disappeared from the area after the earthquake. Obviously, those trips are now being made via public transit or rail freight, or they were unnecessary and are not being made at all. (For example, the Post Office discovered that they can move the mail from Oakland to Fremont much more efficiently on BART!) You are also not simply trying to "restore capacity": two of your alternatives are for 10-lane freeways, which increase capacity by 25%; the other two don't increase vehicle capacity, but do increase passenger and freight capacity, via transit and TSM.
You call two of the alternatives "an eight-lane freeway with two High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes" [p.I-4]. This is an obvious attempt to deceive: it implies that two of the eight lanes are HOV lanes, when they are actually additional lanes. But I guess it would be embarrassing to tell the truth, and call them 10-lane freeways.
You say that "No serious impacts on ... groundwater quality from the build alternatives are identified" [p.I-6]. You simply haven't done your homework. The EPA has recently stated that 75% of water pollution is caused by runoff. A large part of that is from roads -- a well-known fact. Since you admit that the build alternatives will induce growth in traffic [in Table 1-1], it follows that there will be very significant increases in water pollution.
You assert that "all build alternatives [will] improve air quality relative to the No-Build Alternative". This is probably the biggest lie in the EIR. It is based on an air quality analysis that assumes that expanded freeways don't cause any growth in traffic, or, in other words, that even though the freeway capacity is much greater, nobody will take advantage of that fact to drive farther or more often. This is patent nonsense. And it has also been refuted by the only scientific research on this subject -- that of Jeff Kenworthy and Peter Newman, from Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. [See the references below]. As is obvious to any 10-year-old, the expanded freeway will be full soon after it opens, and will simply provide more lanes of congested traffic, more air pollution, more fuel consumption, more noise, more toxic runoff -- more of everything that we don't need or want in a healthy community.
You state that "the build alternatives would reduce overall energy consumption through the corridor by providing more efficient traffic movement and less congestion". This old wives' tale was also refuted by Kenworthy and Newman, who found that cities that have lots of uncongested freeways are extremely automobile-dependent, and actually use much more fuel per capita and per mile of travel (all modes) than compact cities with few freeways and more public transit (especially rail). (It isn't that you are ignorant -- I have frequently made Caltrans aware of these facts -- you have obviously chosen to to ignore them!)
You say that "With ... noise barriers ... noise levels would be reduced in many areas from existing and prequake noise levels". Noise barriers don't eliminate noise; they simply redirect it. In any case, most areas won't have noise barriers. Anyone who lives near a freeway (remember, no Caltrans executives do!) knows that freeway noise is continuous and debilitating, at all hours of the day and night. Traffic will increase significantly under any of the build alternatives, and hence so will noise at most locations.
Table 1-1 [p.I-7] says that the No-Build alternative will have a "Greater accident potential". This is deception. Sure, congestion may cause a rise in "fender-benders", but the high speeds and greater volumes of vehicles on freeways mean that all accidents will be much more serious, and many more will be fatal [I know what I am talking about: my own mom died in a highway accident, that was not her fault, in 1951]. After all, 42 people died in one accident on the Cypress! West Oakland is build on a deep bed of silt and mud, and this will not be changing. Freeway structures built 90 feet in the air, as this one is planned to be [see, e.g., Exh.3-4.4], are extremely precarious! How can you compare the 42 people who died on the Cypress with the fender-benders caused by slow-moving, congested traffic?!
Table 1-1 also claims no "Biological Impacts". This is preposterous. Tell that to the millions of animals, including many threatened and endangered species, that die on our roads and highways every year! Not only are they killed outright on our roads, but air pollution, water pollution, and even noise cannot be said to have "no impact" on them.
The "energy payback" you claim, as I pointed out earlier, is a lie. Actually, there will be a large energy loss entailed in any of the build alternatives.
