Transportation ” End of the Year Review”

Transportation End of the Year Review: The Promises of a New Beginning                                                                                                                                                                                                     TAMC, Board Chair Alejandro Chavez

Over this past year there have been many highlights to my year as Chair of TAMC.  The most exciting addition to TAMC was the passage of Measure X.  Due to the efforts of many people who took time to campaign outside of their normal duties, Measure X passed.  Along with a promise of a new beginning for more dollars to be utilized for more transportation projects, a fix for pot holes and matching funds to bring more resources to our region, it is really a great time to be part of TAMC.

A highlight of the year has been Measure X projects already started throughout Monterey County, such as street repaving in King City and a reconstruction of Alta Road in Gonzales. Many more projects are in the works. Furthermore, the new roundabout in Pebble Beach/Monterey/Pacific Grove has shown the public that roundabouts can work to ease traffic congestion and it has brought support for looking at alternatives to deal with traffic woes.

The ever-challenging Salinas Rail Extension Kick Start Project is finally here.  Although there have been many bumps along the road, finally there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Slowly, TAMC has progressed and persevered for more than two decades, and we will see a groundbreaking on this project in 2018.

The appointment of the Measure X Citizen Oversight Committee should ease the concerns of citizens who always worry about the misuse of tax dollars.  I do believe that each jurisdiction will be utilizing the dollars efficiently and in the best manner possible to meet the needs of their communities, and we will collectively work regionally to move forward to meet our overall transportation needs.

We have a few contentious projects in the works, including the SR 68 Scenic Highway.  Its plan will undergo extensive community input and environmental review, along with many changes that may or may not include several roundabouts.  As with the Pebble Beach roundabout, which was criticized early on, there will be growing pains with the process as we look at several roundabouts to ease traffic congestion on this crucial route.

Highway 156 will be an ongoing discussion and study for years to come; in part because of the cost and in part because there is no easy fix.  TAMC will continue to explore funding options. Incremental projects such as the Castroville Boulevard Interchange will assist in making the route safer, but the cost of coming up with the ultimate solution is years away.

The authorization of funding for South County transit services is a highlight for me. There is a lack of resources in South County and any funding that can be brought forth is greatly appreciated because it is truly needed.  In addition, the adoption of $6.62 million in competitive grants for Cities and the County to meet local transportation needs was gratifying.  More changes will be coming to South County as the Agency begins the planning phases for making safety improvements along Highway 101 south of Salinas with the Measure X US 101-Safety Improvement Project.

The end of the year brought forth a new beginning and a new focus with the workshop at which we reviewed and updated our Agency’s Strategic Goals & Objectives. The following goals will be used to guide our transportation plans for the next five years:

  1. Deliver Projects
    • Ensure timely delivery of quality, multi-modal transportation projects throughout Monterey County.
  2. Maximize Funding
    • Aggressively pursue all available Federal and State matching funds to initiate and complete transportation projects, to maximize leverage of locally-generated transportation dollars.
  3. Communicate Early and Often
    • Keep the community informed of TAMC’s role in improving the safety and convenience of transportation in the region, and keep the Board of Directors engaged in TAMC activities.
  4. Prepare for the Future
    • Become a leader in the use of innovative solutions to improve transportation in the region.

It is reassuring to see the interest by the transportation board and passion by the staff to move forward in a direction that considers equity and fairness throughout the process and its future funding plans.

In December, the Transportation Agency adopted the Measure X draft expenditure plan accompanied by an Integrated Funding Plan.  This adoption is in line with the goals and objectives as the board-set direction for the next 5 years.

I am proud to have been part of the discussion and part of the leadership team that moved this forward over the past year as the Chair of TAMC.