Report: Bike Lanes Can't Make up for New Roads

If California wants to meet its climate goals, the state must stop funding its myriad road construction and expansion projects.

2 minute read

September 29, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A new report calls on California to rethink its “traffic-creating, pave-the-earth approach to transportation,” highlighting the environmental and public health impacts of rampant freeway construction.

According to an article by Melanie Curry in Streetsblog California, despite the state’s efforts to support clean air and water policies, the inertia of the status quo and a fear of change “has led to focusing on difficult but politically plausible solutions like electric vehicles, cleaning up the electricity sector, and calling for low-carbon fuels.”

For the authors of the report from NextGen, those efforts are in part a distraction from lower-hanging, but more politically challenging, fruit: “As long as California keeps expanding highways to accommodate driving, all the other efforts - to increase EVs, to produce clean energy, to add bike lanes - will have been a waste of time.”

The report states, “Indeed, if California continues to expand highway capacity, the resulting increase in VMT will overwhelmingly cancel out the climate benefits of mode shift generated through concurrent transit improvements.”

The report suggests some solutions for creating a “smarter and better transportation system” that creates more jobs and improves quality of life and safety. Namely, “California needs to: align transportation funding with climate goals (as called for by the state Climate Action Plan for Transportation Investment, CAPTI); bring transparency and accountability to the project selection process (as attempted with several bills in the past few years that so far have failed to make it through), and improve oversight and rigor in agency analyses of project impacts (also the subject of numerous bills).”

The report also recommends limiting the use of “statements of overriding considerations,” a tool often employed by Caltrans and other transportation agencies to push road expansion projects through at the expense of housing or green space.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023 in Streetsblog California

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