November 8, 1987
Walnut Creek City Council
Walnut Creek, California 94120
Scientists tell us (e.g., see Gaia: An Atlas of Planet Management) that if we don't reverse certain environmental trends, life on the Earth will very soon become more and more unpleasant, and possibly even be extinguished altogether. There is plenty of evidence to support their assertion: "Nearly 400 species and subspecies of birds and mammals have died by our hand in the last 400 years" (State of the Ark, by Lee Durrell, p.34).
I have been impressed by the forward thinking demonstrated by Contra Costa County. The No Smoking ordinance and the growth-restricting ordinances have made the County a much better place to live. However, I would like to see you take this forethought a step further, and stop the expansion of the highway system. It is high time to realize that encouraging more traffic will only worsen our air quality, which at present fails to meet the standards of the federal Clean Air Act and has, in fact, been WORSENING since ABAG developed its Air Quality Plan in 1982! What good is it to ban smoking, and then allow smog to erase all the health gains? THE ONLY WAY THAT THE AIR QUALITY WILL BE BROUGHT WITHIN THE ACCEPTABLE BOUNDS IS TO RESTRICT VEHICULAR TRAFFIC!
You can again be the leader in rational environmental policy by being the first county in the country (world?) to realize that roadbuilding must stop sometime (and why not now?). Think of it this way: We can all agree that there is a limit: none of us wants to pave over the whole county, or even produce another Los Angeles. Therefore (applying a theorem of mathematics that I learned in college), the expansion of the road system MUST STOP AT SOME TIME! The only question, is When?
How will we know when to stop? How will we know when we have gone too far? Let me suggest that the criterion be AIR QUALITY. Since we are already in violation of federal air quality standards, that means NOW.
Of course, this does not mean a restriction of TRAVEL, but that people will have to come to terms with the fact that public transportation will have to become a much larger part of our lives. And people who are worried about the economic effects of traffic restrictions will have to think about the savings in highway expenses and travel expenses. Public transportation is MUCH more efficient than private.
In particular (and the bottom line of this letter), I would like to see you reject the proposed widening of Highways 680 and 24 between Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. Besides the above reasons, an analysis of Caltrans' Environmental Impact Statement shows that the air pollution computation is totally wrong: IN THE LONG RUN, expanding the freeway won't decrease air pollution, but INCREASE it! Honestly, Caltrans!
REJECT THIS PROJECT. WITHOUT OUR HEALTH, WHAT ELSE MATTERS???
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
cc: Alan Cranston
Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors
Concord City Council
Pleasant Hill City Council