Council Shares Key Priorities with CA Transportation Secretary and Caltrans Regional Director

California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin visited the Klamath this week to discuss several key regional transportation projects and provide an update on preparations for the APEC Leaders Summit coming to San Francisco in November. Joining Sec. Omishakin in the meeting with Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman was Caltrans District 4 Director Dina El-Tawansy. 

Wunderman briefed Omishikan and El-Tawansy on the Council’s campaign to open the third westbound lane on the upper deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to automobiles to ease morning commute congestion on Interstate 580 and reduce tailpipe emissions polluting Richmond neighborhoods, and asked for their help in prioritizing and accelerating the project. 

Wunderman also described the Council’s success this week in pausing legislation (SB 532) to increase tolls on Bay Area bridges to fund transit, explaining that before any new public funding is approved the Council wants to see more progress by transit agencies to reinvent their operations, increase coordination and make their systems safer, more efficient and cost-effective. Omishikan expressed support for greater coordination among transit agencies and said draft regulations released last week and tied to $5.1 billion in state budget funding to prop up transit include accountability measures. 

There was also discussion of Highway 37 in the North Bay and the engineering, financing and political challenges of any project to address the impacts of sea-level rise on the route. And, Wunderman updated Omishakin on the Council’s advocacy in support of a recent ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission expanding the use of driverless vehicles in San Francisco, a decision Gov. Newsom strongly favored. 

Omishakin shared news about Caltrans’ work to improve and beautify seven freeway ramp locations serving San Francisco, including restriping, resurfacing, landscaping and installing art or other gateway features. The work is being done to prepare San Francisco for the arrival in November of President Biden and other Asia-Pacific region heads of state, including China President Xi Jinping, for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit. In addition and at the direction of Gov. Newsom and under Omishakin’s leadership, Caltrans is working closely with city officials to address homelessness encampments on state rights-of way, improve signage and conduct regular graffiti removal. It was an expansive and extremely productive discussion and the Council looks forward to working with Sec. Omishikan and Director El-Tawansy.

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