You do at least admit "Growth Inducement", but excuse it by calling it all "planned" growth. What do we care if the air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, community disruption, etc. are planned or not? Does that make them okay? Not according to the federal and state Clean Air Acts, the federal Clean Water Act, or Federal Judge Thelton Henderson. We already fail to meet either federal or state air quality standards, due mostly to the growth in auto and truck travel (which is greater than the growth in either population or vehicle ownership). It is necessary to actually reduce auto and truck travel below current levels, in order to meet air quality standards. This is spelled out clearly in both the federal and state Clean Air Acts. The United Nations has stated that in order to avoid global warming, and the extinctions and hardships that that entails, we will have to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 50% in the next 50 years. This also implies a 50% reduction in auto and truck use. "Growth Inducement", even if "planned", is unacceptable. Growth in passenger and freight movement, perhaps, but not in vehicle trips and vehicle miles travelled (VMT).
On p.I-8 you state that "With sensitive and careful planning and development, all the alternatives have the potential to improve and enhance community revitalization." This is pure nonsense. Only someone who doesn't live near a freeway could say that turning a community into a major polluting traffic corridor would "enhance" it. If freeways "enhance" communities, why is not a single wealthy community built near a freeway? For example, Blackhawk, a community for millionaires, is built next to Mount Diablo State Park -- permanent open space! The only people who are "enhanced" by freeways are the developers and construction companies that directly profit from them. For the rest of us, the negative effects far outweigh the few minutes they save in our travel times. (Besides, travel on public transit is useful time; time spent driving is practically a total waste.)
It is preposterous to assert that [in terms of health effects] "The No-Build Alternative would affect the most people" [p.I-8]. Are you saying that the 90,000 vehicle trips that disappeared since the earthquake had no effect on people's health? Or that the extra exercise people get walking to a bus stop (instead of hopping into their car) is bad for them? Or that the 25% increase in traffic induced by the extra freeway lanes will make the air cleaner around West Oakland? I don't wish any harm to Caltrans from converting to an emphasis on rail rather than roads, but anyone who lies to the public like that deserves to be laid off!
On p.I-9 you claim that there will be "adverse local and regional economic impacts" under the No-Build Alternative. If an emphasis on roads, rather than rail and transit is essential for economic prosperity, then answer the following questions:
1. Why is Japan now the richest country in the world?
2. Why is Germany doing better economically than the U.S.?
3. Why is the U.S. entering a recession, while having to fight a very expensive war (and go much deeper into debt) to maintain our oil-addiction habit?
4. Why is it cheaper to use public transit and not own a car?
5. Why, in today's congested traffic is it often faster (as well as cheaper) to travel by bicycle, than by car?
6. How many of the vehicles passing through the West Oakland corridor are being driven illegally (without a driver's license or insurance)? Why should we build a massive freeway and displace numerous people and businesses from their homes, to accommodate these illegal drivers?
In Fig. 2-7, p.II-13, is a chart purporting to show traffic congestion in the yesr 2015. It is based on the same fallacy that underlies all of Caltrans's phony "traffic demand" forecasts: the assumption that people will continue driving, regardless of the conditions. The earthquake shattered that myth. It achieved a significant, permanent increase in transit ridership on all transit systems. The loss of the Cypress freeway also caused 90,000 trips to disappear. Few people are stupid enough to continue fighting congestion day after day; they take a different route, switch to transit, move their job or home location, or simply stop making so many optional trips. This is why the "gridlock" that public officials love to predict never materializes. And why it is not necessary to continue endlessly destroying all of our most attractive communities with massive rivers of concrete and asphalt.
On p.VI-14, you claim that "HOV lanes, park-and-ride lots, and ramp metering can be used to mitigate air quality impacts." Where is the evidence for this? To my knowledge, there is no scientific evidence to support such an assertion. HOV lanes, for example, are almost always implemented by adding lanes to a freeway, which induces growth in trips and VMT. The only evidence I am aware of indicates that such lanes will increase emissions and fuel consumption (see the references below).
