Federal transportation bill falls far short for Bay Area

By Darlene K. Gee : mercurynews – excerpt

The delivery of a long-term federal transportation funding package took many by surprise, even though it had taken a decade to arrive. Signed into law on Dec. 4 by President Obama, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is the shot in the arm that has long been needed to maintain, modernize and expand the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

However, while it’s a great down payment, the $305 billion it provides falls far short of the needs in the Bay Area and other urban regions that have extensive multimodal systems requiring repair and expansion.

California’s share of the total, for example, is $26 billion. But that’s well under half the nearly $60 billion in the state’s deferred road maintenance alone, let alone the even larger cost of statewide transportation requirements that Gov. Jerry Brown announced last January.

While we await a more robust bill, we can nonetheless be grateful for the benefits the FAST Act brings. Among them:

Greater funding predictability for states. With its five years of guaranteed funding, the nation’s transportation professionals can count on a predictable flow of federal money as they envision, plan, design and build infrastructure. Strengthened freight funding and strategy. New or expanded infrastructure improvement programs will ease the movement of freight, which will boost economic growth and strengthen global competitiveness. The Port of Oakland, which requires $997 million in improvements to remain viable, could benefit. Acceleration of disruptive technologies. The FAST Act will provide substantial grants for new technologies that can cut traffic congestion and improve safety. These investments will accelerate the already brisk pace of the kind of innovation for which the Bay Area is a hub. In Contra Costa County, for example, decision-makers are looking at how autonomous vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle communication can improve travel patterns.
While these benefits will help create a stronger, safer transportation system, the FAST Act’s modest funding isn’t sufficient to keep up with the deterioration of our aging infrastructure. Local support is needed to fill in the gap… (more)

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