Printed on: Sat, Feb 17, 2007
State won't pony up for interchange renovations -- Interstate 80/680 junction left off bond list; Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon makes cut
By Barry Eberling
FAIRFIELD - Proposals to renovate the Cordelia interchange suffered a blow Friday when the project failed to make a state list recommending how to spend bond money.
But the proposed widening of Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon made the cut. That could mean a project formerly out-of-reach because of lack of money will start construction by the end of 2010.
The California Transportation Commission is to make the final decision when it votes on the staff recommendations Feb. 28. It can award up to $4.5 billion for congestion-relieving projects, with money coming from a $20 billion bond passed by state voters in November 2006.
Local officials expressed disappointment and surprise that the interstates 680 and 80 and Highway 12 interchange near Cordelia failed to make the list of 43 recommended projects statewide.
"Our viewpoint is, that's not acceptable," Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said. "It's a critical mobility corridor, it's a trade corridor, it's a critical corridor between two regions."
Fixing the entire interchange could cost more than $1 billion. The STA wants to begin an initial phase in 2011 by renovating the connections between the freeways. It wants $150 million from the bond, with no other source readily at hand.
The list released Friday is only CTC staff's recommendation. But County Supervisor Jim Spering said he believes it will be difficult to get the commission to add the interchange.
Yet he still expressed hope. The staff list calls for awarding only $2.8 billion of the $4.5 billion available. The rest of the money would get awarded at a later date.
"We have to go after that," Spering said.
The reason the interchange failed to make the list may all come down to three months.
A letter from CTC Executive Director John Barna Jr. said staff decided projects that could be under construction by June 2011 represent the best
investments. The date listed in a staff report for starting interchange renovation construction is September 2011.
"May be a candidate for the program update in 2008," the staff report said.
Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon is the major link between Fairfield and Napa and often backs up during rush hour. Napa and Solano counties have both been pushing to have the two-lane road widened to four lanes.
Now the counties must watch and see if the CTC removes the project from the recommended list.
"There's always a danger of that," said John Ponte of the Napa County Transportation Planning Agency. "Do I think it's a big danger? No."
But there is another challenge. The widening is to cost $139 million, Ponte said. The CTC staff list recommended awarding $74 million.
Twenty million dollars is already available and Napa has about $29 million it can put into the project, Ponte said. Solano and the state Department of Transportation are partners on the project, he said.
"I'm assuming everything's going to fall together," he said.
Spering sees a link between the Jameson Canyon widening and the Cordelia interchange improvements that Solano County is seeking. The eastern end of the Jameson Canyon/Highway 12 segment is the interchange.
"You do all those improvements on Jameson Canyon, that backup's still going to be there," he said. "It feeds into the interchange."
Also, a new Benicia Bridge is scheduled to open later this year with a bigger toll plaza, easing the bottleneck there. Spering and other county officials fear the bottleneck will move to the interchange, worsening the congestion there.
"We're going to keep pleading our case," Spering said.
They'll get a chance on Tuesday. The CTC is holding a hearing to take comments on the recommended spending list.
Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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