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  Transportation Projects Ignore Those Without Cars and Cash
March 21, 2013

The regional governmental apparatus for transportation policy and distribution of funds for transportation projects is a labyrinthine challenge to comprehend and includes such agencies as the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee (WCCTAC), the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Together, they administer the disposition of hundreds of millions of dollars annually for transportation projects – from freeways to pothole repairs.

I represent Richmond on WCCTAC, and the members of WCCTAC elected me to represent West County on CCTA.

Richmond needs good representation on these regional bodies because they are often pursuing a vision and allocating funds in ways that are not in West County’s interest. The CCTA, especially, is dominated by central and east Contra Costa interests whose priorities are focused on expensive freeway and automobile transportation projects.

In my second CCTA meeting last night, the commissioners heard an update on the Regional Expressway Network and voted on two measures that would begin to implement Expressway projects on I-680. An “expressway” is an HOV lane that is opened up to drivers who don’t qualify as carpools but are willing to pay for the privilege of using it.

This “pay to play” scheme is justified by advocates who claim that there is often unused capacity in the HOV lanes that could be used to enhance traffic flow, using electronic monitoring to make sure that paid users are allowed only when capacity exists. The revenue from paid users will be used to build or create more expressway projects.

While this may seem like a good idea for solo freeway commuters who have extra cash to spend, it does nothing for people in West Contra Costa who don’t have cars or cash and don’t commute on I-680. It is inherently elitist and by increasing freeway capacity, it encourages population growth in outlying areas that is contrary to most public policies now aimed at curtailing urban sprawl.

Before the vote was taken, I asked that 50 percent of the revenue be reserved for public transportation enhancements and other projects and programs to benefit commuters who don’t have cars and cash. Not one commissioner supported me, and I was the only “no” vote.

Following are the agenda items. Click hyperlinks for details.
4.A.9 Regional Express Lane Network
4.A.9.1 Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Status Update. In October 2011, MTC secured authorization from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to develop and operate a 270 mile Regional Express Lane Network. Staff from MTC will provide an update on progress and planned activities related to governance structure, implementation strategies and the Phase 1 conversion project. Staff Contact: RossChittenden (Attachment-Information)
4.A.9.2 Interstate 680 - North Segment (I-680N) Express Lane Conversion - Request for Proposals (RFP).  Staff requests approval to issue a RFP to scope, environmentally clear and design the I-680N Express Lane.  The I-680N Express Lane projest proposes to convert High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to express lanes on southbound I-680 from near the Benicia-Martinez Bridge to near Livorna Road in Alamo, and northbound I-680 from the I-680/SR242 interchange near the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.  Staff Contact: Ross Chittenden (Attachment - Action)
4.A.9.3 I-680 North Segment (I-680N) Express Lane Conversion - Authorization to Request RM2 Allocation from MTC for Environmental Clearance and Plans, Specifications and Estimate (PS&E). Staff requests authorization to submit an allocation request to MTC in the amount of $9.2 million for environmental clearance and PS&E. Resolution 13‑07-P. Staff Contact: Ross Chittenden (Summary Attachment-Action) [PDF-380 KB]