Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bay Area To Get $840M For Cargo Improvement

Bay Area To Get $840M For Cargo Improvement
By Erik N. Nelson/MediaNews Group

The California Transportation Commission approved a funding formula Tuesday that would allocate as much as $840 million to improve freight transportation corridors serving the Bay Area and Northern California.

State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, had demanded that the panel allow more of the $2 billion Trade Corridors Improvement Fund to Southern California. Voters approved the fund a year ago as part of the $20 billion Proposition 1B bond measure.

Meeting Nunez' demand would have left a smaller portion for Northern California. The commission vote also boosts the fund to as high as $3 billion, first with $500 million in gas tax receipts and then with the more uncertain prospect of proposed container fees and new federal funding.

The guidelines give a range of $640 million to $840 million, or 26-28 percent, to Northern California, where Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area officials banded together to lobby for a menu of $857 million in projects.

One of the projects included is moving the truck scales on eastbound Interstate 80 in Solano County farther east from its current location as a step in easing traffic congestion.

The list also includes a $325 million truck-train terminal at the Port of Oakland and $315 million worth of improvements to Union Pacific tracks between Richmond and Martinez, each to be half privately funded, along with opening rail tunnels through Donner Pass to allow double-stacked container cars.
Five Southern California counties, whose officials showed up in force at Tuesday's meeting to ask for 70-85 percent of the funding, would be eligible for $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion, or 56-60 percent under an increase $3 billion in funding.

San Diego, with its port and border crossing with Mexico, could get $250 million to $400 million.

"I was pleased that we didn't have 85 percent of the money going to Los Angeles," said Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, after the vote. He told the commission that giving a huge percentage to the Los Angles/Inland Empire freight corridor would alienate other parts of the state and hurt the chances of passing future infrastructure bond measures.

Officials from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties argued that 85 percent of the state's cargo containers come through Southern California through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, thus they're entitled to that much from the trade corridors program. Northern California officials argued that the big ports down south are largely imports from overseas, while the Port of Oakland boosts the state's economy with tech goods exported from Silicon Valley, farm products from the Central Valley and wine from Napa and Sonoma counties.

While Nunez vowed in a statement to give that corridor, which serves the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, "the honest treatment it deserves," Beall expressed confidence that the Bay Area's legislators could preserve the funding.

One of the advantages enjoyed by the Bay Area is that the state transportation commission's membership is almost devoid of members from the Los Angeles area. Three members from the Bay Area, including chairman James Ghielmetti of San Francisco, and two other Northern California members combine to make up a majority on the nine-member commission.

Larry Zarian of Glendale was the only vote against the trade corridor guidelines.

Ghielmetti said the staff recommendation was the fairest result of two days of negotiations between all the regions and state officials.

"We did our work and tried not to politicize it," Ghielmetti said. "Now it looks like it's going to get politicized."

• MediaNews Staff Writer Harrison Sheppard contributed to this report. Contact Erik Nelson at 510-208-6410 or and read his Capricious Commuter blog at

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