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With 53 percent voter approval Tuesday for Regional Measure 3, some long-awaited transportation infrastructure improvement projects in the North Bay could begin as early as this summer with others scheduled in phases over the next two to five years, according to transportation officials in Solano and Sonoma counties.

Voters agreed to hike bridge tolls to fund what backers said was a $4.5 billion Bay Area traffic relief plan covering 35 transportation infrastructure programs in nine counties. Tolls will rise by $1 on Jan. 1, 2019, and again in 2022 and 2025. These increases will apply to all Bay Area toll bridges with the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge. As a benefit to multiple toll bridge users, a reduced fee system will be implemented.

This measure is designed to reduce auto and truck traffic, relieve crowding on BART, untangle freeway bottlenecks, improve bus, ferry, BART and corridor rail service while also enhancing bicycle and pedestrian mobility in the Bay Area’s three bridge corridors. Those corridors are north (Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties), central (San Francisco, Contra Costa and a portion of Alameda counties) and south (San Mateo, Santa Clara and part of Alameda county).

According to the Bay Area Toll Authority, the North Bay corridor accounted for 44 percent of all vehicle trips between 2016 and 2017, while central had 34 percent and south 23 percent. Total vehicle hours of delay on the road across all bridge corridors are forecast to double between 2015 and 2040.

With 3.7 million Bay Area workers commuting to work on weekdays in this 7,000 square mile region, planners say the region’s transportation system has been stretched to the limits. Senate Bill 1, enacted in 2017, provided funding for transportation maintenance programs through increases in gas, diesel and car registration fees, along with some money for new projects.

On the other hand, RM 3 is viewed as a primary funding mechanism for transportation expansion by creating improvements in Northern California’s most congested corridors. Advocates for RM 3 say this measure is urgently needed at a time when forecasts indicate the San Francisco Bay Area will add 1.3 million jobs and have a nine-county population of 9.6 million by 2040.

Among projects slated for the north bridge corridor, 11 have a combined budget of nearly $1 billion ($965 million) as part of the North Bay regional traffic relief plan.

Key projects include extending SMART passenger rail service from the Charles M. Schultz-Sonoma County Airport to Windsor and Healdsburg ($40 million); transit access improvements ($100 million); construction of north and southbound HOV lanes along U.S. 101 in the Marin-Sonoma Narrows ($120 million); Highway 37 short and long-term projects to mitigate sea-level rise and flooding ($100 million); Highway 29 improvements in Napa County ($20 million); relocation of Interstate 80 westbound truck scales ($105 million) in Solano County; Amtrak rail capital corridor improvements; Interstate 80-Interstate 680-Highway 12 interchange improvements ($150 million) in Solano County; the San Rafael transit center ($30 million), and Richmond/San Rafael Bridge access Improvements ($210 million) to mention a few.

Start dates for construction will depend on each project being funded, most from more than one source, according to Suzanne Smith, executive director of Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

“For the Sonoma-Marin Narrows, if funding is available from RM 3 and SB 1 then work in the Petaluma area will begin in 2019, and in Marin in 2020, with all work completed by 2023,” she said.

Smith said the Petaluma phase for completing the expansion of the Highway 101 segment south from Highway 116 to the Marin County line is about a year or more ahead of the remaining work in Marin when it comes to readiness, and she expects it to stay that way as funding is made available.

Funding has already been obtained to add north-south HOV lanes, creating a six-lane highway on Highway 101 from the Petaluma River Bridge and Lakeville Highway (Highway 116) north to the start of the carpool lane near the Penngrove exit. This upgrade will add north/south HOV lanes creating a six-lane highway. The budget for the Petaluma segment is $122 million. The SCTA said $37 million in local funds is available, plus $85 million from SB 1.

This North Petaluma project will go out for bid in Spring 2019, with construction expected to start next summer. This expanded highway segment is predicted to open for travel in 2022. The Marin Highway 101 segment from the county line south to Novato will start about one year later. The estimate for the Marin Highway 101 expansion is about $120M, Smith said.

