Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Solano Competing for Big Transportation Dollars

Solano Competing for Big Transportation Dollars
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - It's almost like the instant-winner lottery game - only Solano County could win a key interstates 80 and 680 renovation phase and a wider Highway 12 through Jameson Canyon.

But, as with the state lottery, the competition is stiff.

California voters on Nov. 7 passed Proposition 1-B, the $20 billion transportation bond. The California Transportation Commission in March 2007 could award up to $4.5 billion for projects that improve traffic flow.

Bay Area counties must submit their entries to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission by Friday for screening. MTC in January 2007 will decide which submittals move on to the state for consideration.

Like other counties, Solano County hopes to hit the jackpot.

A $200 million to $250 million phase of the I-80/I-680 interchange tops the list being submitted by the Solano Transportation Authority. The interchange is the region's worst traffic bottleneck and can back up for miles during rush hour.

The design for the interchange renovations isn't finished. But, whatever option is chosen, a new connection between the two freeways is needed.

"It's not the full interchange, but it's the next major phase," STA Executive Director Daryl Halls said Tuesday.

Next on the STA list is $100 million to $110 million for Interstate 80 carpool lanes from the Carquinez Bridge through Vallejo to Highway 37.

Then comes widening two-lane Highway 12 through Jameson Canyon. This is a major link between Napa and Solano counties and is used by thousands of commuters each day. At times, traffic slows to a crawl.

Both the STA and the Napa County Transportation Planning Agency are submitting the Highway 12 request. There are three options, said John Ponte of the Napa agency.

One is to build a four-lane expressway starting in 2011 for a cost of $190 million. The expressway would have a median barrier and would modify some of the existing curves and dips. The estimate includes expected inflation between now and construction.

Another option is to build a four-lane expressway, but keep the curves and dips on the existing road and eliminate the median barrier. These extras could be added at a later date. The cost is $133 million.

The third option is to build only one extra lane going either eastbound or westbound. The full, four-lane expressway would be built later, as more money became available. The cost for this option is $107 million.

Local transportation officials will decide which option to pursue, Ponte said. For now, all options will go to MTC.

Finally, the STA is asking that the eastbound I-80 truck scale near Cordelia be moved a short distance and renovated at a cost of about $110 million. This would improve traffic flow on the freeway.

But dozens of California counties have traffic nightmares they hope can be eased by the bond money. Other potential Bay Area projects include adding another bore to the Caldecott tunnel and improving thoroughfares such as Interstate 101 in Marin and Sonoma counties, Interstate 580 in Alameda County and the Doyle Drive approach to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

"Every county has a list that's larger than what we can get from Sacramento," MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler said Tuesday.

Halls agreed the region has many good projects in competition.

"We think Interstate 80 and Jameson are right up there," Halls said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Local projects competing for state transportation bond money:

- Interstates 80 and 680 interchange phase that improves the connection between the two freeways.

- Interstate 80 carpool lanes from Carquinez Bridge through Vallejo to Highway 37.

- Highway 12 widening in Jameson Canyon, creating a four-lane expressway.

- Eastbound I-80 truck scale renovation and relocation near Cordelia.

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