Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Solano County fared better than most of the state's 58 counties in grabbing a portion of the $286 billion federal transportation bill.

Article Launched: 08/23/2005 08:46:29 AM

Flow of transit funding
Vast disparity in way federal money distributed

Solano County fared better than most of the state's 58 counties in grabbing a portion of the $286 billion federal transportation bill.

It works out to about $74 per capita, ranking Solano County 16th when compared to other counties in the state.

More than $30 million was pulled by area congressional representatives for such projects as the interchange at Interstate 80, I-680 and state Highway 12, Jepson Parkway upgrades, a Rio Vista bridge study and construction of a carpool lane on I-80 in Vallejo.

While the state's congressional delegation was able to direct nearly $23 billion to projects in California, there is a backlog of $100 billion in projects, mostly because of a swelling state population and years of tight budgets. That backlog includes aging roads and bridges, clogged freeways and inadequate public transportation.

Of the $23 billion designated for the state, $3.4 billion will be earmarked for projects selected by lawmakers. The rest will be doled out to local planning agencies and the state Department of Transportation.

That is the good news.

But what is clear from the results of the once-every-six-years transportation budget process is that there are certain disturbing disparities when it comes to which counties get what sums of money for vital transportation projects.

For some counties the funding "flowed like a carefree commute," reported an Associated Press story on the transportation bill, while a few smaller counties received no funding whatsoever for special projects.

An Associated Press analysis of the funding bill pointed to two of the fastest growing counties as an example of the disparity.

"Riverside County has five times as many people as Placer County," read the AP story. "But residents of Placer County, which connects Sacramento to north Lake Tahoe, are getting five times as much money per person in special projects as residents of Riverside - $261 each in Placer compared with $47 per capita in Riverside, half the statewide average of $95 per person."

Kern County residents made out the best with nearly $1,000 for each resident in transportation funding. "Though it has about one-fiftieth of California's population, Kern County is getting better than one in five of the earmarked dollars," the story reported.

That is not to say that the money should be doled out evenly per capita. Some counties have bigger transit worries than others. But the system does seem in need of some major tweaking.

And, as we have opined before, local funds must be found to complement state and federal funding. A half-cent transit tax, such as that being mulled right now by local transportation experts, could go a long way in helping Solano meet its transit needs. That, of course, will require voter approval somewhere down the line. Previous measures have failed, but we hope when it finally surfaces before voters, it will have the right mix to win the approval it so direly needs.

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