BY: Julie Del Rivo, Transportation Chair

California reopened this week.  Now that we can all get together again, how will we get there?  In the public transportation sector, it will certainly be more equitably, with more choice, more sustainably and more connected. 

Equity – At the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual meeting in 2021 the Chicago Transit Authority President, Dorval R. Carter, Jr. delivered the keynote address centered on the continuing work to put equity at the epicenter of the conversations and decisions our professionals are having and making.  He challenged us to keep the fundamental question of how to provide an optimal level of transportation to all communities, at the forefront of our work.  A message concerning equity has been amplified by voices in the sector, including by CalSTA Secretary David Kim. This challenge has been taken up at Caltrans in its commitment statement to equity and in its new vision of “A brighter future for all through a world-class transportation network.”

Modality – With more choice, it should be possible to leave our cars behind.  The California Transportation Commission (CTC) in January allocated more than $571 million to address transportation needs throughout the state, an investment that will help repair highways and bridges and with emphasis to enhance California’s growing network of mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian routes.   Caltrans in Los Angeles County, in its District 7, has complete streets projects pending on Santa Monica Boulevard through the City of Los Angeles and also on Alondra Boulevard leading an active transportation corridor directly to Cerritos College.  Our local partners have made great strides in trail and bike connections including opening the new hiking and biking Park to Playa Trail in February.  Rail is becoming a more and more viable option too.  The California State Rail Plan is being revised now for 2022 which planning will light the way for a 30 minute pulse of connection between systems and regions and even interstate to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sustainability – The Caltrans Advance Mitigation Program was established by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 authorizing Caltrans to plan and implement advance environmental mitigation solutions for its future transportation projects.  The program allows bigger thinking with more conservation impact around project decisions.  The first advance mitigation project in Southern California, in Caltrans District 8,  was just approved in May by the CTC for conservation in our beloved Mojave region.

Connection – Work on the California High Speed Rail continues.  This is a transformative project and is exciting to work on, along with many right-of-way professionals engaged as consultants for the vast amount of property acquisitions being completed.  Recent restoration of nearly $1 billion in USDOT funds is welcome news.  One day large regions of the state will be connected, but the initial segment under construction will connect the vast Central Valley to itself.  Having the ability for a 15 and 20 minute connections from Hanford or Visalia to destinations like Fresno and Merced, will expand the reach of universities, businesses, and medicine to a larger community.

I wish you all happy travels this summer.