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Bridge Toll Hike Would Build $1.2 Billion of Highways

San Mateo County officials want another set of flyover ramps at the Highway 101 & 92 interchange. Photo: Anda Chu / The Mercury News

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)’s proposed $3 bridge toll hike, Regional Measure 3, is bloated with over one billion dollars in highway traffic expansions. Project expenditures were modified slightly to appease East Bay legislators who insisted the original measure would spend too much money in the South Bay. The toll hike’s highways budget totals $1.2 billion, 27 percent of the $4.5 billion in tolls to-be-paid by drivers over the next 25 years.

By that time (2043), the San Francisco Bay Area will need to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent to meet the 80 percent reduction by 2050 goal of the landmark 2016 Paris Agreement. Experts predict that not acting now to reduce emissions will result in billions of dollars in losses due sea level rise and the increased severity of floods and droughts by then. Highway expansion projects increase greenhouse gas emissions precisely at a time when greenhouse gas emissions need to be slashed.

Highway Projects
Bay Area Express Lanes, $300 million
Goods Movement, $160 million
Highway 101 Marin-Sonoma Narrows, $120 million
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Improvements, $210 million
Highways 101 & 92 interchange, $50 million
Highways 680 & 4 interchange, $210 million
Highways 680 & 80 interchange, $150 million
Highways 680 & 880 interchange, $15 million
Highway 37, $100 million, Highway 29, $20 million
Highway 80 Truck Scales, $105 million
Byron Highway-Vasco Road Airport Connector, $10 million
Vasco Road Widening, $15 million

Transit Projects
New BART Train Cars, $500 million
Bay Trail & Safe Routes to Transit, $150 million
Ferry Enhancement, $500 million
BART to Santa Clara, $375 million
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART), $40 million
Amtrak Capitol Corridor, $90 million
Caltrain Downtown Extension, $325 million
MUNI Fleet Expansion and Facilities, $140 million
AC Transit Core Capacity Projects, $140 million
AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit, $100 million
Second BART Transbay Crossing, $50 million
Tri-Valley Transit Access, $100 million
VTA Light Rail to Eastridge, $130 million
Rebuild San Jose Diridon Station, $100 million
Dumbarton Corridor Improvements, $130 million
San Rafael Transit Center, $30 million
North Bay Transit Access, $100 million
Clipper Card Upgrade, $50 million
Highway 80 Transit Service, $25 million
Highway 680 Transit Improvements, $10 million
East Contra Costa County Transit Center, $15 million

Reconstructing the Highway 101 & State Route 92 interchange (San Mateo County), Highway 680 & State Route 4 interchange (Contra Costa County), Highways 680 & 80 interchange (Solano County), Highway 37, and installing Highway 80 Truck Scales will cost between $50 and $175 million each.

Other projects marketed as transit improvements projects would get money to build highway expansions, such as the Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Plan, which is now being aggressively promoted by elected officials in San Mateo County. The Dumbarton plan calls for over $1 billion to rebuild the intersections of Bayfront Expressway with University Avenue, Willow Road, and Marsh Road in Menlo Park as highway interchanges with flyover ramps and underground tunnels.

The Dumbarton Corridor will be flooding regularly by the time highway expansions are built to carry more car traffic there. Image: MTC

Other so-called transit improvements are hideous wastes of taxpayer dollars, spending huge sums for meager benefits in mobility, such as the duplicative $1 billion+ BART from San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station to Santa Clara Caltrain Station. That project would swallow $375 million of RM3 money.

A majority of voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area would have to approve the toll increase to $9 (Bay Bridge) or $8 (all other bridges) in either the June or November 2018 election. Special California state legislation – Senate Bill 595 (Assembly 43-31 on September 13, Senate 27-13 on September 14) was required to legally place it on Bay Area ballots.

SB 595 awaits the signature of Governor Jerry Brown. If he signs it, each county transportation agency and the MTC would then decide whether to place the $3 toll hike proposal on the June or November 2018 ballot. It would then have to be approved by at least 50 percent of voters in the nine-county Bay Area.