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.