Ann Gardner | Via Latina
The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF), one of the original petitioners (including Sierra Club and California Attorney General Kamala Harris) to file a successful lawsuit against SANDAG, has now filed a lawsuit against Caltrans to prevent the pending expansion of the North Coast I-5 corridor. The lawsuit is asking the court to “delay any construction activities until the (Appeals) Court has an opportunity to evaluate concerns about the project.”
In 2012 San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy B. Taylor ruled that the EIR approved by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) in 2011 was “inadequate” in its treatment of potential greenhouse gas emissions. SANDAG appealed the decision which requires revoking their EIR or risk the loss of funding for the I-5 expansion, according to CNFF. But the Freeway project-which impacts Del Mar-continues on schedule. Caltrans certified its own Environmental Impact Report for widening the I-5 coastal route from La Jolla to Oceanside last December and says they are going to the California Coastal Commission for project approval later this year with construction to begin in 2015. The lawsuit against Caltrans is just making its way through the courts.
CNFF’s complaint against the 2050 Transportation Plan is that it continues to build freeways for cars now, delaying transit-oriented improvements to the latter part of the 2050 Plan and as a result failing to reduce GHG emission as required by state law. Attorney General Harris, filing as an intervener, agreed saying “the 3.2 million residents of the San Diego region already suffer from the seventh worst ozone pollution in the country,” and that the RTP Environmental Report did not adequately analyze the public health impacts of the increased air pollution. “Spending our transit dollars in the right way today will improve the economy, create sustainable jobs and ensure that future generations do not continue to suffer from heavily polluted air.”
Caltrans is also being pushed to change its direction by an External Review ordered by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA). That Review found that “over the decades the department has not kept pace with changes in transportation policy.” The report explains that even though Caltrans led the nation during construction of the interstate system after World War II, it has not “adapted to modern trends in transportation including…more mobility choices.” “Climate change puts new demands on the state transportation system,” said CalSTA secretary Brian Kelly in a January news release. “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.”
The Sandpiper will report on the results of the Appeal and Coastal Commission hearings, and the CNFF’s 50-10 (50 years of transit within 10) Transit Plan in future issues.