ECOS Sues Caltrans on Highway 50 Expansion Project

July 17, 2017

On July 3, 2017, the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate with the Sacramento County Superior Court challenging the adequacy of the Initial Study/Environmental Assessment with a Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for a project to expand Highway US 50 in the City of Sacramento. Specifically, this project would add high-occupancy vehicle (HOV or carpool) lanes to US 50 between I-5 and Watt Avenue.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires State agencies to identify any adverse environmental impacts of proposed projects, and explore ways to lessen those impacts. As mandated under CEQA, Caltrans prepared a Mitigated Negative Declaration for this US 50 expansion project that asserts no significant impacts on air quality, human health and safety, or regional growth patterns — even though this project would lead to a significant increase in vehicles on the freeway.

Carpools are an important part of a sound transportation policy, and ECOS could support a Mitigated Negative Declaration provided Caltrans approved Alternative 3 to convert two existing lanes to HOV lanes, instead of constructing two new lanes (one in each direction). However, Caltrans wants to increase the number of lanes, without reviewing the potential impacts on air quality and neighborhood quality of life that a full environmental impact report (EIR) would provide. Several studies have shown that freeway expansion leads to increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT) (“induced demand”) and encourages sprawl, thereby exacerbating the region’s traffic and air quality woes, and increasing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The ECOS petition cites numerous deficiencies in Caltrans’ environmental assessment for this project, including the failure to estimate the impacts of increased traffic volumes that would result from adding lanes to US 50.

“Sacramento’s elected officials, planners, and the public need an accurate assessment of the environmental costs of expanding this freeway,” commented Ralph Propper, Co-Chair of the ECOS Transportation, Air Quality & Climate Change Committee, and previously an air pollution research specialist with the California Air Resources Board’s health research branch. “This stretch of US 50 passes through residential areas, and near-road exposure to vehicular emissions has been linked to increased incidence of asthma, premature births, low birth-weight babies, cancer (especially from diesel exhaust), and cardiovascular disease such as strokes and heart attacks. In addition, the increased emissions will exacerbate the Sacramento region’s severe ozone smog, which damages the lungs of the young, the elderly, and those who exercise outdoors. We need an evaluation of the relative benefits of road expansion compared with alternatives such as expanded light rail. By submitting its ‘Negative Declaration’, Caltrans is preventing the public and the region’s policy makers from receiving the information needed to make a sound transportation planning decision.”

The Environmental Council of Sacramento is a coalition of individuals and environmental and civic organizations that supports land use and transportation planning that makes more efficient 

Contact: John Deeter, Co-Chair of ECOS Transportation, Air Quality & Climate Change Committee  — (916) 952-1268, <jdeeter[at]gmail[dot]com>

Access a PDF of this press release here.

Volkswagen emissions fraud sleuth chosen to head Sacramento air agency

By Tony Bizjak

May 25, 2017

The Sacramento Bee

Alberto Ayala, a state air pollution executive who helped uncover Volkswagen’s massive diesel cheating scandal, has been named head of the Sacramento region’s air quality efforts.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District board voted on Thursday morning to name Ayala its executive director, replacing retiring executive Larry Greene.

Ayala, a deputy executive officer at the California Air Resources Board, launched the state’s initial review of diesel engines in 2012 that lead to the discovery that Volkswagen had illegally programmed millions of its vehicles internationally, including in California, to pass emissions tests.

Read more here.

Bizjak, Tony. “Volkswagen emissions fraud sleuth chosen to head Sacramento air agency.” Sacbee. SacBee, 25 May 2017. Web. 26 May 2017.

Please Use Caution If Driving

May 15, 2017

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) strives to provide all residents of the Sacramento region with pedestrian, bicycle and transit access to jobs, schools, shopping, services and recreation. 

Unfortunately, Sacramento drivers are hindering this access, as evidenced by three separate pedestrian deaths by motorists in less than two weeks. 

On April 30, 2017, Theresa McCourt died when hit by a suspected drunken driver on 47th Avenue in Sacramento. McCourt was a longtime member of the Sacramento running community. She also “…wrote a column on running for The Bee from 1990 to 1998. The British-born McCourt was also a published poet, freelance writer and editor of the California State Auditor.” Read more at

On May 11, 2017, 35-year-old Alysha McLean was killed on Franklin Boulevard at 42nd Avenue. McLean was attempting to cross Franklin Boulevard when she was struck in the southbound lanes by a vehicle that left the scene. The CHP is asking the public’s help in identifying the vehicle. Read more at

On the same day, May 11, 2017, 58-year-old Mark Alan Stout was hit and killed by a car in North Highlands as he crossed Watt Avenue in his wheelchair. The California Highway Patrol said that Stout was traveling in his wheelchair across Watt Avenue near Myrtle Avenue. Read more at

Source: The Sacramento Bee, May 15, 2017

Meet the New CEO of SACOG, James Corless

Join the Environmental Council of Sacramento – ECOS for our May ECOS Board Meeting! Everyone who is interested is welcome. Bring a friend!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Location: SEIU Local 1000, 1325 S St, Sacramento, CA 95811

5:30 pm Reception

Please come and meet and socialize with ECOS Board Members and guests. Light appetizers and refreshments served. Feel free to bring something to share.

6:00 pm Meeting Begins

Come meet James Corless, the new Chief Executive Officer of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG)

Come meet the new chief executive of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) on Monday, May 15th with ECOS! James Corless is a public transit and smart growth advocate and the founding director of Transportation for America.

SACOG is the region’s chief transportation planning agency. Learn more about them here:

Transportation for America is an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions. Learn more about the organization here:

“James Corless is the founding director of Transportation for America, where he built an impressive national network of civic, elected, and business leaders who understand that strategic investments in infrastructure are crucial for attracting economic development.” – SACOG

After the discussion, ECOS Committees will report on their current business. Announcements from members and attendees are welcome at the end, as time allows.

Click here for the full agenda. (PDF)

ECOS Comments on Elk Grove’s Latest Attempts to Sprawl

March 31, 2017

On March 31, 2017, ECOS submitted a letter containing our comments on the latest application filed by the City of Elk Grove to expand their sphere of influence, thereby increasing the area in which they are allowed to build.

If you are new to learning about Elk Grove’s application to expand its Sphere of Influence, or need a refresher, please click here for some background information and key terms

View our full comment letter by clicking here. (PDF)

Stakeholder Meeting for the Downtown Specific Plan

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Hacker Lab, 1715 I St, Sacramento, CA 95811
The City of Sacramento is developing the Downtown Specific Plan.
The plan will focus primarily on:
  *  Identifying and evaluating a number of urban infill sites within the project area
  *  Removing barriers to housing development by streamlining the development and environmental review process
  *  Incentivizing Transit-Oriented Development throughout the Central City, including along the streetcar corridor
  *  Maintaining and improving the quality of life for Central City residents, and furthering neighborhood livability by including additional amenities and housing opportunities
The project team is hosting a focus group meeting to discuss community amenities, historic preservation, arts and culture, and public health as they relate to increasing Downtown’s housing supply. Take part in developing the plan, and find out the results of a recent community survey.
Please RSVP by March 24th by responding to Salvador Ramirez at sramirez[at]aimconsultingco[dot]com or calling 916-442-1168.  If you have any questions regarding this meeting, please contact Gladys Cornell at gcornell[at]aimconsultingco[dot]com or at 916-442-1168.