Tuesday, 06 December 2022

County misses out on transportation bond funds

LAKE COUNTY – The state has decided how to spend billions of dollars from a voter-approved transportation bond, but none of that money appears headed for Lake County.


In November, California voters approved Proposition 1B – the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality and Port Security Bond Act of 2006 by a 61.4-38.6 percent margin, according to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office.


In Lake County, according to Secretary of State numbers, the measure actually failed by a slim margin, with 49.1 percent of local voters voting for it, and 50.9 against it.


The bond had several aims, one of them being to make improvements and repairs to state highways, according to California's voter information guide. Nearly $20 billion in bonds will be sold to fund the measure.


Lisa Davey-Bates, executive director of Lake County's Area Planning Council, said the bond set aside $4.5 billion for state highway projects. Locally, there were hopes that the Highway 29 Expressway project, which would be located between Lower Lake and Kelseyville, would be one of the projects considered.


Late last month, the California Transportation Commission set about choosing the projects to make the funding list, Davey-Bates explained.


She said Caltrans staff from the state's various districts created a list of recommendations for projects that they felt should be funded.


Caltrans District 1 staff recommended Lake County's expressway project, Davey-Bates said, but Caltrans headquarters cut the project from the list before it went before the Transportation Commission.


The Area Planning Council, which is the regional transportation planning agency, submitted its own applications to have the commission consider the expressway project, Bates said.


“It didn't make that list, either,” she noted.


Davey-Bates said Lake County was competing with projects in other rural areas, such as the Willits Bypass, which are further along in their development. In the case of Willits, she said they have already completed an environmental process on the project.


In the end, the expressway had to be ready for construction by 2012 to be considered, said Davey-Bates.


“There's question if it could really happen by 2012,” she said.


That's because endangered plants were found along the expressway's intended route, she said, which is resulting in additional biological studies that have put the project behind.


Ann Jones of Caltrans said the endangered plants found in the expressway area are wooly meadowfoam, Burke's goldfields, Lake County stonecrop and few-flowered Navarretia.


The end result, Davey-Bates said, is the project will cost more money and need more time.


“We're hoping to have the draft environmental process completed by January 2009, even with delays,” she said.


Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Patty Berg, in the days leading up to a final decision on the project list, asked North Coast residents to lobby the Transportation Commission to leave the $177 million Willits Bypass project on the list and reject a call from Bay Area leaders to send the money there instead.


Berg said the project would remove a major bottleneck along the 200-mile stretch from Santa Rosa to Eureka.


When the Transportation Commission reissued its final list on Feb. 26, even Willits didn't make the cut, said Davey-Bates, with the main focus going to the state's urban areas and dealing with traffic congestion.


“This may be what Bay Area voters had in mind, but it’s not what the rest of us wanted,” Berg said of that decision. “It’s almost as if they’re saying that if you don’t live in the Bay Area or Los Angeles, you don’t matter in this state. And that’s just plain offensive.”


Although the special pot of funding now has projects assigned to it, there is still State Transportation Improvement Project funds available, said Davey-Bates. The Area Planning Council will continue pursuing that funding as it works to move the expressway project forward, she added.


“We'll continue to gather our little eggs, if you will, until we can get the resources to fully fund the construction project,” she said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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