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Legislative Gridlock Threatens Bay Area Traffic Projects

Critical transportation projects all over the state are being shortchanged and threatened with delays because of the Legislature’s failure to find a way to fund them.

(TNS) -- Political gridlock in Sacramento and Washington threatens to stall planned improvements to the Bay Area’s crowded and congested transportation system, according to a study released Wednesday by a national transportation research group.

Just three of the Bay Area’s 20 most-critical transportation projects are fully funded, 11 have only partial funding and six aren’t likely to get enough money to even break ground until at least 2020, the report said.

“When you look at the most critically needed projects, the ones that are going to keep the system moving and keep people safe, most of those don’t have the funds they need,” said Rocky Moretti, a spokesman for Trip, which conducted the study.

Terminal’s struggle

Trip, which advocates for congestion-relieving projects, released the report in downtown San Francisco across the street from the Transbay Transit Center construction site, a project struggling to find funding for its second phase: a Caltrain extension.

The extension is among the mostly unfunded, and endangered, projects listed by the group along with reconstruction of the interchanges of Interstate 680 and Highway 4 in Martinez and of Interstates 80, 680 and Highway 12 in Solano County. Also unfunded or underfunded are BART improvements to increase capacity and service, the widening of Highway 152 heading from Gilroy toward the Central Valley and congestion-based pricing to reduce traffic in San Francisco.

Trip, a national transportation research group that advocates for congestion-relieving projects, used data from Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to choose the top 20 projects, then ranked each either green, yellow or red, depending on their funding.

“What makes Trip’s assessment so valuable and so timely is that the report looks at the entirety of our transportation puzzle rather than just two or three pieces of it,” said Dave Cortese, MTC chairman and Santa Clara County supervisor.

The report also ranked projects in the Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego areas.

Critical projects all over the state are being shortchanged and threatened with delays because of the Legislature’s failure to find a way to fund transportation projects, said Will Kempton, executive director of Transportation California, a statewide transportation advocacy group and a former Caltrans director.

“We have not been making the investment in infrastructure we need to for several years, and it’s catching up to us,” he said.

“Giving a green light to critically needed transportation projects in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the state is going to require increased funding from all levels of government,” Will Wilkins, Trip’s executive director, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, too many of these transportation projects are facing yellow or red lights and potential state funding cuts could slow their progress even more.”

Green, yellow rankings

The Transbay Tube seismic retrofit for BART, Muni’s Central Subway and Transbay Transit Center construction — all well under way — are the only projects given green rankings, meaning enough money is lined up.

Maintenance of streets, roads and highways leads the top 20 list and has a yellow ranking, signifying only partial funding.

Also ranked yellow are the rest of the top five projects on Trip’s list: region-wide improvements to the Bay Area’s largest transit systems, seismic retrofitting of the Golden Gate Bridge, construction of MTC’s planned express lane network, a BART extension to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, and infrastructure improvements at the Port of Oakland and former Oakland Army Base.

Trip chose the top projects, the organization said, based on their potential for relieving traffic congestion, improving safety, supporting economic development and improving physical conditions.

Top Bay Area transportation projects lack funding

Trip, a national transportation research group, ranked the 20 most-needed Bay Area transportation projects and rated the sufficiency of their funding. Green ratings signify fully funded projects, yellow partially funded and red largely unfunded.

  • Maintenance and improvement of local roads, streets and highways. Yellow.
  • Region-wide improvements to BART, Muni, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and AC Transit. Yellow.
  • Seismic retrofitting of Golden Gate Bridge. Yellow.
  • Construction of regional express lane network. Yellow.
  • BART extension to downtown San Jose, Santa Clara. Yellow.
  • Infrastructure improvements at Port of Oakland and Oakland Army Base. Yellow.
  • Reconstruction and improvements to Interstate 680-Highway 4 interchange In Martinez. Red.
  • BART Transbay Tube seismic retrofit. Green.
  • Replacement and expansion of Transbay Transit Center. Green.
  • Region-wide maintenance of state highways and bridges. Yellow.
  • Interstate 80-Interstate 680-Highway 12 interchange improvements in Solano County. Red.
  • BART Metro program to expand capacity, service on the central core of the system. Red.
  • Region-wide freeway ramp metering and other technological traffic management. Yellow.
  •  Implementing VTA express lane network throughout Santa Clara Valley. Yellow.
  • Construction of Caltrain rail extension to Transbay Transit Center. Red.
  • Central Subway. Green.
  • Highway 152 realignment and widening between highways 101 and 156 in Santa Clara County. Red.
  • Marin-Sonoma Narrows widening. Yellow.
  • Maintenance and operations of state toll bridge system. Yellow.
  • San Francisco congestion pricing program. Red.
Source: Trip

©2016 the San Francisco Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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