Jonathan Edwards is a resident of the west side of Modesto. He voiced his opposition to the 132 West Freeway Project at the September 17, 2014 Policy Board Meeting for the Stanislaus County Council of Governments (STANCOG). He stated that more freeways aren’t wanted as they generate air pollution and noise.
Mr. Edwards then asked if any member of the Policy Board was opposed to the project. No one raised his hand. Mr. Edwards concluded: “I have no representation here.” County Supervisor and Policy Board Chairman Vito Chiesa responded that his elected representatives are his representation. Sensing that the Policy Board was comprised of urban developers, Mr. Edwards may have realized the futility of trying to stop the project.
Turnover of Caltrans Managers
At the Policy Board meeting, the Caltrans Representative reported that Ms. Debra “Sam” Haack is changing jobs and will no longer be the project manager for the hazardous waste piles located within the right-of-way of the project area. Her replacement has not been announced.
The departure of Ms. Haack will represent the complete turnover of management for the project. Project Manager Christina Hibbard departed recently. Caltrans District 10 Manager Dina Bortner is retiring. Changing personnel will probably have little effect on the progress of the project, but significantly reduces institutional memory about what the public wants. Also, it is difficult to hold someone new accountable for past mistakes and decisions such as the failure of Caltrans to properly maintain the hazardous waste piles within the 132 freeway right-of-way.
132 Project Not a State Priority
STANCOG Executive Director Martine Yamzon reported that the 132 Freeway Project did not make the top tier of statewide projects. The State of California does not consider the project as important or urgent as projects elsewhere. This determination means that no additional money to fund the project will come from the state unless special legislative action is requested by local representative Kristen Olsen.
To request more state money, Ms. Olsen asked that a letter be sent to her from the Policy Board of STANCOG asking for whatever money it seeks so that she can justify adding the request to state budget appropriations. As leader of the Republican caucus to the State Assembly, she can be expected to deliver additional funds for the project.
The Policy Board did not discuss the possible contents of the letter. At least, one can hope that money is requested to remove the hazardous materials from the 132 Freeway Right of Way.