It's important not to forget how critical the passage of Measure M in 2004 was to Sonoma County transportation -- and just how bad traffic on Highway 101 would be today without it.

Since the passage of the one-quarter-cent sales tax that year, total funding in the 101 corridor has totaled $720 million. The tax generates about $17 million a year. But it allowed the Sonoma County Transportation Authority to use it to leverage another $300 million in funding. Just one telling example: Sonoma County has used $141 million in local sales tax funds to garner an additional $283 million from the state's Corridor Mobility Improvement Account.  Without the sales tax, Sonoma County's population share of those state funds would have been just $45 million, or just 15 percent of the total, according to a recent presentation to the Sonoma County Alliance by SCTA Executive Director Suzanne Smith.

"So we did OK," she said.

OK? How about a phenomenal success.

The projects funded since 2005 include:

-- 23 miles of HOV lanes in Sonoma County.

-- 2.8 miles of HOV lanes in Northern Marin.

-- Six major interchanges, some still under construction.

-- Measure M also provided some funding for SMART rail, bicycle and pedestrian projects, bus transit and local road maintenance.

But there is more to be done. Highest on the list is the Marin-Sonoma Narrows.

The total funding needed to complete the 101 corridor is $256 million, according to Ms. Smith. The projects include:

-- $32 million for a new Route 116 Bridge at Petaluma. As has been the strategy of the SCTA from the beginning, design, environmental and other work has been done so the project is ready to go this year if funded.

-- $86 million for HOV lanes in Petaluma. This is another project that is ready to go in 2013 if funded.

-- $138 million for HOV lanes through the Narrows between Petaluma and Novato.

The good news for all of these projects is that, because of Measure M, the North Bay is well-positioned relative to other regions in the state to capture any funding that is available. The relationships built with transportation agencies and ability to move quickly because plans are in place are real advantages.

The Sonoma County Alliance where Ms. Smith spoke and other North Bay business and community organizations were and are critical supporters of Measure M and transportation in general. Now, with their continuing support and advocacy, the North Bay can get on with finishing the job on Highway 101, especially the outdated, dangerous and congested Narrows....

 Brad Bollinger is the Business Journal associate publisher and editor in chief. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or bbollinger@busjrnl.com.