Road Widening Myths that Impede Climate Action

The five myths set forth below came from an excellent article by Urbanist Executive Director Doug Trumm, published in Streetsblog USA on December 29, 2020. 

“If you’ve  pushed back against a highway project, on the basis that catering to single occupancy vehicles is driving carbon emissions………………you’ve probably heard a few of the following myths about road widening and how good it is for the climate and environment”.

Myth 1: Car idling is bad for the environment so wider roads with free-flowing traffic is good for the environment.
The federal Department of Energy estimates that 2 percent of auto emissions come from idling. This means that if all idling were eliminated by making the traffic free-flowing, it would take just a 2 percent increase in the traffic using the newly unjammed roadways to equal the idling emissions saved.

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Current State of California’s Highways

The preceding article lists Five Myths used as reasons for continuing to expand highways. Dan Walters is one of California’s most independent and highly-rated professional journalists. Here are excerpts from what he had to say in the December edition of CalMatters about the state of California’s highways. It’s pretty clear that in California there should be less highway expansion and more highway maintenance:

California is No. 1 — in Rough Highways

By DAN WALTERS

December 16, 2020 at 9:02 a.m.

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Time for Transit to Adapt

The following six paragraphs were excerpted from an excellent editorial by Bay Area News Group editor Dan Borenstein published in the East Bay Times on January 2, 2021:

“The Bay Area’s housing, job market and transportation could be radically reshaped now that employers and white-collar workers have discovered the enormous potential of working remotely.

Early in the pandemic, Twitter announced that its employees could permanently operate from home. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg foresees half his workforce doing the same. And Google is exploring a permanent hybrid plan that would allow workers to split their time between their homes and offices.

For years, large-scale remote work has been an idea that employers and their workers toyed with. “Now we see that it can be done, that the economy continues, that life goes on,” says Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “There are wonderful new efficiencies that we didn’t even realize.……….”

“It’s by no means limited to tech workers. Lawyers, accountants, computer programmers and even journalists are discovering that they don’t need costly commutes to offices to get their work done, and their employers are finding that they can reap large savings as a result.

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Union City Politicians Determined to Let a Highway Scar Their City

BATWG Newsletter Issue No. 30

This letter was sent to ACTC Chair Pauline Cutter on November 16, 2020. It was written by Mr. Flavio Poehlmann, a resident of Fremont and also a very productive BATWG member.


Dear ACTC Commissioners:

Union City Harkins Back to 1958

The East West Connector (EWC) project (now called the nicer-sounding “Quarry Lakes Parkway”) has a long history dating back to 1958. This project never did catch on, at Caltrans or anywhere else and makes less sense now than ever, except to Union City’s local pols. As of a few months ago the capital cost of project had rocketed to $362 million including $74 million in City-owned land being donated as a site for the highway.

Despite the fact that highway building in urbanized areas has been essentially out of favor for a half a century, Union City’s government is determined to raze a historic 1888 landmark and obliterate the site of an attractive extension of the Quarry Lakes Recreational Area along Alameda Creek so it can run its 2-mile highway right to the front door of Union City’s much-heralded “transit-oriented” housing development north of the BART station.

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Valley Link Project – Still in its Infancy

BATWG Newsletter Issue No. 30

On September 9, 2020 the Tri-Valley, San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority (TVSJVRRA) was presented an update on the Valley Link (VL) project by its staff and consultants. The presentation outlined the following major changes: changes in alignment, revised section boundaries, revised station locations, revised station lengths, revised ridership, revised train length and revised cost estimates. Other uncertainties, including the method of train propulsion, remain. Nonetheless two weeks later, presumably driven to position VL for early federal stimulus funding, the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) approved the diversion of $400 million in Alameda County sales taxes to the project. BATWG opposed the ACTC’s action, arguing that earmarking of capital funding for the plan as presented was premature and that critical information was lacking.

Numerous outstanding questions that are critical to potential success or failure of the VL project remain unanswered. Chief among them:

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