Sunday, January 28, 2007

A green light for Jamieson?

A green light for Jamieson?
Sunday, January 28, 2007 1:09 AM PST

Local leaders are hopeful that efforts to address the worst traffic bottleneck -- and one of the most dangerous stretches of road -- in Napa County will get a big boost on March 1.

That is the day the California Transportation Commission is expected to release its list of projects funded by Proposition 1B, the $20 billion transportation bond passed by the voters in November. According to local officials who visited the Register editorial board last week, the county has high hopes for getting $102 million to improve safety and traffic conditions on Jamieson Canyon Road.

Those who visited the editorial board included Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, who is also a member of the Napa County Transportation Planning Agency and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Leon Garcia, NCTPA chair and the mayor of American Canyon; new NCTPA Executive Director Jim Leddy; and top NCTPA staffer John Ponte.

Here's the backdrop: In 2005, Napa County residents overwhelmingly passed Proposition W, a non-binding resolution on whether to widen Jamieson Canyon to four lanes and to make safety improvements. In 2006, a sales tax increase to fund this and other projects failed at the polls -- with only 54 percent saying yes to the measure that required two-thirds approval. Napa transportation leaders have sought the approval -- or at least non-opposition -- of slow growth groups by making it NCTPA policy not to seek widening of Carneros Highway and by pushing the state to make Highway 37, which skirts Napa County, the main corridor between highways 80 and 101.

After the local sales tax, Measure H, failed, statewide voters approved $20 billion in transportation bonds. According to Dodd, about $1.5 billion is heading for the nine-county Bay Area. Two agencies, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, have forwarded lists of high-priority projects. Jamieson Canyon Road and the I-80/680 interchange in Solano County made both lists.

The $102 million, combined with funds from state, Napa County and Solano County sources, would pay for a second lane in each direction on Jamieson Canyon and safety barriers at key points, according to Leddy.

If the California Transportation Commission approves the money, then local officials will wait for what they hope is routine approval from legislators this summer. But they are not sitting on their hands now.

Leddy said he has been working closely with Napa Valley industries to make sure their voice is heard in the apportionment process, as the movement of workers who commute on Jamieson Canyon and goods -- from wine grapes to the stonework materials produced in the south county -- is vital to the state's economy.

Garcia pointed out the benefit for local drivers in American Canyon, who will see traffic woes ease if the I-80/680 interchange and Jamieson Canyon can handle the cars now detouring onto slow and sinuous American Canyon Road.

Ponte emphasized that at least four out of five drivers on Jamieson Canyon in Napa County either live or work here, and that the "pass-through" traffic is minimal. In other words, we truly are the beneficiaries of any upgrade.

Dodd said he is working with leaders from Sonoma, Marin and Solano counties to ensure the North Bay gets transportation money it needs, despite the possible minuses that the population base here is smaller than the state's big metropolitan areas and that local voters decided, by rejecting Measure H, not to make Napa a "self-help" county on transportation.

This opportunity represents the best chance we may see for Napa County to address a critical transportation need.

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