Although we have yet to see a fully reconciled stimulus bill to come from Congress and President Obama, agencies across the nation are eagerly putting together their wish lists for how to spend their portion of the $800 billion-plus stimulus pie. Here in the Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has released a draft (PDF) explaining how it plans to allocate stimulus fund to transportation projects throughout the region.
Just how much money could the Bay Area get? It will not be exactly clear until the stimulus legislation is officially passed, but according to MTC’s current estimates, we could see $320-$500 million in FTA funds (sections 5307 and 5309), $140-$200 million Surface Transportation Program/FHWA funds, and $23 million (out of California’s $125 million total) for STP transportation enhancements. Moreover, California as a whole may receive $1.7-$2 billion in further FHWA funds, a chunk of which Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission would surely direct towards the Bay Area. Still further opportunities for funding might exist through other programs that have been weighed in the stimulus discussion, including the Senate’s $5.5 billion of competitive grants to be awarded at USDOT discretion, and the $2 billion allocation for designated high-speed rail corridors.
MTC intends to apply the money to a mixture of road and transit projects, some of which will be beneficial for the region, and some of which will not be. The exact allocation to specific projects will depend on the version of the bill Congress ultimately adopts, because different versions have not just different dollar amounts, but also include different “use it or lose it” provisions, which specify the timeline for applying funds. But here is the overall strategy:
- “Shovel Ready” Projects: When time is of the essence and funds must be applied immediately, MTC will spend the money on “preservation” — that is, maintenance and repair — to the tune of $175-$355 million for transit and $97-$157 million for roads. Possible uses of the transit funds include preventive maintenance and vehicle repair/replacement, while road funds would be applied to resurfacing and pedestrian/bicycle improvements. Counties have provided lists of ready-to-go road and transit projects whose total price tag purposely exceeds the money anticipated to be available: $140 million for road projects and $420 million for transit. Transit funding would be allocated by formula between operators: Muni ($104.8 million), BART ($101.8 million), VTA ($73.5 million), AC Transit ($40.1 million), Caltrain ($16.1 million), Golden Gate District ($14.7 million), and SamTrans ($12.3 million).
- System Expansion/Efficiency: Funds that need not be applied immediately would be directed toward closing funding gaps in MTC’s long-term plans, including Resolution 3434 transit expansion projects and the regional High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane network. (More information about these long-term plans can be found on the RTP page.) On the transit side, this includes a $70 million influx for the stalled Oakland Airport people mover, and $75 million for the subway station box in San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center, which should ideally be constructed along with the Transit Center facility in the first phase. On the road side, a total of $43 million would fund a HOT interchange connector at Interstate 880/Route 237 in Milpitas, the Interstate 580 HOT lane in Alameda County, safety improvements to Vasco Road near Brentwood, and freeway ramp meters in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.
Finally, still further funds are to be awarded at the discretion of both the state of California and the federal government, and these present further funding opportunities for the Bay Area. On the state end, this could fund Doyle Drive, pedestrian/bicycle improvements through the House’s transportation enhancements, and more Proposition 1B freeway widening projects — the Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore, as well as HOV lanes on Interstate 80 (Solano County), Interstate 580 (Alameda County), Highway 101 (Sonoma County). On the other hand, different federal programs could fund ferry vessels and the South San Francisco ferry terminal, Doyle Drive, Caltrain grade separations and electrification, and the Port of Oakland truck retrofit. High-speed rail funds could provide further funding for the Transbay train box, assuming they are incorporated into the final stimulus bill. Similarly, other funds still could be obtained through the competitive discretionary grants, if those are incorporated into the final bill.