Caltrans Demotes Official Who Challenged Road Expansion Projects

An employee was reassigned after bringing up concerns about highway projects that she alleges improperly skirted environmental review.

1 minute read

October 8, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Close-up of Caltrans logo on white passenger train

MichaelVi / Adobe Stock

According to a Politico article by Debra Kahn, a top official in California’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) alleges that she was reassigned for blowing the whistle on Sacramento-area road expansion projects that she claims circumvented environmental regulations. 

The employee, Jeanie Ward-Waller, said in an interview “that she had objected to two construction projects on Highway 80 because, she said, Caltrans’ state and federal permits improperly understated their environmental impacts.” When she brought up the concerns, “Caltrans’ chief deputy director, Michael Keever, notified Ward-Waller on Sept. 14 that she would be terminated from her role Oct. 4 and placed on administrative leave until then.” Ward-Waller filed a whistle blower complaint two days later.

According to Ward-Waller, “Caltrans improperly described the first project as ‘pavement rehabilitation’ when it will actually widen the road to accommodate new lanes. Because of that, she said, it’s illegally using state funds that are intended only for road maintenance, not widening.”

Caltrans has so far declined to comment on the case.

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