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California’s roads are an obstacle course of potholes and as Foon Rhee of the Sacramento Bee notes “the repair backlog is estimated at $78 billion for local roads and another $59 billion for state highways.” The rough roads are also highly congested but the massive California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is not eager to build new roads and claims to have “solid science” on their side in the form of Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Traffic Congestion, a National Center for Sustainable Transportation Brief. According to author Susan Handy of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, “adding capacity to roadways fails to alleviate congestion for long because it actually increases vehicle miles traveled (VMT).” Handy, who is in fact the director of the federal National Center for Sustainable Transportation, further explains, “capacity expansion does not increase employment or other economic activity.” So building new roads and highways is a lose-lose proposition for the workers, and refusing to build new roads is a winner for ruling-class bureaucrats and politicians.
As Foon Rhee observes, endorsement of the induced travel theory “does keep Caltrans in tune with Gov. Jerry Brown’s crusade to put California at the forefront of adapting to climate change.” So climate change dogma gets right down to where the rubber meets the road, as the tire commercial used to say. “By being part of the climate change team with the governor,” Rhee writes, “Caltrans could eventually have fewer projects to oversee and less work to do. A government agency not expanding its empire – now that would be a new one.” That would indeed be a new one, but it won’t happen with Caltrans.
As we noted, Caltrans maintains 3,500 full-time engineers who do little more than show up at their desks, and the state recently gave them a raise. So Caltrans will hardly hesitate to maintain full-time employees who don’t build new roads. California taxpayers might also note that neither induced travel theory or climate change dogma stopped Caltrans from building the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which came in 10 years late, $5 billion over budget, and which remains unsafe. No Caltrans boss lost his job, and nobody has been held accountable.