Regional leaders gathered last week to discuss traffic congestion at the 2018 Transportation Solutions Summit in Pleasanton, and while many solutions were offered, leaders agreed the best way to tackle the issue was through continued collaboration between local municipalities.
Issues panelists discussed included the amount of truck flow streaming throughout the region, commute times, overflow into city streets, traffic from the San Joaquin Valley and the formation of a regional light rail for commuters.
"It takes collaboration and not just among local governments ... If you don't collaborate, whether it is across partisan lines or across regional lines, we will not get the job done," Assemblywoman Catharine Baker said at the forum. "Every single person on this stage knows how to collaborate, we just have got to spread and multiply it as much as possible."
The event featured a panel discussion and Q&A segment by leaders from across the region, including Baker, BART board member John McPartland, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley (the event's moderator), Dublin Mayor David Haubert, Livermore Mayor John Marchand, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne. The Bay East Association of Realtors hosted the event at the Rosewood Commons Conference Center on Oct. 3.
"In the Tri-Valley region, traffic congestion, commute options, cut-through traffic all directly impact the quality of life. Bay East has brought together this group of elected leaders at this exclusive event to share with the public their perspectives on what the future of transportation, and the quality of life, will be like in the Tri-Valley," said David Stark, public affairs director for the association.
While panelists covered a variety of topics, conversation soon turned to the controversial Assembly Bill 2923, which will allow BART to construct and govern housing units on its land within a half mile of its stations. Many local leaders including Baker opposed this decision, lamenting the loss of control local municipalities will have over the planning of their streets.
"It shows us an example of what government should not do, which is make a problem likely worse," Baker said. "Instead of collaborating, it's taking from local agencies that know how to do housing, and giving it to a transit agency which is struggling just to meet its primary mission. We will have to work together and I am eager to lead the way on this, on how we can not only mitigate problems but make sure that the progress that we've made locally, (is not) going to go backwards."
McPartland also viewed concern over the legislation, and said it is unfortunate that large population centers such as San Jose, Sacramento and San Francisco have made the decision for the Tri-Valley.
"The power goes where the money flows. The large municipalities that have the majority of the power are solving their own problems and they are doing it at the expense of the highways and of the Tri-Valley area," McPartland said. "2923 basically empowers BART to build high-density, high-rise affordable housing, wherever, whenever and however it wants too... Communities need to be vocal and continue to fight and create solutions, so we don't have to compete head to head with those large interests."
The leaders were optimistic about other projects though. Thorne confirmed that funding has been secured for the completion of Highway 84, which he says will break ground in 2022, hopefully sooner.
"It's great because it only took us 30 years to get here," Thorne said, chuckling. "But that having been said I am really pleased to announce that (Regional Measure 3), that you folks voted for, will complete the funding needed to finish Highway 84 all the way between 580 and 680."
Thorne added that the securing of adequate funding would not have been possible without the collaboration and support of local officials, in addition to the community of voters.
On a more cautionary note, Thorne maintained that the issue of traffic may spiral out of control if leaders do not install realistic solutions soon.
"I think that if we are not careful, the free economy is going to take care of it for us and companies will not stay here," Thorne said. "If we keep increasing the cost of housing, if we don't have enough transit to make things work, we are going to lose our businesses."
The summit was recorded by TV30 and will be aired tonight at 7 p.m. and Saturday morning at 7 a.m. on TV28.