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San Mateo County Sales Tax To Include Highway 101 Expansion

Photo: Paul Chinn

The widening of Highway 101 and expansion of its interchange with Highway 92 are among the projects SamTrans hopes to fund with revenues from the proposed “Get Us Moving” 0.5 percent county sales tax, according to a presentation by SamTrans Chief Executive Officer Jim Hartnett at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday November 21.

“The general goal is to provide congestion relief, and there are a variety of ways to do that,” said Hartnett. “Our [county] population is expected to grow to over 900,000 by 2040, we know that our aging transportation system has to be reinvigorated.”

While SamTrans says that it has not yet developed an expenditure plan for the sales tax, Hartnett’s presentation listed a number of unfunded transportation projects it could pay for. “These are needs that are unmet unless we change the future,” said Hartnett.

Controversially, these projects include the $500 million widening of Highway 101 to ten lanes and $160 million expansion of the Highway 101/92 interchange, most likely with new flyover ramps. Both highway mega-projects would increase peak-hour capacity for motor vehicles, and induce additional vehicle trips on Highway 101 and major streets leading to it.

Hartnett also listed SamTrans bus operations, electric bus fleet conversion, Caltrain operations, upgrades, and grade separations, Dumbarton Rail, the Senior and Youth Mobility plans recommendations, repaving city streets, bicycle and pedestrian projects, and expanded ferry service as other unfunded transportation needs that the sales tax could fund. But $80 million per year – the amount the sales tax hike would generate – is spread very thin over all these priorities. Some residents are calling for highway projects to be excluded, citing the limited funds and desperate need to address climate change.

“We live in ominous times. Fires and droughts have increased, and the cause is increased greenhouse gas emissions,” said Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter Transportation Committee Chair Gladwyn d’Souza. “We ask that this measure does not increase Vehicle Miles Traveled.”

SamTrans launched a Get Us Moving website and Facebook page on November 20 to collect public feedback on the sales tax proposal. The agency anticipates approval of an expenditure plan by the SamTrans Board of Directors in June or July 2018. The sales tax would then have to be approved by 2/3 of county voters in the November 2018 election.