Saturday, December 16, 2006

Highways for the public interest, not the Pombos'

Nice to see Congressman Jerry McNerney proposing solutions to the I-580 commute over the Altamont Pass. With him securing a seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the Bay Area, he is in a good position to push for fed funds for projects like BART to Livermore and Tracy.

Now what seems better for CD-11? Pombo on the House Resources Committe pushing for offshore drilling and giveaways to oil companies, as well as protecting Abramoff/DeLay dealings in the Marianas Islands -- or McNerney on the Transportation Committee helping get fed money for projects in CD-11 to ease the commute?

Or compare Pombo's expensive, environmentally destructive, far-in-the-future-if-ever proposal for a highway over the Diablo Range (which, coincidentally would up the value of Pombo real estate holdings) with McNerney's push for real improvements that can be made in the near future to I-580.

Here's part of the article:
Incoming Congressman Jerry McNerney hasn't even taken his seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and he's already thinking big.

At a groundbreaking at Dublin City Hall on Friday for a $9 million Tri-Valley traffic management project, McNerney said he hoped to secure federal money for a Bay Area Rapid Transit extension down the middle of Interstate 580 — all the way to Tracy.

"BART to Livermore and Tracy, these are things that I'm very interested in," said McNerney, a Democrat who Nov. 7 wrested the 11th Congressional District from Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy. As a member of the committee, McNerney added, "I will have the opportunity to bring projects to our area."

McNerney, whose new district comprises much of San Joaquin County and includes the Interstate 680 corridor in Alameda County and part of Contra Costa County, said improving links such as the I-580 freeway and BART "fits into my plan to bring economic development to San Joaquin County."
Contrast this with Pombo's approach, as detailed in an Aug. 2005 East Bay Express expose:
The morning and afternoon commutes to and from the East Bay [over the Altamont Pass] are horrendous, choked with more than 140,000 cars and big rigs a day. ... A consortium of business leaders and labor groups, meanwhile, is working overtime to convince the state to widen I-205, which creates a bottleneck when motorists come off the Altamont and have to squeeze from eight lanes down to four. The bottleneck clogs traffic every weekday morning and afternoon.

Widening I-205, which connects I-5 to I-580 from Lathrop through Tracy, would seem to be just the type of project that Pombo would wholeheartedly support. But instead his answer is to build two entirely new freeways, for which he recently obtained $21.6 million in federal funds.
Do you wonder why Pombo would have proposed these two freeways instead of what business leaders and labor groups want? Well, the East Bay Express article says it has to do with the Pombo family real estate holdings and money the family needed to pay off debts. Now, that sounds like it is in the public interest, doesn't it? More from East Bay Express on Pombo's highways:
One of Pombo's freeway plans, known as the state Route 239 project, would run along the path of the two-lane Byron Highway from the western end of Tracy northwest to Brentwood. There, it would connect with the Highway 4 bypass currently scheduled for construction. ... But the arrival of the $14 million in federal funds for the 239 project also happens to coincide with a multimillion-dollar land deal currently underway with members of Pombo's family. And for the Pombos, the new freeway proposal appears to be a timely solution to some family financial difficulties compounded by the 2000 slow-growth measure.
And this explains Pombo's other highway:
Across town, the other proposed freeway also could be a boon for the congressman and his family -- even if it's never built. Pombo has been pushing this proposal, the State Route 130 Project, for at least two years. ... Speculation about the possible new freeway almost certainly has driven up the value of the 205-acre ranch Pombo owns in south Tracy with his parents and brothers, even though the ranch is eighteen miles north of Del Puerto Canyon Road. The Pombo property sits right on I-580 and it's only a fifteen-minute freeway trip away.
Oh well, what are the Pombos going to do now that Richard is no longer in Congress to push for transportation projects that raise their land value?


Blogger Watermelon Grower said...

At $100 million or more per mile, BART to Tracy from Dublin-Pleasanton is a prohibitively expensive, socially unjust subsidy to jobs-housing imbalances which won't do that much to alleviate traffic congestion on I-580. Express buses would provide much more relief at decent costs. Jerry should work on Transportation & Infrastructure Committee for increased federal funding for commuter buses both for curbing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the quality of commuters' lives.

CD-11 enthusiasts for BART extension should also be mindful that California High Speed Rail, if routed through the Altamont from Modesto-Stockton-Tracy to Fremont, would provide quicker connections to the inner Bay Area rail-bus transit systems.

10:38 PM, December 24, 2006  
Anonymous charlesnsiegel said...

I am glad to see that Congressman McNerney is focusing on funding public transportation rather than freeways. As an environmentalist, that is one major reason I wanted to replace Pombo with McNerney.

However, I do not think that BART to Tracy is economically feasible. I believe a better plan would be to extend BART to Livermore where it could meet up with a new ACE line on its own alignment. This is one of the improvements shown on Michael Kiesling's site at

Now that we have a congressman who supports public transportation, I expect we can start to get some of these improvements.

5:36 PM, December 28, 2006  

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