An effort to make Interstate 880 at Broadway and Jackson in Oakland safer and less congested is moving forward, with an environmental document and plan approval planned by early 2013.

Another effort to create a bus service that works like light rail between downtown Berkeley and downtown San Leandro – known as bus rapid transit or BRT – is also seeing progress. Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2013, with service starting in 2015.

The information was provided at the Alameda County Northern Transportation Forum on Thursday, Oct. 21, which drew a number of residents, many disabled, to the third floor of the Alameda County Transportation Commission office building in downtown Oakland.

The Alameda County Transportation Commission is taking over the transportation planning of two other agencies – the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority and the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency.

Those two agencies were responsible for, respectively, implementing 2000’s Measure B 20-year half-cent county-wide sales tax, which is aimed at reducing congestion and improving transportation until 2022, and 1990’s Prop. 111, which added nine cents per gallon to the state fuel tax to fund local, regional and state transportation projects and services.

Due to the recession, the county has seen a reduction in the proceeds from the Measure B sales tax measure from $100 million to $93 million, said Tess Lengyel, the manager of programs and public affairs for the Alameda County Improvement Authority.

If approved by the recent election, Measure F would raise $11 million per year for local road improvements and repairs, transit systems and expansion, and more by increasing the vehicle registration fee by $10.

The county also is planning to place an additional tax measure on the ballot in 2012, which would help raise money for the county’s long-term transportation plans and projects, Lengyel said.

In the meantime, the county is working on the Jackson/Broadway interchange improvement at I-880, as well as the controversial Bus Rapid Transit effort. Lengyel said the county is only spending money for the planning for those projects while money for construction will have to be found later.

While the county works on long-term projects, local resident Harriet Saunders said the public needed protection for public transit. AC Transit bus service saw 70 bus lines reduced or reconfigured on Oct. 31, with more cuts on the way in December and in 2011.

“The public is being hurt,” said Saunders, a member of a citizens committee that advises the board of the transportation commission on East Bay Paratransit issues. “People can’t work, they can’t get to where they gotta go.”

Tina Spencer, an AC Transit employee since 1989, said the cuts were the worst she’s ever seen and they’re being aimed at employees as well.

“It’s devastating not just for riders,” she said, “it’s devastating for all of us.”

Some $8.1 million of Measure B funds are being spent on the environmental and engineering work for the Jackson/Broadway project, while $10.4 million is being spent on the environmental and design work for Bus Rapid Transit.

The Measure B money is going to those projects based on an expenditure plan approved by voters in 2000. The plan can only be changed through an amendment approved by a two-thirds vote of the Alameda County Transportation Commission Board. The board consists primarily of mayors and council members throughout the county as well as the members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

AC Transit receives about $20 million a year in Measure B funds, but that agency has been hurt by multiple funding decreases due to the economy, Lengyel said.

“Each transit operator has been struggling,” she said. “This is not just an AC Transit issue.”

When reached by phone, Dave Dickinson, the senior project manager with WMH Corporation who is working on the Broadway/Jackson project, said he couldn’t discuss the issue without permission. Tina Spencer, director of service development for AC Transit, did not return calls seeking comment.

The Alameda Transportation Commission invites residents to participate in six citizen advisory committees: the Alameda County transportation advisory committee; the countywide transportation plan and expenditure plan development steering committee; the citizens watchdog committee; the paratransit advisory and planning committee; the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee; and citizens advisory committee. There also are two citizen subcommittees. For more information about these committees, visit http://www.alamedactc.com/app_pages/view/14.

The back story

When Alameda County voters approved the Measure B half-cent sales tax in 2000, they approved an expenditure plan that was to guide $1.4 billion in county transportation funds through 2022. The priorities of the plan include:

  1. Expand mass transit programs that have a demonstrated ability to get people out of their cars. These include major new expansions of the BART system in the county, Altamont Commuter Express Rail service and express, local and feeder bus services.
  2. Improve the county’s aging highway infrastructure. The plan authorizes major new projects to improve interchanges, open new lanes and improve surface streets and arterial roads that feed key commute corridors.
  3. Maintain and improve local streets and roads. The current expenditure plan provides critical funds to Alameda County and every city for maintenance and upkeep of local streets and roads. The new plan will continue to fund these activities: repaving streets, filling potholes and upgrading local transportation infrastructure.
  4. Improve bike and pedestrian safety. The plan funds significant improvements in bike and pedestrian infrastructure to improve access and maximize safety for cyclists and  pedestrians.
  5. Expand special transportation services for seniors and people with disabilities. The plan significantly increases funds to better serve people with special transportation needs and the growing aging population in Alameda County.