A coalition representing many of the Bay Area’s largest employers and millions of workers and residents today hailed the state Assembly passage of legislation (SB 595—Beall) that promises major investments across the region to ease traffic congestion, fix nagging highway bottlenecks and dramatically expand mass transit services. The Keep the Bay Area Moving coalition, which is led by the Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, California Alliance for Jobs and SPUR, has been working for over a year with Bay Area legislators and transportation planners to craft the bill and is now urging the state Senate to give its approval and Gov. Brown to sign it into law.
“The Bay Area has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a big whack at traffic congestion,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Worsening traffic is ruining our quality of life, damaging our environment and hurting our economy, but this bill gives Bay Area voters the chance to turn the tables on highway congestion and overcrowded transit. We are calling on the Senate to approve and Gov. Brown to sign SB 595 and give voters the chance to approve a visionary regional traffic relief plan.”
The bill, which authorizes a regional ballot measure in June 2018, outlines a bold, balanced plan that focuses on making big fixes to the Bay Area’s transportation system with the primary goals of reducing or eliminating some of the region’s worst highway backups, getting cars off congested roads and highways and creating a modern, seamless public transit network that addresses overcrowding and better connects cities and employment hubs.
“Working with key stakeholders allowed this coalition the opportunity to find balance and fairness within SB 595. A compromise between the entire Bay Area on how these funds are invested is integral to our success,” said Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and a Governor Brown appointee to the California Transportation Commission. “Our ability to work collaboratively towards a common goal – easing gridlock on our Bay Area roads in order to improve quality of life for our workers and their families spells success for everyone in the Bay Area. It is through this lens that we support Senate Bill 595 by Chairman Beall.”
The bill includes unprecedented levels of public oversight and accountability to guarantee that all investments are made according to the overall plan, known as Regional Measure 3 (RM3) following two previous measures that voters have approved over the past 30 years. Specifically, RM3 would establish an independent oversight committee to review all investments, including making regular reports to the state Legislature, and create a new Inspector General position to serve as a watchdog for investments on BART.
Among the centerpiece projects included in the RM3 plan are:
- Increasing the BART fleet and completing an extension from the East Bay to Silicon Valley
- Improving key highway interchanges in Contra Costa County at Interstate 680 and Highway 4 and in San Mateo County along Highway 101 to ease traffic bottlenecks
- Extending Caltrain to connect with other regional mass transit systems in San Francisco
- Expanding regional water transit service to meet skyrocketing demand
- Accelerate planning for a second transbay rail crossing
- Adding express lanes along major highway corridors to move cars faster, including the Highway 101 Novato Narrows connecting Marin and Sonoma counties
- Improving transit access in the Tri-Valley and North Bay areas
- Reducing truck traffic that clogs highways and pollutes the air
“RM3 will fund a set of transformative investments that will start to get our region’s transportation system working again,” said Gabriel Metcalf, President and CEO of SPUR.
Polling done in June 2017 shows strong voter support for Regional Measure 3. The survey by FM3 of nearly 9,500 voters found 56 percent support for RM3, exceeding the 50 percent threshold needed for passage.
“Not only will motorists see significant improvement in alleviating traffic bottlenecks and improving transit service for everyone throughout the nine Bay Area counties, they can rest assured that their money will be spent only on voter approved projects thanks to strict accountability, financial safeguards and citizen oversight. By implementing accountability measures, such as the creation of a new Inspector General position, SB595 will ensure that the financial commitment to voters is honored and projects are delivered in a timely manner.” said California Alliance for Jobs Executive Director Michael Quigley.
RM3 would raise up to $4.2 billion and would be paid for by a bridge toll increase of between $1 and $3. The final amount of any toll increase included in RM3 will be decided in the coming months by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.