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Press Releases

For Immediate Release



Ellen Griffin

Betsy Shotwell
(Senator Byron Sher's Office)

OAKLAND, Calif., June 4, 1998...
Commuters who drive on some of the Bay Area's most congested highways got some help recently from state Sen. Byron D. Sher (D-Palo Alto). Contained in the annual state budget legislation approved last week by the state Senate (SB 1391) is a small but nonetheless vital provision to increase state funding for motorist-aid tow truck programs -- known as Freeway Service Patrols (FSP) -- throughout California, from $15 million to $16.5 million.

"To those receiving help, these roving white tow trucks are like white knights or guardian angels. This is a highly popular, cost-effective program that ought to expand," said Sen. Sher, noting a recent U.C. Berkeley study showing that every dollar spent on the program yields $3.40 in benefits.

In persuading his Senate colleagues to approve the budget hike, Sher pointed out that the purpose of the program is to ensure motorist safety and cut traffic congestion -- and the resulting air pollution -- by quickly clearing stalls and accidents, which together cause more than half of all traffic delay.

For the Bay Area, the funding increase could mean supplementing the current fleet of 47 tow trucks working during peak weekday commute hours by an additional five trucks. Due to declining funding from the state, patrols on some Bay Area routes have been cut in recent years. Candidates for new or restored service include Highway 92 west of Highway 101 in San Mateo County, Interstate 680 south of the Sunol Grade in Santa Clara County and south of the Benicia Bridge in Contra Costa County, Interstate 580 between Vasco and Tassajara roads in Alameda County, as well as portions of Highway 101 in San Francisco and Sonoma counties.

The budget item now moves to a joint Senate-Assembly Budget Conference Committee, where it will be considered along with myriad other funding questions. If approved there and by both legislative houses, the item would move to Gov. Pete Wilson's desk for consideration.

In addition to state monies, the Bay Area's FSP program is paid for by a variety of federal and local funds, including part of a $1-per-vehicle annual registration fee assessed to Bay Area motorists. Operated jointly by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways (MTC SAFE), the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Caltrans, the FSP currently patrols 265 miles every weekday.

FSP drivers attempt to get stalled autos running within a few minutes by providing basic services free of charge such as changing a tire, jump-starting a battery, taping hoses or providing a gallon of fuel. If that doesn't work, the vehicle is towed to the nearest CHP-identified location off the freeway at no cost to the owner. FSP drivers stop an average of 8,000 times a month to clear accidents, assist stranded motorists, remove dangerous road debris, tag abandoned vehicles and otherwise help to make the region's freeways safer and less congested.


MTC is the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.