Incidentally, in the air quality analysis there is no mention of traffic levels. Obviously, assumed traffic levels determine emissions levels, so they are necessary for anyone who wants to verify your predictions. Of course, if you publish those, it will be obvious how you "fudged" the traffic levels, in order to make the emssions predictions come out in your favor: the only way for you to "show" that the No-Build alternative would create more pollution is to assume that traffic will irrationally increase despite the lack of the 10-lane freeway, and concomitantly, to assume that no matter how much traffic increased in that freeway, it would never (in the study period -- till 2015) become congested! Both (hidden) assumptions are without any rational, scientific basis.
On p.VI-24 you assert that "None of the alternatives under consideration would directly impact the seasonal freshwater wetlands identified within the railyard." I guess you forgot about toxic runoff from the roadway, and that plants and animals depend on the availability of unpolluted water, just like we do.
On p.VI-52 is the absurd statement that "Projected air quality at locations closer to the freeway than the playground indicates that federal and state air quality standards will not be exceeded ...; therefore, no air quality impacts would occur." First of all, the air quality standards only cover a few pollutants. There are literally hundreds of pollutants that come from vehicles, many of which are probably harmful, even though standards haven't been developed for them yet. Second, EPA has admitted that their current standard for ozone is too high to protect human health, and that there is NO KNOWN SAFE LEVEL for ozone. Thus, there is no reason to assert that there will be "no impacts".
At the bottom of that page, you say "since the park is primarily used for active sports, it is expected that park users are focused on an activity rather on the visual quality of the park environment." Do you really believe this? Then why don't we build parks in junkyards, if their visual quality isn't important? Why go to so much trouble to make them beautiful and as natural as possible? One wonders if Caltrans employees ever go to parks. I assume that they do, and that your environmental analysis is purposely skewed in order to avoid jeopardizing the project.
On p.VII-1 is the statement "productivity will be enhanced by ... ease of interstate travel." Actually, as is amply demonstrated by the Gulf Crisis and accompanying recession, productivity is reduced by having an oil- and automobile-dependent economy. Countries like Japan and Germany that depend more on rail transport, and less on the automobile and truck, are leaving the U.S. economy in the dust!
The analyses of Growth Inducement and Cumulative Impacts are totally inadequate. It is absurd to assert that a widened freeway will serve only planned development (even if that were okay); does that mean drivers arriving from unplanned developments will be refused access to the freeway, and will be diverted to 580/980? You also assert that HOV lanes discourage single-occupancy travel. How? By removing HOVs from the existing mixed lanes, you make it easier to drive a SOV! There is no evidence that I am aware of that HOV lanes increase the proportion of HOV use. In fact, studies in Santa Clara County have shown that despite the new HOV lanes, the percentage of commuters carpooling has decreased.
It is also very unlikely that "impacts would be limited to the project area" [p.X-1]. Commuters are increasingly coming from up to 1 or even 1 1/2 hours away. Just look at I80 toward Sacramento, or I580 toward the San Joaquin Valley.
In the Section 4(F) Evaluation (p.XII-1) you quote the law that says there must be "no prudent and feasible alternative" before park lands or wildlife habitat are taken. In this case, as with most highway expansion projects, there are prudent and feasible alternatives: the No-Build alternative is obviously feasible, because we are living with it right now. And it is also prudent: it would avoid very serious physical, environmental, and social disruption of the West Oakland and surrounding communities. It would also help move our nation away from automobile- and oil-dependency, a goal that is very important to our national security. Shifting emphasis away from the automobile and toward transit, especially rail, is also a much cheaper way of doing this than tearing up our land in a vain effort to find sufficient oil. Economists have over and over again shown that conservation is our cheapest alternative.
Take a look at Exh.3-2.4. Do we really want to devote this much of our most valuable land to encourage and subsidize an outmoded form of transportation, one that may even cost us thousands of lives in a stupid war? Do we really want to build unstable deathtraps 90 feet up in the air, after the lesson of the Cypress? I don't think so. Your Nov. 30 letter introducing the EIR states that your goal is to "maximize the use of federal and state emergency relief funds." Is money your only value? Is that the kind of society we want to build? I don't think so.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
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