Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Highway bill funds area projects$17.4 million for junction of I-80/680 and Highway 12

Highway bill funds area projects$17.4 million for junction of I-80/680 and Highway 12

By DAN JUDGE, Times-Herald staff writer

A massive highway and transit construction bill approved by Congress on Friday will help fuel several critical transportation projects in Solano and Napa counties.

The $286.4 billion measure provides funds for the Interstate 80 and I-680 interchange with Highway 12 in Fairfield, the widening of Jameson Canyon Road in Napa County and other regional projects.

Local congressional representatives appeared relieved that the long-stalled bill has been passed.
"I am pleased to have secured funding for these critical transportation projects that will help stimulate the local economy and ease traffic congestion for area commuters," said U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

The six-year compromise measure was approved after a nearly two-year impasse that kept funding flat for a multitude of transportation projects across the nation. The legislation replaces a six-year program that expired in 2003 and has been extended 11 times since then as Congress and the administration battled over the bill.

The bill passed Friday will funnel money into hundreds of projects across the state, including $59 million for seismic upgrades to the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the higher-profile projects in Solano County that will receive a fiscal boost is the junction of I-80/680 and Highway 12.

The $17.4 million provided by the bill may be a relative drop in the bucket when it comes to completing the project, which will ultimately cost an estimated $500 million to $1 billion. But Solano County transit officials welcomed the news.

"It helps a lot," said Daryl Halls, executive director for the Solano Transportation Authority.
"Even if it ends up being a $700 million interchange, the federal money will allow us to start doing things like design, right-of-way acquisition and maybe support bridge toll money to do another phase of the project."

Another $2 million has been earmarked for construction of a "high occupancy volume" (HOV) lane for buses and carpools through Vallejo, and $3.2 million will go toward access improvement at Travis Air Force Base on Jepson Parkway.

Napa Valley's U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson championed a portion of the bill that will supply $6.4 million toward widening the portion of Highway 12 known as Jameson Canyon Road from two lanes to four.

"Jameson Canyon's accident rate is five times the state average. This funding is an important step in improving the safety of this important corridor," Thompson said.
The portion of the Bay Trail biking and hiking path that runs through American Canyon will receive $800,000. The money will be used to complete the American Canyon Wetlands Edge portion of the trail.

Local transportation officials say they may not know how much money will be funneled into the region until they have finished scrutinizing the document, which is several thousand pages thick.
"There are thousands of earmarks in this bill," said Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "We're not going to know until probably next week where they all are."

California's total share of the bill includes $17 billion for highways and $4.6 billion for public transportation projects, plus $1 billion in miscellaneous other projects.

Much of the highway money would be used by the California Department of Transportation to help fund its State Transportation Improvement Program, a multiyear capital improvement program that currently lists more than 1,300 projects in various states of completion.
Overall, California has over $100 billion in transportation funding needs, officials say. Lawmakers had been frustrated by delays in passing the bill.

"We've gone far too long without new federal funding for local transportation projects," said U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo.

The legislation passed Friday guarantees that by 2008 every state will get back at least 92 percent of what it contributes through federal gasoline taxes to the Highway Trust Fund. The current minimum rate of return is 90.5 percent, a rate viewed as insufficient by "donor" states like California that pay more into the fund than they get back.

- E-mail Dan Judge at or call 553-6831. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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