Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that Tony Tavares, the current District 7 Director of of the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), was appointed as the next CalTrans Director.
Tavares, a Civil Engineering graduate of UC Davis, started his careers as a civil engineer for the state of California in 1990. Starting in 1997, he was chosen for a string of several positions, including District 4 Director, Chief of the Division of Maintenance, Chief of the Division of Right of Way and Land Surveys, and Assistant Division Chief of Construction. Then, in 2018, he was promoted to being the CalTrans Bay Area Director before landing in his current position of District 7 Director, covering the counties of Los Angeles and Ventura, in November 2020. Despite only being in his current position for little over a year and a half, Governor Newsom elevated Tavares due to his civil engineering background and experience in overseeing transportation issues across the state.
“Tony Tavares has dedicated his career to serving the people of California, with decades of leadership and deep experience overseeing critical transportation issues spanning the state,” Governor Newsom said in a statement on Friday. “I look forward to his continued partnership in advancing our innovative efforts to create safer and more sustainable communities throughout the state.”
While CalTrans does not oversee the controversial California High Speed Rail System, which has ballooned to costing $105 billion, over two and a half times it’s original $40 billion budget, it does oversee the highway system, public transportation, and non-high speed train routes such as those in the Amtrak system. Recently CalTrans has been in the public eye for multiple highway and lane closures for updates and repairs, going on a mini hiring spree, reducing speed limits in several areas, and, perhaps most controversially, being in charge of evicting and clearing out numerous homeless encampments throughout the state, including those under many overpasses.
“Tavares is inheriting a CalTrans that supports critical infrastructure all over state, from Oregon to Mexico,” explained Andy Sorvino, an infrastructure and transportation researcher, to the Globe on Friday. “The big chunk of what they do is simply highway maintenance and construction. But the clearing of homeless encampments, while not unique to California, is a growing issue, especially when CalTrans is involved. They have a lot on their plates now, but if you’re looking at a major issue that could come up, it’s dealing with these.”
“As long as the highways and freeways remain in good condition and there are no major backups or hiccups with public transit, things should be fine under Tavares. And his background, a civil engineer with heavy experience in both LA and the Bay Area, point to where a lot of projects are likely going to go. Both areas are quickly building up rapid transit lines, both areas need highway work, and both areas are seeing heavy road usage once again after the COVID lockdowns. That’s where Newsom and California is looking right now. He should be thankful he’s not getting roped with the high speed train though. That is only going to get worse. People like highways and see where the money is going. That? Not so much.”
Tavares is expected to be approved by the Senate and formally brought on soon.
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