County to get transportation stimulus funds

$1 million to be spent on resurfacing San Antonio Road and Lytton Avenue in Palo Alto

Santa Clara County will receive nearly $90 million in federal stimulus funds, including more than a million for Palo Alto roads, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted Wednesday.

The MTC, a regional agency that oversees transportation in nine Bay Area counties, divvied up the $490 million in federal money for road projects ($150 million) and public transportation ($340 million). Santa Clara County received the largest slice of the pie for road repair and rehabilitation projects -- $26.5 million.

An additional $12 million will go to install metering lights on Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County as part of the Smart Highways system.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will receive $47.5 million for new hybrid buses.

San Mateo County will receive $11 million for road repairs, and $7 million for metering lights on Interstate 280. Transit agency SamTrans will receive $7.9 million to fund operations and 137 new buses.

Caltrain will receive $10.4 million for track and infrastructure repairs, to replace the San Mateo County railroad bridge and replace its operations-control-center system.

The funding breakdown by city and unincorporated portions of both counties for road resurfacing and repairs includes: Mountain View, $714,000; Atherton, $207,000; East Palo Alto, $353,000; Menlo Park, $533,000; Portola Valley, $164,000. Woodside will receive $185,000 for bike and pedestrian overlays.

Palo Alto will receive more than $1 million for resurfacing San Antonio Road and Lytton Avenue.

The massive influx of money comes as a relief to local transportation agencies after Sacramento lawmakers slashed $536 million in funding for public transit statewide last week.

VTA will lose $50 million -- $35 million of it by the end of June -- mostly due to the recessionary drop in sales tax revenues, VTA spokeswoman Jennie Hwang Loft said.

SamTrans will lose roughly three quarters of its state-transit assistance, going from $4.3 million to $1.1 million, which was used for operations, according to Christine Dunn, spokeswoman for SamTrans and Caltrain. Half of the agency's operating budget comes from sales-tax revenue.

Caltrain will see its capital-projects funding from the assistance account drop from $3.7 million to $930,000. About 40 percent of Caltrain's revenue comes from member-agency contributions such as San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Another 40 percent is generated by fares, Dunn said.

The federal funding is designed to have a fast turn-around, spokespersons said.

"It's very intensive. We're trying to do our best to put the money out in the economy and generate jobs," Loft said.

The federal money will help, but it won't solve all of the agencies' problems, officials agreed. Many are looking for creative ways to close the gap.

"We're currently writing and developing budgets. We don't know how we will make up the losses, but we've got our pencils sharpened," Dunn said.

But with most transportation agencies experiencing record-breaking ridership, Dunn doesn't think routes will be in the line of thinking for cuts.

"Cutting service is not something we think would be productive," she said.

In Santa Clara County, Loft said VTA service is safe through June.

"This fiscal year, we were prudent and we absorbed a lot of the deficit," she said.

The cuts could prove detrimental to the system in 2010 and 2011. By the end of June the agency will have a projected $35 million loss in revenues from sales-tax, Loft said.

"Losing (a few) million dollars is one thing. When you start getting into double digits, that's a whole other scenario," she said.

In addition to funds for local transportation, the federal stimulus package includes $8 billion for high-speed rail nationwide.

"That's a 5,000 percent increase" in federal funding, MTC staff liaison Randy Rentschler told Fox News on Wednesday night. "High speed could be that one big game changer this year and next," he said.

California voters approved high-speed rail funding last June as Proposition 1A.

The commission has compared the scope of the stimulus package to major infrastructure projects built during the Great Depression, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Caldecott Tunnel, the Berkeley Marina, Alameda County Courthouse and San Jose Civic Auditorium.

"These 1930s investments helped make possible the unprecedented economic expansion that followed for decades to come," the commission wrote.

