By Michael Cabanatuan - Some of the Bay Area’s biggest transportation projects — BART to downtown San Jose, express lanes on the Peninsula and the widening of the Novato Narrows on Highway 101, and a new train-control system for BART — scored big in competition for state funding Wednesday and Thursday.
These projects, and more than a dozen others, won funding, or were recommended for funding, for much-needed improvements in the region. Among them were SMART rail extensions to Larkspur and Windsor; new buses and rail cars for Muni, Caltrain, AC Transit and SamTrans; and a plan to speed up Capitol Corridor trains to Sacramento.
The state’s Transportation Agency announced the grants Thursday for the transit projects. The state Transportation Commission made recommendations Wednesday for the highway projects. Final approval is expected in May.
The Bay Area fared well, said Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“This is good news, and particularly good news in the Highway 101 corridor, where the jobs are not just in San Mateo County but in Marin and Sonoma as well,” he said. “This meets a lot of the Bay Area’s priorities, and is consistent with the Bay Area’s plans for the future.”
But the victory could be short-lived. Much of the state money — about half of the transit funding and all of the highway funding — comes from the state gas tax that could be repealed by voters in November. State Republican leaders on Tuesday submitted signatures on petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot.
What that would mean for the various projects is uncertain, Rentschler said, but transportation officials would likely have to perform triage, as they have in the past when expected transportation funds disappeared.
“It’s not an easy question, but the assumption is that all of these projects would be dropped,” he said.
For now, though, BART is the big winner with $730 million, spread over 10 years, to help build the planned extension through downtown San Jose to Santa Clara. While federal funding is still needed, and a regional toll measure has to pass, the state award completes the funding plan for the $4.8 billion extension.
The 6-mile extension is being built by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority but will be operated by BART.
BART also received $319 million over 10 years to help pay for a new train-control system that will allow it to run more trains through the Transbay Tube and buy more new rail cars.
Two projects on Highway 101 — one new, one old — won funding recommendations Wednesday from the Transportation Commission staff. The Novato Narrows widening in Marin and Sonoma counties, which has been under construction for years, could be awarded $85 million.
A plan to get traffic moving faster on Highway 101 in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties by building a combined carpool and toll lane was recommended to receive $233 million.
“There is no question that 101 on the Peninsula is a big deal for the state’s economy,” Rentschler said. “It is good news we’re on the path to build a new carpool lane on that stretch of road.”
The following transportation projects were awarded funding or recommended for funding by state transportation agencies Wednesday and Thursday.
Highway 101, Novato Narrows, Sonoma County: $85 million
Highway 101, carpool/toll lanes, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties: $233 million
BART, extension to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara: $730 million
BART, core capacity improvements (272 new rail cars, new train-control system): $319 million
Capitol Corridor trains, various improvements: $80 million
Muni, Metro rail cars: $27 million
SMART rail extensions to Larkspur, Windsor: $21 million
SamTrans express bus pilot: $15 million
AC Transit hybrid buses: $14 million
Caltrain rail cars and platform extensions: $123 million
Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority, BART parking structure: $21 million
Solano Transportation Authority, bus service restructuring: $11 million