Friday, January 20, 2006

Vallejoans to Help Determine how Tax Dollars are Spent on Transportation

Vallejoans to Help Determine how Tax Dollars are Spent on Transportation
By MATTHIAS GAFNI, Times-Herald staff writer

Vallejoans will get the first crack today at suggesting where an estimated $1.57 billion from a proposed sales tax measure should be spent on local transportation.

After approving a draft Solano County Transportation Expenditure Plan on Jan. 11, the Solano Transportation Improvement Authority now will tour the county seeking input. The authority's board will vote on a final plan at its next meeting Feb. 1.

Vallejo will host today's noon meeting of the transportation authority's Citizens' Advisory Committee at JFK Library. The committee - comprised of business, environmental, community leaders and other stakeholders - will discuss the six categories designated for funding. The draft plan envisions sending portions of funding to: highways, local streets and roads, commuter transit, safety projects, local return to source, and senior and disabled transit services.

"We want to get feedback on those categories," said Daryl Halls, executive director of the Solano Transportation Authority. "We want to know if we have the right mix."

This marks the agency's third attempt at getting Solano County voters to pass a 30-year half-cent sales tax increase. The measure, which is targeted to appear on the June ballot, must pass a difficult two-thirds threshold. In the past two attempts, a simple majority of voters approved the tax, but not the needed two-thirds.

"Clearly, there's a recognition that this has to happen," Halls said.

Before March 10, transportation officials must get a majority of city councils and the county board of supervisors to approve the plan for the June 6 ballot.

The biggest change from the county's last transportation tax attempt comes in traffic safety projects. While only receiving 2 percent of funding in the 2004 attempt, officials boosted that funding to 10 percent this time.

"Safety is really important to a lot of folks," Halls said. "Every meeting we've been at (safety) comes out and it's not a secret there's been a fair amount of fatalities and high profile accidents recently."

In 2005, a car crashed into a group of students leaving a Vacaville school campus. A brother and sister were killed.

By raising the safety funding, revenue was taken from the highway and commuter transit programs, Halls said.

Before the end of the month, the transportation agency will host community forums, including in Vallejo and Benicia.

Transportation officials held community focus groups last summer while debating whether to try once again to pass the tax.

- E-mail Matthias Gafni at or call 553-6825.

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Where it's going

The draft plan would send the largest amount of revenues ($625 million, or 40 percent sales tax funds) toward highway projects, specifically the Interstate 80/680/State Route 12 interchange in Cordelia.

- Local streets and roads ($315 million, or 20 percent of funds);

- Commuter transit services ($190 million, 12 percent);

- Safety projects and safe routes to school ($155 million, 10 percent);

- Local return to source ($155 million, 10 percent);

- Senior and disabled transit services ($115 million, 7 percent).

What Vallejo and Benicia would see for its local streets and roads, and discretionary dollars:

- For local roads, Vallejo would get $78 million and Benicia $19.4 million.

- Local return to source funds (money sent to the local community to be used as the city sees fit, but must be for transportation-related uses) would equal $47 million for Vallejo and $8.4 million for Benicia.

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If you go...

What: Citizens' Advisory Committee meets to discuss draft expenditure plan for revenue from Solano Transportation Improvement Authority's proposed half-cent sales tax increase for Solano County.

When: Noon, today.

Where: Joseph Room, JFK Library, 505 Santa Clara St., Vallejo

For more information, visit

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