For a complete list of projects to be funded throughout the Bay Area, visit

VTA board members will discuss the budget deficit next Wednesday (March 4) at 5:30 p.m. at the County Government Center, 70 West Hedding Street, San Jose.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:23 am

W00t for high-speed rail! It's going to change the Peninsula, much for the better, forever. Imagine heading to University Avenue, hopping on a train, and being at SFO in 8 minutes, SF in 20 or LA in a couple hours. Amazing!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by amazing
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:25 am

Amazing, the proposed train from Las Vegas to Disneyland got more money than Santa Clara.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:27 am

With all the recent layoffs, where's the ridership going to come from? With cuts to school funding, where are all the future engineers going to come from to rebuild?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by At What Cost
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:15 am

And just imagine, driving along Alma and finding a 15 Wall at Churchill, Meadow and Charleston with forty foot electrical towers, homes destroyed or property taken in Southgate, part of Peers Park taken. The neighborhood destroyed and Palo Alto forever divided. It's going to the change the Peninsula alright but not for the better!!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reality check
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:26 am

None of $8b for high-speed rail (HSR) in the stimulus package was
earmarked for any particular HSR or maglev project. Proponents of
any eligible project must apply for and compete for those funds.
The US DOT will be in charge of disbursing those funds, presumably
on criteria that include things like how "shovel ready" they are
and merits such as likelihood of actually getting fully funded and
built and job creation potential.

As for future ridership, true HSR projects take many years to build
and bring online ... so economic times will be different then. With
any luck, they'll be much better than now. Once built, HSR systems
last forever provided there is ongoing maintenance. There will be
plenty of population growth (unfortunately!) and commensurate travel
demand, so that's not a worry at all.

Lastly, the world has plenty of highly skilled engineers who are experienced and able to competently design a HSR system for California. They key will be for the HSRA and its consultants to
ensure they get and use them. We don't need or want a HSR system
designed by engineers who think they might try their hand at HSR
system design. Yes, that means bring in non-US talent. The US is
so far behind in HSR it's not even funny.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by CHSR. Elsewhere
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:51 am

"In addition, the stimulus package includes an additional $8 billion for high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco."

That's incorrect. The $8B in the Stimulus package for High Speed Rail is for HSR across the whole country. It's not known (publicly at least), how much of that will eventually be won by California High speed rail, (or what they think they'd be able to spend it on within the rquired time frame.)

They don't even have a SF to SJ route designed yet, so its not yet costed or environmentally studied, much less approved, so for all intents and purposes - its still vaporware.

My concern is that some very hungry (and not too keen on details) California politicians seem to be pushing for federal funding IMMEDIATELY to start something (anything) IMMEDIATELY on California High Speed Rail. The problem of course being that you don't build mile 1-8 of a railroad, unles mile 9-15 is presumed to be a given. And mile 1-50 (SF to SJ) is anything but a given.

Throwing federal funds at portions of CHSR will presume to give a legitamacy to the rest of the as yet unproven details of the rest of the route. AND it will give undue pressure to politicians and regulators to fast track (railroad) through appropriate studies needed to do this right.

Plus, Even at a full (won't happen), $8Billion from Feds, even generously combined with a presumed $10B from California bonds - still wouldn't even be a drop in the bucket for the ultimate total cost of CHSR from SF to LA. The preliminary (rough) concept puts the total cost over $45B. Where's the rest of the money? Shouldn't they know that before they drop a cool several X BILLION of tax payers money on something that may or may not be realistic?

HSR is a long term (FOREVER) investment in our future. Can we at least do this right?

They should not spend money on CHSR until they have a valid plan. And I do support HSR in California. Just not the way they plan to do it though.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by CHSR. Elsewhere
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:55 am

Reality Check - interesting concept, I hadn't considered... Lets use Federal Stimulus dollars (aka US tax payer wallets), to put overseas engineers to work on building us a high speed rail.

So much for 'buy american'.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Change Forever
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 1:31 pm

If you think Crescent park is going to be changed for the BETTER with this $%^# train you are sadly mistaken. No way.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not in my Name
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Watch for smoke!

That is where the money will go and you great grand kid's kids will still be paying for this Robin Obama Hood scam.

I challenge anyone of you to look at his poor excuse for a plan and tell me if you want you family to pay for this folly through generations?

Go ahead read it here: Web Link
He call this the "A New Era of Responsibility" more like the A New Era of Irresponsibility

Take a look and page # 114
Debt net of financial assets is over 60%!

Tell me can you run your life at that rate of debt?

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