“A Year Filled with Progress and Bumps Along the Road”
As I prepare to step down as Board Chair of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC), I’d like to take a moment to reflect upon the accomplishments and challenges that demonstrated the progress and bumps along the road that the Transportation Agency faced last year.
2018 proved to be a pivotal year for TAMC and for voters in Monterey County. In November, voters had to decide whether to support or reject Proposition 6. A vote of support would have repealed SB 1, the gas tax approved by the California Legislature in 2017, which for the first time provided a dedicated transportation funding source that could not be diverted for other purposes. Thankfully, an overwhelming majority of voters recognized the need to keep this critical funding source in place and rejected the proposition.
The benefits of this new funding can already be seen, as cities across Monterey County repaved streets, and Caltrans repaved Highways 68, 101, and 183. During the first nine months of Measure X, nearly $11 million of Measure X funds distributed to Monterey County and cities was combined with $5 million in new SB 1 state gas tax revenues for key roadway maintenance and safety improvements that would have been otherwise deferred.
In addition, with TAMC’s efforts Monterey County is slated to receive nearly $42 million in competitive and matching funds from SB 1 to bring in additional money to expedite projects in the Transportation Safety & Investment Plan through the leveraging of Measure X dollars.
The first allocation of $1.5 million of Measure X funds designated for senior and disabled transportation programs was awarded to five non-profit organizations to provide transportation and mobility training programs and $667,000 granted to the Safe Routes to School Program was authorized to provide the first countywide effort to make walking and bicycling to school safer and easier. Other information on how Measure X funds are being used and the oversight of these funds by the Measure X Citizens Oversight Committee can be found on the TAMC website at www.tamcmonterey.org.
Other 2018 accomplishments include:
- the completion of the Castroville Pedestrian/Bike Bridge which provides a safe crossing over the railroad tracks in Castroville to provide a safer route for students to get to and from school in North County.
- significant progress on the Monterey County Rail Extension Project to bring more passenger rail service to Monterey County. The first phase of the project which includes the extension of Lincoln Avenue, a train layover facility, bus facility and car and bike parking are underway in Salinas. Construction begins this year and service is anticipated to start in 2022.
- the launch of “Go831,” a new program by the Transportation Agency which provides tools, incentives and a coordinated program to enable employers and the public to help reduce commute traffic, improve air quality and promote health by encouraging alternatives to driving alone.
- the initiation of corridor studies to determine the safety improvements and reduce traffic congestion along Highway 68, Highway 218 and G12, the ten-mile stretch of road between Pajaro and Prunedale that links north Monterey County and south Santa Cruz County.
Much to our frustration, we are still stymied in our efforts to find a funding solution to fully address safety and congestion along Highway 156. While we are moving forward with incremental improvements such as the Castroville Boulevard Interchange to make the route safer, the Transportation Agency remains dedicated to funding a long-term solution to address all the needs of this congested highway that leads to and from Highway 101, north Monterey county cities and the Monterey Peninsula.
Also, of importance, is that we are in the planning phases for making safety improvements along Highway 101 south of Salinas with the Measure X US 101-Safety Improvement Project. The Transportation Agency is working closely with Caltrans and the “S.O.S US 101 Traffic Safety Alliance,” an alliance of community members to identify solutions aimed at keeping motorists safe along this corridor. We thank the Alliance for their committed engagement and look forward to continuing our work with them in this planning process.
As I hand over the gavel to new incoming Chair Robert Huitt, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County remains committed to bring people and resources together to fund projects to make safety improvements, reduce congestion and improve the quality of life in Monterey County.
Supervisor John Phillips, District 2
Outgoing TAMC Board Chair