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10.28.09

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Paul Elerick, chair of the Campaign for Sensible Transportation, explains why his group is suing Caltrans over the widening of Highway 1.

By Paul Elerick


THE CAMPAIGN for Sensible Transportation (CFST) filed a lawsuit in Sacramento last week challenging the $22 million widening of Highway 1 between Soquel Avenue and Morrissey Boulevard. Caltrans approved the so-called "Auxiliary Lanes Project" in September, claiming that the widening would cause no environmental damage and that no Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was needed. CFST seeks to stop the serial widening of Highway 1, which began with the "Merge Lanes" project, now is proposed to continue with the "Auxiliary Lanes" project, and will then go on with the complete nine miles of the "HOV [high-occupancy vehicle] Lanes" project.

CFST has repeatedly asked Caltrans to produce one comprehensive EIR analyzing the impacts of the Auxiliary Lanes project as part of the HOV Lanes project. Our community needs a complete, comprehensive EIR on the full length of the remaining widening proposed, with a quantified analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, visual, noise and biological impacts and full consideration of transportation alternatives that plan for a sustainable transportation future.

The "Auxiliary Lanes Project" is actually part of the HOV Lanes project. It nearly doubles the width of the roadcut at the La Fonda overcrossing to accommodate a future eight lanes for the HOV Lane Project before the EIR now being prepared on that project is completed. We believe this action is a flagrant violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Moreover, the "Aux Lanes" project will not even fix the current "bottleneck" just south of Morrissey. The bottleneck will simply move a mile downstream. Highway congestion will not be reduced by this proposed $22 million band-aid.

The project does not fix the current problems of the Morrissey-Highway 1 interchange (no bike access, difficult pedestrian crossing), does not provide a sidewalk on the Soquel overpass or deal with ramp congestion at that interchange, does not include the identified need for a bike-pedestrian crossing over the highway at Trevethan. The project will remove four acres of existing mature vegetation and many native Coast Live Oak trees.

Transportation accounts for 51 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the city of Santa Cruz, and the emissions are rising. We expect our tax monies to be spent on real transportation solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a brighter future for our children and our planet. This lawsuit seeks to work toward these real solutions, discourage a flawed transportation project that wastes our tax dollars and provide our community with the chance to choose the best transportation solutions with all the facts on the table.

If we want to "green" the solutions to congestion on Highway 1 (as our Regional Transportation Commission is now considering), the first step is to halt the "Aux Lanes" widening project and include it in the EIR for the HOV Lanes project.

The Campaign for Sensible Transportation was formed in 2001 with three main goals: educating the community about the ineffectiveness of highway widening as a method of reducing congestion, promoting alternatives to highway widening, and persuading agency decision makers of the value of alternative modes of transportation. The CFST maintains an active website at www.SensibleTransportation.org, where additional material and references may be found.

Paul Elerick is a 39-year Aptos resident and serves as chairman of the Campaign for Sensible Transportation.


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