Caltrans must align its mission and investments with California's climate goals

An external review of CalTrans released by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) yesterday found that the department has fallen far behind the times in its priorities, particularly in light of the environmental challenges that the transportation system needs to address. Citing efficient land use and more transportation choices as the new “order of the day”, CalSTA Secretary Brian Kelly stressed that climate change is a game changer that the nation’s largest Department of Transportation (DOT) cannot afford to keep on the backburner. 

The report recognizes the change in transportation culture that is occurring, where new priorities, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering compact and livable development, have replaced a backward-looking focus on road-building.

These new priorities call for a transportation agency that can be a significant player in achieving California’s sustainability goals as envisioned in forward-thinking legislation such as SB 375, rather than an onlooker. CalSTA plans to work with the agency to draft a new, modern strategic plan that can deliver on state sustainability and mobility objectives.

Although CalTrans has not faced much scrutiny in the past for its lack of contribution to the state’s policy goals, this new assessment shows that Secretary Kelly and CalSTA are committed to moving the state DOT in the right direction.