Transportation

Caltrans asks for public opinion on travel improvements

The state Department of Transportation will hold a workshop in Sacramento on Wednesday to solicit opinions on what the state should do in the coming decades to make travel easier between the capital region and the rest of the state – other than just widening freeways.

The workshop, one of several around the state, is part of an effort by Caltrans to reinvent itself after a state report earlier this year criticized the Transportation Department for being slow to keep up with state and local efforts to build more environmentally sustainable transportation systems that allow workers and others to get around without having to rely on long commutes and other long-distance driving.

The Sacramento workshop runs from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the California State Railroad Museum, 125 I St. It will help Caltrans put together what it calls an “inter-regional transportation strategic plan.”

“We are moving a new direction in incorporating more multimodal consideration in our inter-regional corridors,” said Katie Benouar, chief of Caltrans’ division of transportation planning. “Just learning from the public how they travel, what they are thinking, what their needs are.”

Caltrans officials said they will look at what the department can do to enhance intercity rail systems, like the Capitol Corridor and Amtrak passenger trains, and to improve goods movement, including getting agricultural products to markets. The agency said it also “will also look at the inter-regional systems of trails and bikeways, and where those can be improved to support active transportation.”

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty announced in September the department is revising its mission, including improving its transparency, communications and accountability to the public. “Adopting a new mission, vision and goals is a critical step toward aligning Caltrans with state transportation planning and policy goals and better serving all Californians,” Dougherty said in a press statement.

The department’s course correction comes after a January report, commissioned by the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, concluded that “Caltrans today is significantly out of step with best practice in the transportation field and with the state of California’s policy expectations.” The authors of that report called on Caltrans to, among other steps, work more closely with regional leaders to build environmentally sustainable communities where more people can get to work without driving long distances.

Caltrans has created a Web page, at www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/oasp/itsp.html, for public comments on its inter-regional transportation improvements plan.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

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