On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Tony Tavares, current Caltrans District 7 Chief, as the new head of Caltrans.
Tavares is no stranger to Caltrans headquarters, where he served for years as Division Chief for Maintenance. He also more recently headed up Caltrans District 4 in the Bay Area for several years, and was appointed by Newsom as Chief of District 7, which covers Los Angeles and Ventura counties, in 2020.
As head of these two large and dynamic Caltrans districts, Tavares kept a light hand in guiding the districts' focus towards sustainable transportation and complete streets, while at the same time overseeing an annual $2 billion construction program, most of it for highways.
Tavares has embraced the goal of Vision Zero, and has supported the ideas of a "modern multimodal transportation system" and improving community engagement. He is also returning to a department that has slowly been adjusting to the idea that it has other responsibilities than just highways, including air quality, climate change, and sustainable transportation. Under the previous Director, Toks Omishakin, Caltrans had been building some experience in this area, incorporating a new focus on sustainability into its practices and planning, including in its organizational chart.
Sustainable, multimodal transportation - not the completion of outdated highway expansion plans or "filling gaps" in the already overbuilt highway system - is the direction California desperately needs to go in. If California is lucky, Tavares will keep Caltrans to that path.
Streetsblog California editor Melanie Curry has been thinking about transportation, and how to improve conditions for bicyclists, since her early days commuting by bike to UCLA long ago. She was Managing Editor at the East Bay Express, and edited Access Magazine for the University of California Transportation Center. She also earned her Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley.