$30B spread thin between projects 

Better Caltrain service, more lanes on U.S. Highway 101 and improved freeway connections may sound like essential upgrades to Peninsula commuters, but a lack of transportation funding is putting many key projects in jeopardy.

Only $30 billion in regional funds are available for about 900 Bay Area transportation projects that cost $80 to $90 billion, said the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional planning body for Bay Area roads and transit. MTC funding currently comes from local, state and national sources such as bridge tolls, sales taxes and gas taxes.

Of more than 50 proposed projects in San Mateo County, only a fraction will receive a portion of that $30 billion. The projects that do not receive a portion of the $30 billion pie may be delayed or reduced in scale, officials said.

Though most of the projects are funded through a variety of sources, without funds from the MTC, the projects are in limbo, officials said.

The electrification of Caltrain, a $500 million dollar process that would be complete in 2014, and the Devil’s Slide bypass are two of the biggest projects battling for funding. Caltrain is also looking for MTC funds for a project to send trains across the Dumbarton Bridge area to Union City.

"It’s a regional transit system that really deserves and needs regional support," Caltrain board member Jerry Hill said.

Funding for roadways, including plans to add an extra lane to two busy portions of U.S. Highway 101, are also up in the air. There are also several projects proposed that would improve roads, freeway connections and local streets throughout the Peninsula. Some projects, such as bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects, will be left unfunded, officials said.

The MTC and other transit agencies have discussed new revenue generators such as congestion pricing and passes commuters can buy to use the carpool lane, but no new measures have been approved as of yet.

The MTC hosted a meeting of about 50 San Mateo County residents last week, part of a nine-county tour to publicize how the agency is spending its funds, said, MTC spokeswoman Karin Betts.

The MTC staff will budget out the $30 billion worth of plans, project-by-project, in June and the group’s governing board will vote on it in July, Betts said.

The decision on which projects receive funding will ultimately depend on their impact on reducing pollution and congestion, and improving access, maintenance and growth, Betts said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Battle for billions

Notable transit projects vying for Metropolitan Transportation Commission funds.

» Caltrain electrification

» Auxiliary lanes on U.S. Highway 101, below, from 3rd Avenue to Millbrae

» Auxiliary lanes on U.S. Highway 101 from Sierra Point to San Francisco

» Devil’s Slide bypass from Montara to Pacifica

» Enhanced SamTrans service

» Uphill passing lane on state Route 92

» Dumbarton rail to Union City

Source: MTC

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