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Executive Director's Report



SMART Groundbreaking
Petaluma, February 24

I joined Commissioner Mackenzie at one of the most upbeat groundbreaking ceremonies I’ve ever attended for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit System that will provide passenger rail service between Santa Rosa to San Rafael. For the first time in our region since the original BART system was constructed, these two North Bay counties are attempting to build and operate a new rail system largely with their own local funds. Kudos to all the local leaders involved.

APTA Legislative Conference
Washington, DC, March 12-14

Our 33rd annual march on Washington featured Commissioners Cortese, Dodd, Glover and Spering as well as senior MTC staff in meetings with our Bay Area congressional delegation, U.S. Senate offices, and transportation committee staff. We hosted our annual California transportation reception on Tuesday night, but the highlight of the trip was Senate floor passage of its surface transportation reauthorization bill on the last day of our visit (see next item). Our report to Congress can be found here.

Senate Passes Transportation Bill
Washington, DC, March 14

By a wide margin of 74-22, the United States Senate passed its surface transportation reauthorization bill known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP 21). The central provisions of the bill were co-authored by Senators Barbara Boxer and James Inhofe, the Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Although the bi-partisan nature of the bill and voting result has been rightly hailed, what the two parties could actually agree to was fairly modest: a two-year reauthorization with a slight up-tick in funding and the beginnings of much-needed programmatic reforms.

Meanwhile, chaos still reigns on this subject in the House of Representatives. After the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s five-year bill failed to garner even sufficient Republican votes on the House floor to seek final passage, House leadership withdrew the bill. Speaker Boehner then began to float a series of trial balloons involving shorter or modified versions of the legislation, none of which apparently attracted enough support within the Republican caucus. It now appears the House will vote this week on a three-month extension of current law through June 30, 2012 – although what would be the 9th extension of SAFETEA faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.

SR 237 Express Lane Debuts
Silicon Valley, March 15

The Bay Area’s second high occupancy toll lane opened for business in mid-March at the interchange of State Route 237 and Interstate 880 in the vicinity of the Cities of Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara. This new express lane is being administered by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, with the FasTrak® toll collection being conducted by BATA as is the case on the Sunol Grade express lane in Alameda County.

Peer Review Report on East Span Foundations
Oakland, March 23

The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee which I chair released findings late last week by the independent Seismic Safety Peer Review Panel confirming the integrity of the tower foundation and overall seismic safety of the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. We commissioned this review following the disclosure that a Caltrans materials technician who had falsified test results on other projects also had done testing work on the tower foundation for the new east span. The Peer Review Panel will now turn its attention to the other two major toll bridge projects that the technician worked on: the Bay Bridge West Approach project in San Francisco and the new Benicia-Martinez Bridge.

CARB Hearing on SCS Plans
Sacramento, March 22

I testified in support of our counterparts in Los Angeles and Sacramento as their Sustainable Communities Strategies appeared before the California Air Resources Board for approval of the greenhouse gas emission reduction estimates in those plans. Final action by the two MPO boards is expected in the coming weeks, which will leave the Bay Area as the last of the “Big 4” metropolitan regions to adopt our strategy in response to Senate Bill 375 in Spring 2013.

Map of the Month

The map shows the Center for Neighborhood Technology's Housing and Transportation (H+T) Affordability Index using 2009 American Community Survey Data. Compared side-by-side is the cost of housing as a percent of income (on the right) with the cost of housing and transportation as a percent of income (on the left) for an average household at the county level. The average housing cost of five Bay Area counties does not exceed 30% of average household income. When taking into consideration the added cost of transportation, however, only three Bay Area counties – Alameda, San Francisco, and Santa Clara – do not exceed the 50% threshold for combined cost.

MTC Operational Statistics

The monthly report on the performance of MTC’s operating programs:

Upcoming Events

March 28 — CTC Reception, Claremont Hotel, Berkeley
April 3 — AMPO Board Meeting, Washington, DC