Thursday, October 26, 2006

Carpool Lanes on I-80 Leg in Plans

Carpool Lanes on I-80 Leg in Plans
By Reporter Staff

Solano County gained much-needed funding Wednesday to help with future development of carpool lanes on Interstate 80 in Fairfield.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission allocated $1 million in bridge toll money to the Solano Transportation Authority to help finance the construction of the county's first high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in the median of Interstate 80 between Red Top Road and Air Base Parkway in Fairfield.

"It's a tremendous improvement for the county, both locally and regionally," said Janet Adams, director of projects for STA. "This (allocation) is for the design work of the HOV lanes."

Construction of the lanes, which will extend more than 8 miles in both the east and west-bound directions, likely will begin in the spring of 2008.

"The Interstate 80 carpool lanes are one key element of a comprehensive plan to improve traffic flow through the Cordelia junction, where 80, 680 and State Route 12 all come together," said Suisun City Mayor and Solano County Supervisor-elect Jim Spering, in a press release announcing the allocation.

"That's a critical chokepoint on the routes to and from both the Carquinez Bridge and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge," Spering continued.

Funds for the design work come from voter-approved Regional Measure 2 bridge tolls. Approved by voters in March of 2004, Measure 2 increased Bay Area bridge tolls by $1, bringing the tolls to $3. Funds realized from the increased tolls are to be used for transportation improvements across the region.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has allocated nearly $7 million in Measure 2 funds to STA for the estimated $1.2 billion Interstate 80, I-680 and State Route 12 interchange project. That includes almost $3.5 million approved in January for environmental studies on the new I-80 carpool lanes and $2.5 million for environmental studies on the North Connector project intended to take some Highway 12 traffic off Interstate 80 and improve traffic north of the Interchange.

Wednesday's $1 million allocation will finance additional environmental work as well as preliminary engineering of the carpool lanes.

Spering, who represents Solano County on the MTC, said the funding is just the beginning.

"The Measure 2 funds are one piece of a very large puzzle that's going to take years to put together," he said. Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Solano, "provided a big piece last year when she helped secure almost $17.5 million for the project as part of the new federal transportation program," he said.

Voters will soon have a chance to add another piece to the puzzle, Spering said, when Proposition 1B comes up for a vote in November.

Prop 1B - the transportation infrastructure bond - includes $4.5 billion for a statewide Corridor Mobility program and $2 billion to improve goods movement throughout the state.

"The I-80 corridor should be able to compete very favorably for funding through both programs with other projects around California," Spering said.

MTC, which is the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area's transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency, has now allocated more than $400 million in Measure 2 funds regionally. The commitments to date include $361 million for 28 separate capital projects and nearly $48 million for transit operations around the Bay Area.

PR Newswire contributed to this report.

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