Published Wednesday, December 31, 2008, by Marin Independent Journal
New year may bring new dollars for local transit projects
By Mark Prado
If there is any federal stimulus money to be had this new year, North
Bay agencies want to grab it for more than $200 million in highway,
train and bridge projects.
Those would be "shovel ready" projects that could get under way in
from 90 and 180 days, said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of
the Transportation Authority of Marin.
"We could absolutely do more work on the freeway projects if we get
some stimulus dollars," she said.
Local agencies' "wish list" -- which has been submitted to the
California Transportation Commission -- includes funding for the
Highway 101/Interstate 580 connector, a cable restoration on the
Golden Gate Bridge and train tracks through the Cal Park Hill tunnel
between San Rafael and Larkspur.
President-elect Barack Obama is proposing an economic stimulus package
of as much as $775 billion over two years, though advisers say they
think add-ons by lawmakers could raise the price to $850 billion.
Obama's advisers predict an $850 billion plan could generate about
3.2 million jobs by the first quarter of 2011.
Some economists favor an even bigger spending stimulus: up to $1.3
The Transportation Authority of Marin is seeking $7.6 million to widen
the one-lane Interstate 580/Highway 101 connector to two lanes. The
connector takes westbound travelers from the Richmond-San Rafael
Bridge north to Highway 101.
The agency is also about $5 million short for the Highway 101
widening work and is asking for $3.5 million for that project.
"There are also a lot of local street and road repairs that need to
be done and we asked for money for those as well," Steinhauser said.
That includes rehabilitation of sections of Sir Francis Drake
Boulevard in San Anselmo and Ross for $2.3 million.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency, which received voter
approval in November for a sales tax measure to finance a passenger
train, is asking for $150 million from the feds, the biggest-ticket
item being $70 million for the rehabilitation of 70 miles of track
from Larkspur to Cloverdale. Another $12 million would be used for
tracks inside the Cal Park Hill Tunnel, $30 million for a bridge over
the Petaluma River and $6 million for a bridge over Novato Creek.
The sales tax passed by voters and other funds have been identified
to do the SMART work, but federal dollars could speed work and get
trains running as soon as 2012. Right now service is set to start
"It would allow us to move service up," said Chris Coursey, SMART
The Golden Gate Bridge District is also seeking federal dollars,
and its No. 1 priority is the main cable restoration on the span.
After 71 years of exposure to the salt air, officials say the Golden
Gate Bridge's cables are due for a major renovation expected to cost
The twin cables on either side of the bridge that climb to the top
of the towers and back down again serve as the backbone of the span,
supporting the road bed. The cables are secured at the north and
south ends of the bridge in giant anchorages.
The cables are actually made up of 27,572 pencil-sized wires that
are bound with a spiral of yet more wires and sealed with paint,
making it appear as one solid cable.
It is that outside layer that would be the main focus of the
renovation. Bridge workers found areas where the outside wrapping
wire has deteriorated and needs to be replaced. There is also a plan
to use a sealant -- a rubberized compound called Noxyde -- to paint
the bridge in its customary "international orange."
"It's our main focus for the federal money," said Mary Currie, bridge
Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@...
; the Associated
Press contributed to this report.