KSQD 90.7 FM Santa Cruz
KSQD 90.7 FM Santa Cruz
Lawsuit against Aptos Highway 1 Expansion

While the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission celebrates the groundbreaking of the Highway 1 auxiliary lane, bus on shoulder, and Mar Vista bike and pedestrian overcrossing, a lawsuit has been filed by the Sierra Club and The Campaign for Sustainable Transportation seeking to halt the Highway 1 expansion in Aptos. 

Our Talk of the Bay guests are Campaingn for Sustainable Transportation Co-Chair Rick Longinotti, along with Lani Faulkner of the Sierra Club Ventana Chapter Executive Committee and Founder of Equity Transit. Together they address their organization’s views on why investing in multi-modal transit options and making our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians should be a higher priority than road expansions that don’t realize their stated goals.

Lawsuit press release:

The Sierra Club and Campaign for Sustainable Transportation (CFST) filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court regarding Caltrans’ plan to widen Highway 1 in Aptos to build auxiliary lanes between State Park Dr. and Freedom Blvd. The complaint argues that Caltrans’ Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project unlawfully evades the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA):

  • CEQA requires measuring increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT) due to road expansion projects and offset that increase through funding VMT reduction, such as transit projects. Caltrans unlawfully claims an exemption from VMT analysis and mitigation.
  • CEQA requires an analysis of alternatives to a project. This EIR analyzed only the Project and the No Build Alternative. The EIR did not analyze transit alternatives such as a genuine bus-on-shoulder operation, where buses operate in dedicated lanes. It only analyzed the operation of buses in auxiliary lanes. 

The EIR did not analyze the alternative of building the  rail and trail segment parallel to the highway  without combining that project with the auxiliary lanes. The Sierra Club and the Campaign for Sensible Transportation support the rail and trail project as envisioned in the EIR.

  • In response to a lawsuit by the Sierra Club and CFST, in 2022 the Sacramento Superior Court invalidated the Tier I EIR (master EIR) for the series of auxiliary lanes from Santa Cruz through Aptos. It is unlawful to build a segment of the master project when there is no valid Tier I EIR.

“This project is based on the discredited belief that auxiliary lanes will reduce congestion,” says Rick Longinotti, Chair of CFST and Sierra Club’s local Transportation Committee. The Caltrans EIR estimates that congestion in the northbound morning commute would get worse if the project is built. The EIR’s claim that there would be congestion relief in the southbound afternoon commute is based on the opening year of the project. It’s an empirical fact that any congestion relief is short-term, because more vehicles fill up the expanded road in what transportation researchers call “induced travel”. 

Longinotti states, “What we need are alternatives to being stuck in traffic. Spending $180 million on a futile project makes it less possible to fund those alternatives.” He points to other cities such as Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Atlanta that have genuine bus-on-shoulder operations that attract riders because the buses are not stuck in traffic.

Sierra Club and CFST argue that investing in making our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians should be a higher priority than road expansions that don’t reduce congestion. Santa Cruz County ranks 5th worst in rate of serious injuries to pedestrians (out of 58 counties) and 2nd worst in rate of injuries to bicyclists.