Marin County has committed funds for the design phase and the RM 3 total includes $120M. Highway 101 HOV lane expansion in both directions from Highway 116 south to the Marin County line is funded. It is estimated that Highway 101 from Petaluma to north of Novato could be finished by 2023.

While several local construction firms are currently engaged in fire-related recovery and rebuilding activities, she said the SCTA expects to have competitive bids from multiple contractors for these new transportation-related projects.

She said a threat to the plan is the proposed repeal of SB 1.

“If SB 1 is repealed in November, our transportation infrastructure will be horribly impacted for a generation,” Smith stated. “However, if we have funds from both RM 3 and SB 1 these projects will get done.”

A petition to repeal SB-1 was filed with the California Secretary of State’s office in April. More than 940,000 signatures were acquired and only 585,407 verified names are needed to certify this repeal and place the proposition on the November ballot. A signature review is currently underway and results should be available on or before June 28. Those advocating repeal are not only concerned about rising fuel and registration fees, but that this bill was passed without voter approval.

In addition, Proposition 69 passed by a wide margin (80.42 percent) to ensure that transportation revenues be used for transportation purposes, along with a call for a legislative constitutional amendment.

According to Smith, Highway 37 is a much bigger issue,requiring a partnership of Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties to complete.

“For SR-37, we will develop the environmental impact report (EIR) and some short-term improvements as we develop a longer term approach to address congestion, elevation of the roadbed and implement a plan to mitigate flooding caused by sea level rise throughout the entire 22 mile corridor,” she said.

There is $100 million available in the RM 3 budget for Highway 37, but the overall cost depends on the project scope and length of time it will take to implement a variety of short and long-term components. Additional funding for these Highway 37 improvements could come from toll revenue on this corridor and/or from a possible public/private partnership.

“Once we have the money needed to do the job, work could begin next year and be completed two years later. We are talking about an estimated $1 billion to $4 billion total cost. RM 3 funds are vital to get construction started in 2019 and also to help advance the full project as we build interim improvements.”

In Solano County, $150 million has been budgeted for interchange improvements to enhance traffic flow and to realign access roads in Fairfield’s Green Valley/Cordelia Junction area where Interstate 80, Interstate 680 and Highway 12 come together.

This multiyear, multiphase project features a realignment of Interstate 680, an improved direct connector route between Interstate 80 and Highway 12, construction of new interchange overcrossings, new entrance/exit ramps, bike and pedestrian safety improvements, and the extension of some local streets leading to Interstate 80 and Highway 12.

“For the I-80/I-680 and SR-12 interchange, eight construction packages will be implemented over about a ten-year period that started in 2013,” said Daryl Halls, executive director of the Solano Transportation Authority.

Package I included the Green Valley Road and Highway 12 west connector.

Package IIA will construct a new connector from eastbound Highway 12 to eastbound Interstate 80.

Package IIB will construct a new partial interchange at Interstate 680 and Red Top Road.

Package III will construct the first of two main regional interstate connectors (Interstate 80 westbound to Interstate 680 southbound) and realign Interstate 680 about half a mile to the west of its original location. Package IV will connect Interstate 680 northbound to Eastbound Interstate 80.”

The RM 3 allocation of $150 million covers construction packages IIB, III and IV estimated to be completed in three years or less. These packages are in various design stages and have been CEQA cleared, said Hall.

Another project in this region will relocate the westbound truck scales on the Interstate 80 corridor at a cost of $105 million. Interstate 80 express lanes are also being added so single occupants can drive in a HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lane for a fee using a FasTrak transponder.

“Without RM 3, Solano County would have to rely on tolls, state grants, the Solano Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and federal funding, since Solano is the only county in the Bay Area that does not have a sales tax in place to help pay for transportation improvements,” Halls said.

“For smaller projects with low price tags, Solano finds a way to build them. For long-term projects, we have to leverage state money and obtain matching funds. “Some 150 transportation-related projects are scheduled to start this summer in Solano, including five designed to advance our highway improvement program, along with a bus service plan starting in July.”