Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Solano Clears First State Bond Hurdle

Solano Clears First State Bond Hurdle
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - So far, so good in Solano County's quest for state bond money to help fix the interstates 80 and 680 interchange and widen Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon.

The two projects appear on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission staff recommendation list for the bond money. They made the first cut in a competition that has counties all over California vying for a share of a relatively small pot of money.

Also, the projects appear on a draft state Department of Transportation list of recommended projects for the bond money.

"Right now, we're in a good spot," Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said Tuesday. "As of today, the best you can be is on both lists."

County Supervisor-elect Jim Spering, the area's MTC representative, said the chances of getting money are far better than a shot-in-the-dark.

"Our project has as good a chance as any other project in the state," Spering said Tuesday.

Voters on Nov. 7 passed Proposition 1B, a $20 million transportation bond. The California Transportation Commission on Feb. 28, 2007, will discuss handing out $4.5 billion for projects that help ease congestion, with $1.8 billion to go to Northern California.

So the competition is on. Bay Area counties alone have come up with about 50 projects totaling more than $4 billion.

The MTC will decide which Bay Area projects are submitted to the state for consideration. Commission staff has come up with a list of recommended projects totaling $1.9 billion.

Included on the list is $200 million for the I-80/I-680 interchange at Cordelia. This would help build a new connection between the two freeways. It's the next phase in renovating an interchange that is the county's biggest traffic bottleneck.

The local stretch of I-80 carries commerce to and from the Bay Area, Spering said. Fixing the interchange is more than a Solano County project, he said.

"The way I read it, it's a high priority for the state," he said.

Fixing the entire interchange will cost far more money, perhaps more than $1 billion. But this next phase could help deal with the additional congestion expected at the interchange when the new Benicia Bridge opens, transportation officials said.

MTC staff recommends that Highway 12 get $107 million so it can be widened to three lanes through Jameson Canyon. The ultimate goal is to widen the road to four lanes. Three lanes would be a first phase. Halls said the extra lane might run westbound.

The MTC board will discuss the draft list today. The board will vote on it on Jan. 10, 2007, and forward it to the state.

Projects funded by this portion of the state bond money must be under construction by 2012, Halls said. Both the interchange improvement and Highway 12 widening can meet that deadline, he said. Environmental and design work should be finished by then.

Also, the MTC recommended list for another pot of Proposition 1B money includes $50 million to help move and renovate the eastbound I-80 truck scale near Cordelia.

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

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