San Mateo to track down transit funding

Facing what could become stiff competition for federal funds, San Mateo is highlighting three areas in town ripe for transit-oriented “smart growth.”

At last night’s City Council meeting, the council approved the designation of three city areas as “Priority Development Areas,” which — if approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — could make those areas eligible for funding “incentives.”

Those funds are part of the Focusing Our Vision program, a partnership between the MTC, Association of Bay Area Governments, Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The program is designed to offer incentives to local cities and counties that identify specific areas where transit-oriented development is possible. The incentives are paid for through federal transportation grants that MTC has been chosen by the state to administer.

A portion of the funds may also come from MTC’s Transportation for Livable Communities program, a program under the umbrella Focusing Our Vision plan. The MTC program has already helped fund the alleyway shops south of the downtown San Mateo Caltrain station.

“The agencies have an interest in looking at regional policies and regional change, and the area that has been identified is development in ‘infill’ areas for transportation-oriented projects,” said San Mateo Public Works Director Larry Patterson. “But to get a transit-oriented development, normally there are some stumbling blocks to that development, so this funding will be focused on those areas to create success.”

In San Mateo, the three nominated sectors are the 102-acre downtown area near the San Mateo Caltrain station, the Rail Corridor Transit-Oriented Development area near the Hillsdale and Hayward Park Stations and the El Camino Real Master Plan between Highway 92 and Belmont.

“Clearly there is a lot of interest in [these funds], most Bay Area agencies have already applied for more than one [Priority Development Areas],” said MTC Transportation Planner Doug Johnson.

Patterson said the funds could one day be used to pay for projects such as the grade-separation project along the Bay Meadows development. They could also be used for repaving, new streetlights and other improvements necessary for growing areas.

“Some of these are mundane improvements, but everything costs something and we’re pretty behind the eight ball as far as infrastructure improvements as it is,” Johnson said.

MTC is currently collecting nominations like San Mateo’s and will designate priority areas to begin the program. According to Johnson, they hope to have the first funds available for community programs within 12 to 18 months.

San Mateo’s high-priority areas

The City Council approved the designation of three city areas where transit-oriented development is possible.

» Downtown

Size: 102 acres

Proximity: Quarter mile from downtown Caltrainstation

» Rail Corridor Transit-Oriented Development

Size: 600+ acres

Proximity: One-half mile from Hillsdale or Hayward Park Caltrain stations

» El Camino Real Master Plan area

Size: 160+ acres

Proximity: El Camino Real between Highway 92 and Belmont

– Source: City of San Mateo

jgoldman@examiner.com

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