Transit agency seeks balance in driving Bay Area’s future

Bay Area residents will soon have a chance to voice their opinion about which potential infrastructure projects should have more than $50 billion steered toward them.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s transportation planning organization, will begin holding open-house summits next month about its long-term planning policy.

“We very much want to hear what real people have to say,” agency spokesman John Goodwin said. “We’re hoping these workshops determine the perennial question: What is the appropriate balance between taking care of existing structures and building new ones?”

Following a series of preliminary hearings this fall, the workshops, which start May 6 in Santa Rosa, will be the second round of public discussion on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s “Transportation 2035” project. Redwood City will host a workshop May 13 and San Francisco will host one May 22.

Recently, the MTC, which acts as the transportation, financing, and planning coordinator for the nine-county Bay Area region, has accepted more than 900 infrastructure improvement proposals from various transit agencies, according to Goodwin.

The total cost of the submitted proposals is projected at $50 billion, but the MTC has identified only $30 billion in potential funding for the next 25 years, which means public input into the process is crucial, Goodwin said.

In a telephone study conducted last fall by the MTC thatpolled 1,800 Bay Area residents, 49 percent of those questioned said the region should work on maintaining the existing transportation infrastructure, while 44 percent said funding should go into building new components.

Some of the plans submitted to the MTC that the public will get to weigh in on include a $565 million endeavor to electrify Caltrain from San Francisco to Tamien Station in San Jose, a $448 million proposal to widen U.S. Highway 101 in the Novato Narrows and a $513 million project that would rebuild a freeway interchange in Fairfield.

“It’s time to get down to the brass tacks,” Goodwin said. “These meetings will be a huge part in determining what direction the region heads in for the next 25 years.”

wreisman@examiner.com

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