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September 03, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, September 03, 2004

Funding likely for Pombo freeway study Funding likely for Pombo freeway study (September 03, 2004)

Money in Transportation Bill to look at Hwy. 130 corridor

by Jeb Bing

U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R., 11th) announced last week that he has secured funds to launch a federal feasibility study for a new freeway that would link Interstate 5 south of the I-580 interchange near Tracy to I-680 and Highway 101 in San Jose, possibly using the Route 130 corridor.

Pombo, in remarks at a luncheon sponsored by the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, said the freeway would be restricted to passenger vehicles only, allowing it to be built to less costly construction standards. Pombo, who now chairs the House Resources Committee, sought funds for the feasibility study last year as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has included the project in its 2004 Transportation Bill that could be approved by Congress and signed by President Bush later this year.

"If you look at I-580 and 680, you'll see that 20 percent of the morning commute is pass-through traffic going to San Jose and the Silicon Valley," Pombo said. "If we had an alternative, you could take that traffic off those freeways and have a positive impact on all transportation systems in this area."

Traffic analysts report that more than 124,000 vehicles now cross the Altamont Pass every weekday on I-580, often at a crawl during the peak morning commute hours. At night, traffic generally backs up starting at Hopyard Road in Pleasanton into Livermore, and then again as it nears Tracy.

Although no specific alignment has been set, Pombo said it would be designed to move commuters from the fast-growing San Joaquin Valley and beyond to jobs in the Silicon Valley "more quickly and efficiently."

"We're also studying the possibility of making this a toll road where if you're driving by yourself or in an SUV you pay a toll," he added. "Fuel efficient cars that are rated at 35 miles per gallon or above could travel the route for free."

Pombo's not the first to recommend a new freeway along Route 130, which was first developed in 1934. Others, including past Santa Clara County Supervisor Rodney Diridon, have suggested turning the roadway into a limited access highway. However, if the House Transportation Bill is enacted, as Pombo expects, this would be the first commitment of federal funds for a feasibility study to determine if the freeway can be built.

Improved transportation was one of three major issues Pombo discussed before a packed ballroom at the Chamber luncheon in the Castlewood Country Club. He also cited energy and water shortfall concerns, arguing that California is "woefully behind" in meeting its needs today, with scant attention being paid to the growing needs for future generations.

He said the House Energy bill that has been stalled in the Senate would provide incentives and opportunities for expanded oil and gas production on federal lands while also funding technologies to develop more solar and wind-driven energy resources.

"I believe that one of the most critical issues facing our country today is to come up with an energy policy that meets our growing demands so that this country can be more competitive in a global economy." Pombo said.

On water, Pombo said California and the West are in a "near crisis" situation in terms of availability of water.

"We have not developed a major new water project in the West in nearly 50 years even though our population has grown dramatically during that time," he said. "The demand for water has also grown dramatically and yet we're just going at this without any visionary thinking to determine how we are going to provide sufficient water well into the future."

He said most members of California's Congressional delegation have been working together on a Cal Fed bill specifically aimed at water development measures in the state. He praised Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her efforts to gain Senate approval.

"She hasn't been successful yet, but she is continuing to work on it," he said. "I think it's something we can get done."

"But that's just the beginning," he added. "We still have to look at how we can meet demands well into the future to meet demands that we're going have 20 to 30 years from now. We have to do that with transportation, with water and with energy."

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