Contra Costa County’s transportation future is on the fast track to becoming reality. Now, agency leaders — and eventually area voters — just need to greenlight the idea to maintain its momentum.
The Contra Costa County Transportation Authority recently created a 35-year, $3.6 billion expenditure plan to guide the area’s transportation future. The plan will be presented to all cities in the county before possibly heading to the March 2020 ballot.
The proposal, funded through a half-cent transportation sales tax, aims to relieve highway and interchange congestion; improve the availability, reliability, safety and cleanliness of bus, ferry, passenger train and BART rides; increase safe and accessible transportation for children, seniors, veterans and the disabled; and fulfill a slew of other commitments, including modernized local streets, enhanced walking and cycling options and better air quality.
If sent to the ballot and approved by voters, the half-cent sales tax would run until 2055, and augment the similar, 2004-approved Measure J, until funding from that measure runs out in 2034.
“We tried to put a plan together that was so profound that it would be no problem, that people would say ‘Oh my gosh, that is what I want Contra Costa transportation systems to be like,’” said Randell Iwasaki, Contra Costa Transportation Authority executive director.
The long-range plan, now in its final form, was crafted and publicly revised over roughly three months — encompassing input from public-opinion research, focus groups, community meetings and telephone town halls.
“Top concerns centered on traffic congestion, air quality, a cleaner, safer BART system and the need for other commuter-benefit investments, including alternative modes of transportation to avoid motor vehicle use,” said Tim Haile, Contra Costa Transportation Authority deputy executive director.
The 56-page proposal is largely broken up by potential transportation-corridor improvements, as well as countywide fixes and additions.
Changes are being considered for the State Route 242, Highway 4, transit and eBART corridor; the I-680, Highway 4, transit and BART corridor; and the I-80, I-580, Richmond-San Rafael Bridge transit and BART corridor, as well as other improvements throughout the county.
In East County, the enhancements could include an increased number of eBART trains; Vasco Road and Byron Highway improvements; interchange upgrades along Highway 4 at Balfour Road, Marsh Creek Road, Walnut Boulevard, and Camino Diablo; an access connector between Byron Highway and Vasco Road, south of Camino Diablo, to improve Byron Airport access; and Byron Airport improvements.
Regionally, the endeavor also targets revisions to Highway 4 and State Route 242, including operational improvements at the I-680 and Highway 4 interchange; reconfigured interchanges along State Route 242; auxiliary lane additions and ramp improvements between State Route 242 and Bailey Road; and improved access to key destinations, like business districts and BART stations.
“We tried to formulate the plan based on corridors, and really address people’s commute,” said Haile. “We know that people are commuting from East County down State Route 4 in the morning. They get to the 680/4 interchange, and it’s just a giant bottleneck of congestion. We honed in on those areas and wanted to make sure there was funding allocated to those critical bottlenecks in the county around State Route 4, around I-680, around I-80 and I-580.”
The plan also aims to create seamless connectivity among the county’s various transportation networks of freeways to bike paths, trains to shuttles and the various avenues in between.
Just a handful of those changes could involve new shuttle, bus and other transit options in Brentwood and Oakley to serve the Antioch eBART station; increased ferry coverage between Martinez and Antioch; increased express bus service along the State Route 242, Highway 4 and Vasco Road corridor; and dedicated, part-time transit lanes to bypass congestion in that area.
It’s believed funds would be poured into other transportation avenues, as well, including local roads — possibly Sand Creek and Deer Valley — improved walking and biking options; safe transportation options for youths, such as reduced-fare transit passes; and enhanced mobility options for seniors, veterans and the disabled.
“There is something in here for walking, biking, transit, safer transportation for students,” said Haile, who noted the plan also addresses future infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles.
CCTA officials stress the proposal is vital for the county’s transportation future.
“About 80% of Measure J funds have been expended, with all planned major capital-improvement projects completed or soon-to-be — meaning, the transportation authority won’t be able to fund any new major projects without a new plan,” Iwasaki said.
All the while, the county’s population (currently 1.144 million) is slated to grow 29% by 2040, and all Contra Costa freeways sit among the Bay Area’s 10 most congested, Iwasaki said.
Additionally, the county’s senior population — accounting for 14% of residents — is expected to shoot up to 30% by 2035, which will change demand for alternative modes of transportation.
If approved, the plan’s projects would likely need to meet various performance targets, such as reduced traffic, shortened commute times and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A public oversight committee would also be established to ensure the plan is being carried out as expected. A number of other voter safeguards are also included in the plan.
The county and its constituent cities are expected to publicly review the plan during September and October. The CCTA board will then hold a special meeting on Oct. 30 to determine whether the plan should go to the ballot. Then, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors would be the agency to adopt an ordinance to place it on the ballot.
The Brentwood City Council is slated to hear an in-person presentation of the plan at 7 p.m., Sept. 24, inside the council chambers.
To view the complete plan, visit www.ccta.net/theplan.