State Legislature Approves Toll Bill, Gives Bay Area Voters Chance to Improve Commute Options
Bay Area voters will get a chance to take regional mobility issues into their own hands if Gov. Brown signs into law Senate Bill 595, which today was passed by the state Legislature. The bill, authored by South Bay Senator Jim Beall, would authorize a special election to be held as early as June 2018 in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties to decide whether to raise tolls by up to $3 on the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges in order to finance a $4.45 billion slate of new transportation projects collectively known as Regional Measure 3 (RM 3).
“The downside of the Bay Area’s tremendous population and jobs growth has been the crushing congestion on our freeways, rail systems and ferry routes,” said Sen. Beall. “While the crush is heaviest along routes leading to or from Silicon Valley and the Bay Bridge, commuters in every part of our region are feeling the pain. If we’re serious about having a dynamic Bay Area economy, we have to be equally serious about making the investments needed to keep businesses and their workers moving.”
Major projects in the RM 3 expenditure plan include expansion of BART’s railcar fleet to accommodate record ridership and the system’s pending 2018 extension to Milpitas and East San Jose; further extension of BART’s Silicon Valley service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara; extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco; expanding transbay bus services and AC Transit’s bus rapid transit lines; constructing a direct freeway connector from northbound U.S. 101 to eastbound Interstate 580 in Marin County, and improving the westbound approach to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the I-580/Richmond Parkway interchange in Contra Costa County; constructing a direct connector between Interstates 680 and 880 in Fremont; upgrading the I-680/State Route 4 interchange in Contra Costa County, the I-680/State Route 84 interchange in Alameda County and the U.S. 101/State Route 92 interchange in San Mateo; various upgrades to relieve congestion in the Dumbarton Bridge corridor and improve State Route 37 in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties; extending the new SMART rail system to Windsor and Healdsburg; expanding San Francisco’s fleet of Muni Metro rail cars; and adding more vessels to the San Francisco Bay Ferry fleet. The bill also includes a $150 million grant program to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to regional transit hubs and to close gaps in the San Francisco Bay Trail.
According to MTC Chair Jake Mackenzie, who also serves as Mayor of Rohnert Park, “Bay Area residents get it. Nobody likes higher tolls, but voters know transportation investment is essential to maintaining our quality of life, and they’ve shown it by approving the Regional Measure 1 (RM 1) toll increase in 1988 and the Regional Measure 2 (RM 2) toll hike in 2004.”
Projects funded through RM 1 include the new Carquinez and Benicia-Martinez bridges; widening the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge and the Bayfront Expressway connecting the Dumbarton Bridge with U.S. 101 in San Mateo County; building the Richmond Parkway connecting I-80 with the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in Contra Costa County and the West Grand Avenue approach to the Bay Bridge in Oakland; and reconfiguring the I-880/State Route 92 interchange in Hayward.
In 2004, voters approved RM 2, raising tolls again to fund improvements such as the Fourth Bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, I-80/680 interchange improvements in Solano County, State Route 4 widening in eastern Contra Costa County and the soon-to-open e-BART connection from Pittsburg/Bay Point to Pittsburg and Antioch; the Muni Central Subway and Transbay Transit Center projects in San Francisco; the BART-to-Oakland Airport connector and the BART extension from Fremont to Warm Springs.
For details on the complete range of investments that would be funded if a majority of voters in the nine Bay Area counties approve RM 3, go to MTC’s web site at mtc.ca.gov/our-work/advocate-lead/state-federal-advocacy/state-advocacy/regional-measure-3.
MTC is the transportation planning, financing, and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.