Pleasanton Weekly

News - April 23, 2010

Rough patch for Route 84

Interstate 580 toll carpool lanes still on track

by Glenn Wohltmann

Route 84 - the road being upgraded to speed traffic between I-580 and I-680 - has hit a $20 million funding pothole.

At a transportation forum in Dublin on April 15, officials from the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) told local residents that money budgeted from the half-cent sales tax isn't enough.

ACTIA Deputy Director Art Dao said planning a project without all the necessary funding in place is normal.

"It's a standard mode of operation these days, because that's how state and local government run," Dao said. "You always look for opportunities to cobble the money together at the end."

Dao said his agency is seeking both state and federal funding. He added that federal officials like to fund projects that have direct financial support, like the sales tax approved by Alameda County residents.

He said even without additional money, ACTIA will find a way to finish the Route 84 project, which was designed to ease congestion between I-580 and I-680 by the end of 2013.

"We're going to ask our engineers to sharpen their pencils," Dao told the group of about 50 who turned out for the transportation forum. "By the time we're done, it will be a smooth highway from 580 all the way to Pigeon Pass."

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty pointed out that one completed section of Route 84 is apparently smooth already.

"People used to complain they couldn't get through 84. Recently, CHP clocked a kid at 119 miles an hour," Haggerty quipped.

The multi-phase construction for Route 84 is one of the biggest capital projects in the county, with a cost of $127 million, with nearly $97 million coming from the sales tax.

Route 84 aside, Haggerty pointed out that most projects funded with the half-cent sales tax approved in 2000 come in ahead of schedule and under budget.

"This has been a long commitment for Alameda County residents," he said, adding that construction across the county is moving ahead despite the economy. "We're in an economic downturn (and) we're still going."

The project to improve I-580 is on track, according to Stephen Haas, a project manager with the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency. That project includes a gamble on the part of ACTIA, which is betting single passengers will pay a toll to drive in carpool lanes that he said are often clear when other lanes are full.

"It fills up that lane. As a user, you have an opportunity to go faster," Haas said.

Tolls would vary based on the time of day and how heavy traffic is, he said, and would be billed directly to FasTrak devices. Drivers would be notified of the tolls by electronic signs and decide if they want to pay.

Part of the project, widening overcrossings in Dublin, was completed in 2009, with other parts in various phases of construction and design.

ACTIA officials noted the half-cent tax generates $100 million a year, with $878,593 on average a month from Pleasanton and $423,193 a month from Dublin.

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