To the casual observer, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger seems like an environmental crusader. He signs anti-sprawl legislation, he sues the federal government over emission standards for automobiles, he flies around the world to attend greenhouse gas conferences.
But to those of us that live here and have been working to clean and green our transportation system; the Governor’s track record has been somewhat lacking. We roll our eyes at his daily jet commute and react in horror at his efforts to roll back environmental protections in the name of environmental progress. Yesterday, the Governor attended a press conference at the site of the most expensive highway project to be funded with Stimulus funds and unwittingly removed any doubt that he doesn’t understand the connection between freeways, the environment and public health. From the Daily News :
“This is why it is so important because we have this bumper-to-bumper traffic to go and build an extra lane and build out the 405 freeway,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at a Caltrans construction yard along Mulholland Drive. “And hopefully, eventually, we will build on top of the 405 Freeway because I think we
need another freeway on top of the existing one.”
As you would expect, both the Daily News and KTLA, who’s story is above, are silent on the amazing environmental damage the construction and usage of an extra four lanes of 405 would bring to the area and the state. If you don’t have a chance to watch KTLA’s coverage, reporter Jesse Gray seems a mix of whimsical and incredulous about the prospect; but ends with a wish that it happen in his lifetime. And naturally, there’s no mention of the Governor’s plan to bankrupt transit agencies throughout the state at the same time he’s proposing ANOTHER massive freeway project for an area already choking in its own traffic. Let’s not even talk about the report released earlier this week showing that living near freeways leads to hardened arteries.
Anyone that thinks that the Governor was just speaking off the cuff about his most recent attempt to destroy local air quality; the state has prepared a sketch  of what the raised 405 would look like.
The state has made the official transcript, and full video, from yesterday’s press event available at its official website. Joining the Governor are state officials, business leaders, and union leaders. Mayor Villaraigosa wasn’t planning on attending, according to his daily schedule, but that didn’t stop the Governor from joking that he was “caught” in traffic. As a matter of fact, it makes a fun game: go through the press conference and count the number of times the Governor jokes about people being late to the press conference because of traffic versus the number of jokes about the Terminator movie franchise.
As a last note to anyone reading this and thinking it’s impossible that this project will move forward, after all Metro and Caltrans just embarked on the I-405 HOV project through the Sepulveda Pass; remember the words of Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, speaking about the Governor’s newest scheme to rob transit last month .
…unfortunately with this Governor rumors often turn out to get worse as they get closer to policy. The Governor is disingenuous when he claims to be green on transportation. The only time he’s green is when a special interest lobbies to turn a brown project green or when it comes to promoting cars that are slightly more clean than others.