Saturday, March 03, 2007

It is all about highway construction spending

As the critics have warned about Prop 1B last year, the bond is all about highway pork. If it isn't money to expand highways in rural areas, it is money to widen local freeways or rebuild freeway-to-freeway mega interchanges. Either way, Prop 1b is not a winning proposition for cities who chose not to attract more automobile traffic, like San Francisco, or to everyday transit riders, as the Governor has proposed to reduce funding that assists transit operations.

Appointment of Carl Guardino to the California Transportation Commission, the primary agency that allocates the Prop 1b funds, signals that the Silicon Valley is committed to widen freeways and rebuild mega interchanges for many years to come.

Although Guardino supports the BART extension, it is not something that will overtake highway expansion as a priority or physically substitute any highway project. During the 2006 Measure A campaign last year, the proponents created a false scenario and claimed, "If BART isn’t built, the county would need to build two more lanes in either direction on I-880 to maintain the current level of congestion on that highway. " Even though Measure A failed, VTA, with the support of Guardino, still spends money on BART as if the tax was approved and continues to support widening on I-880. Earlier this week, California Transportation Commission has voted to fund new carpool lanes on I-880 between CA-237 and US-101. That stretch of freeway was widen a few years ago but appearently they think it is not wide enough.

The BART/Freeway widening hypocrisy is more apparent when it comes to ridership and fare revenue projection. VTA and Guardino assumes that the stations along the BART extension would generate the ridership as in downtown San Francisco, even though San Francisco, unlike the South Bay, has not supported freeway expansion within the city or new bridges across the Bay for decades. If the ridership is not realized, then financial troubles will follow, like the BART-SFO extension, creating a burden on taxpayers and existing transit riders.

Having BART simply is not a barrier against highway expansions. A clear example is the 4th bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, which has also received Prop 1b funds. BART operates along the same corridor and provides relatively fast and frequent service. Since the new bore will provide more capacity for the reverse commute direction, it will take ridership and fare revenue from BART without reducing BART operating cost.

South Bay Labor Council and the California Alliance for Jobs, which they represent the construction interests, will be big winners in all these pork.

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