OAKLAND, CA — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will present a total of 11 “Excellence in Motion” awards during a ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 22 in the Oakland Museum Cafe at 1000 Oak Street in Oakland to honor people, projects and organizations for exceptional contributions to Bay Area transportation. A reception open to the public begins at 8:30 a.m., with the awards presentation by MTC Commissioners beginning at 9 a.m. The 2008 program marks the 28th presentation of the now biennial Excellence in Motion awards, which began in 1977.
Among this year’s winners are the late Congressman Tom Lantos for his long-term advocacy of Bay Area transportation projects; Caltrans for its repair of the MacArthur Maze following a 2007 tanker truck accident and explosion; and Safeway, Inc. for reducing greenhouse gases through a biodiesel fuel program for its fleet of tractor-trailer trucks.
“Our 2008 award winners represent the innovation and ingenuity for which the Bay Area is famous,” commented MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd. “They have gone the extra mile to make transportation improvements that benefit all of us through increased mobility, alternatives to driving alone, and a healthy Bay Area environment.”
The following is a brief summary of the award winners.
Caltrans gets top honors for quickly repairing and reopening the damaged Interstate 880 and Interstate 580 freeway connectors in the MacArthur Maze, after they were closed due to a tanker truck explosion on April 29, 2007. Caltrans, working closely with contractors and government officials, repaired and reopened the I-880 connector just eight days after the accident. The more extensively damaged I-580 connector was reopened 26 days after the accident. An extensive and successful public outreach campaign kept people and goods moving through the region while repairs were completed. For the “MacArthur Maze Miracle,” Caltrans receives the “Grand Award” this year.
Congressman Tom Lantos, who represented the 12 th Congressional District from 1981 until his death in February, will posthumously receive MTC’s John T. Foran Legislative Award for his tireless advocacy for Bay Area transportation projects. Rep. Lantos was instrumental in securing funding to extend BART to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and also worked for more than 20 years to identify and secure funding for a permanent fix to the storm-damaged Devil’s Slide section of State Route 1 in San Mateo County. Because of Rep. Lantos’ efforts, the BART to SFO extension opened in 2002, and the Tom Lantos Tunnel — which will bypass Devil’s Slide — broke ground in 2007. Completion of the tunnel is slated for 2011.
City CarShare and the city of Berkeley’s AccessMobile will receive the Doris Kahn Accessible Transportation Award for providing the nation’s first wheelchair-accessible car-share van. The AccessMobile, funded by a $25,000 award won by the city of Berkeley and matched by City CarShare, provides a new mobility option for wheelchair-bound residents. The van can transport two individuals using wheelchairs, plus three additional passengers and a driver. The AccessMobile launched in Berkeley on Earth Day, April 22.
AC Transit’s Richmond Facility Workers will receive the Miriam Gholikely Public Service Award for their voluntary community service at the Richmond Rescue Mission, which began when AC Transit driver Hector Perdomo overheard a mother on the bus telling her son that she had no money for the only gift he wanted for Christmas, a basketball. Moved by the encounter, Mr. Perdomo contacted the mission and enlisted his co-workers to provide gifts for the residents by picking names from a “giving tree.” On Christmas Eve 2007, the AC Transit workers delivered over 100 gifts to the families who reside at the rescue mission. Plans are under way to make the holiday project an annual event.
Jean Hart, who served as Deputy Director of Planning for the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency from 1993 until her retirement in 2007, is being recognized for her leadership in building consensus for projects that involved diverse stakeholders and multiple jurisdictions. Ms. Hart, recipient of the Greta Ericson Distinguished Service Award, was pivotal in building consensus for projects that involved numerous stakeholders, including the planned conversion of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes along Interstate 680 to high-occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes. She also headed the San Pablo Corridor Study, which resulted in the AC Transit Rapid Bus that now runs from San Pablo to Oakland.
Deanna Vilcheck receives the David Tannehill Special Employee Award for her leadership as the resident, or lead, engineer for Caltrans’ $400 million Bay Bridge West Approach Replacement project. For the past five years, Ms. Vilcheck has directed hundreds of workers who are replacing a seismically vulnerable, mile-long section of Interstate 80 through San Francisco’s South of Market area — while keeping the roadway open to 280,000 vehicles per day. The intricate project reached a milestone in April when the new eastbound section of the seismically sound roadway was opened. Completion of the entire project is slated for January 2009.
In addition to the awards named in honor of outstanding individuals in Bay Area transportation, MTC will also present five Awards of Merit.
Fannie Mae Barnes is being honored for becoming the first female “grip” on a San Francisco cable car, opening up for women a previously “male-only” position. Ms. Barnes, who drove the Powell-Mason cable car for almost 10 years until her retirement in July 2007, served as a bus driver and cable-car conductor for 17 years before “taking the grip” in 1998. To prepare to handle the 260-pound device that grips the car to the cable, Ms. Barnes increased her weight training and passed a 25-day driver-training course that has an 80 percent dropout rate.
The seasonal Muir Woods Shuttle, which is operated by Golden Gate Transit in partnership with the National Park Service and Marin County, is being recognized for providing a car-free way to visit Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County during the summer months. Since its inception in 2005, the Muir Woods Shuttle has carried almost 94,000 riders at an affordable $3 per round trip. The shuttle carries passengers between Mill Valley, Muir Woods and the Sausalito ferry terminal, reducing congestion and air pollution in the local area.
As part of its greenhouse gas sustainability initiative, Safeway, Inc. has converted its entire mainland fleet of 1,100 big-rig trucks to run on biodiesel, reducing the public’s exposure to greenhouse gases and toxic diesel matter. The Pleasanton-based company has taken a leadership role with its multi-faceted climate protection program and is now the fifth-largest retail user of alternative energy in the U.S.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will receive an Award of Merit for the ambitious redesign of its entire bus network, including changes to almost all major routes. The overhaul included the addition of 11 new routes, the elimination of several low-ridership lines, improved service frequencies, and the introduction of a smaller community bus network with lower fares. VTA also launched an extensive outreach program to explain the changes to the public. The results have been impressive, with July 2008 ridership increasing almost 10 percent over the previous year.
Stanford University is being recognized for its innovative Transportation and Parking Program, which was expanded in 2002 and has since contributed — via strong incentives and targeted marketing — to a drop in the drive-alone rate among Stanford employees and students to 52 percent from 72 percent. Cash incentives are offered for surrendering a parking permit and switching to alternative transportation. Transit is free on the 13 routes operated by Stanford’s Marguerite shuttle, which links the university to bus and rail hubs and the surrounding community. The program also provides free transit for eligible employees on Caltrain, VTA and AC Transit's Line U. On campus, Stanford provides 12,000 bike-rack spaces with amenities to make biking a viable alternative to driving.
MTC is the regional transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
Catalina Alvarado: (510) 817-5783
John Goodwin: (415) 778-5262