Bringing Caltrans Into The 21st Century

Can the nation's largest state department of transportation, long oriented to building highways and fighting congestion, be brought into the modern, multi-modal era? The State Smart Transportation Initiative's report for Caltrans may do just that.

"An independent review of the California Department of Transportation      (Caltrans) released Jan. 30, called for sweeping reforms of the department to improve mobility in the face of environmental challenges and a decline in the number of miles driven by Californians," writes Charles Piller.

While the review was ordered last year by Gov. Jerry Brown "following news that the Bay Bridge bolts might not be working properly and could delay the bridge's opening," reported KXTV News 10 Staff last May, the focus of State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) was not on the Bay Bridge but with "Caltrans reorganization and taking a fresh look (at the department)" the governor said.

In the California State Transportation Agency's press release (PDF), the new state agency where Caltrans has been located since July 1, CalSTA Secretary Brian Kelly supported the findings in the 89-page SSTI report (PDF) and its call for modernizing the state DOT that "led the nation during construction of the interstate system after World War II, but has not adapted to modern trends in transportation..."

“Climate change puts new demands on the state transportation system,” said Kelly. “More transportation choices, efficient land use, highway preservation, sustainable movement of people and freight—these now are the order of the day. Caltrans must modernize its mission and describe its vision to deliver on these demands.”

Now it is up to CalSTA and Caltrans to develop the skills and resources needed in the "modern, post-Interstate building era", as the report states it its executive summary.

SSTI includes a network of nineteen state department of transportation directors with a small staff that is part of a research center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. They have produced evalautions for other state departments of transportation and transportation issues found here and here.

Full Story: Independent review calls Caltrans ‘out of date’ and cites ‘culture of fear’

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