I’ve redacted the name and other identifying information, to protect the employee identity.
This inside view of Caltrans is quite revealing, and it jibes with what I have observed from the outside looking in as a citizen. His point about erosion control is something I see and shake my head about all the time when passing construction sites. The Highway 149 project that he speaks of is a particularly bad example of environmentalism gone berserk. Especially galling was the death of a little boy in his mother’s car in a broadside collision at the intersection that could have been improved 10 years ago if it weren’t for the pointless and bogus lawsuits that kept being put in the way of the project by eco-activists. There were other accidents, injuries and deaths too during that period.
Our local newspaper has a summary from when it finally got underway. Here’s the short story.
The Highway 149 project was conceived in 1993, with work to begin in 1998.
Initially, the project would have cost $40 million, but construction costs soared since then. It ended up being a $128 million project and required environmental mitigation measures that cost $13 million.
Plus, to add insult to injury, in addition to other lawsuits, a local enviro-activist group filed environmental lawsuits over one of the mitigation measures saying it wasn’t enough.
The timeline for the Highway 149 project reads like a wreck in itself.
The Caltrans employee writes:
In my job as a [type of engineer] it is hard enough to actually be responsible for the results a construction contract and try to motivate my people to work, under the backdrop of a falling financial sky with the governor balancing budget on backs of State employees. The budget crisis is supposedly due to a lack of funds. Now, reading this, it is truly disturbing that the Caltrans is willing to make “global warming” a priority and call it the biggest threat to our infrastructure.
We are building projects on a shoestring personnel budget, being forced to comply with draconian water board rules that make no sense and are very costly (like apply erosion control in the middle of the summer), paying off resource agencies for taking the habitat of microscopic organisms that live in cow pastures on other people’s land, and using “clean air” vehicles that do not have an adequate fueling infrastructure, are unreliable and very expensive (maintenance must be done in Texas). These overreaching requirements delay project development and make the projects much more expensive. I sometimes refer to our department as an environmental department that builds roads on the side.
In your area, there is the case of the recent highway 149 widening. That project developed very slowly due to these issues, people continued to crash and die at 70/149. All of these rules stem from laws enacted by other state agencies. Their biggest champion was your local Butte Environmental Council.
When I started with the State years ago, none of these rules existed. Yet I see no change in the environment and continue to hear of manmade degradation of the environment. I am not certain, but I would highly suspect, that no one has done a quantifiable analysis of how much of anything we are saving by implementing these rules. I am certain that we can quantify the number of people who have died and the number of our tax dollars used due to the delay of the projects.
Just like Global Warming, I suspect this is all a money grab and alarmist funding feast. No problem = no funding.
While I am very tempted to write to our management about the piece, I know that my letter would be immediately round-filed and ignored. With an organization that will ignore even basic facts like water running downhill (I have to fix faulty designs on a routine basis) trying to “address” the piece would most likely go nowhere and only serve to frustrate me even more.