UPDATE: On October 5, 2017 the VTA Board of Directors voted to change the language in Item 6.3 to say “Funds will be allocated to projects that most cost effectively utilize Measure B funding.” While this was not the wording we wanted to assure equal distribution of the funds among the 8 crossings, it does allow for the cities to obtain additional outside funding to compensate for differences in designs.
Currently, roads cross the Caltrain tracks in eight locations in Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. Grade separation is having the road go over or under the train tracks, by moving the train tracks up or down and/or the road up or down. The sales tax increase on the November 2016 ballot (Measure B) included $700 million towards the expense of building grade separations in Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. The VTA Board controls how Measure B funds (the sales tax increase on the November 2016 ballot) are to be spent. The VTA Board will meet on Thursday, October 5 at 5:30pm.
Agenda Item 6.3 on the Consent Calendar is “ACTION ITEM -1) Adopt a Resolution, establishing the 2016 Measure B Program; and 2) adopt the 2016 Measure B Program Category Guidelines.” These guidelines are on pages 40-41 of http://vtaorgcontent.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/Site_Content/bod_100517_packet.pdf#page=40 as follows:
Caltrain Grade Separations
This program category will fund grade separations in the cities of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Palo Alto. VTA, working in collaboration with the three cities and other partners, is proposing to develop an implementation plan for delivering the eight grade separation projects. Once the implementation plan is complete, funds will be distributed as candidate projects move forward in readiness.
The amount of funding in 2016 Measure B will likely not be enough to fully fund all eight projects listed in the Caltrain Grade Separation Program Category. To complete all eight projects, VTA would allocate 2016 Measure B funding to the most cost-effective grade separation alternatives possible. Additionally, VTA anticipates that outside funding sources will need to be secured to complete the program.
VTA is also recommending that the grade separation projects apply Complete Streets best practices in order to improve transit, bicycle and pedestrian elements at the intersections.
Recommended Funding for FY 2018-19
VTA is recommending $7 million for FY 2018-19 which will be used to fund the implementation plan, as well as any potential design and/or environmental work that cities may be able to advance.
What does this mean? It means that funds will be allocated first-come-first-served to the cheapest way to get grade separations. That may well mean that the our efforts to build better but more costly grade separations will get lower priority, maybe even no money at all, even if Palo Alto funds the difference.
We should request better language that is fairer to all cities and promotes the best designs, not the cheapest.
Instead of the highlighted sentence above, the following language should be used:
To complete all eight projects, VTA shall divide the 2016 Measure B funding equally in 2017 dollars among the eight projects listed in the Caltrain Grade Separation Program Category. Designs higher than baseline costs will require additional local and other funding. VTA will work with collectively with the cities to secure funds from outside sources to complete the program.
What can you do?
- Write to the VTA Board at email@example.com and copy the Palo Alto City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org (and blind copy me if you would like). Ask them to remove item 6.3 from the Consent Calendar and change the language for Caltrain Grade Separations to divide the available funds equally among all the affected grade crossings.
- Speak at the VTA Board meeting. The meeting starts at 5:30pm and is at the County Board of Supervisors Chambers in the County Government Center, 70 West Hedding Street, San Jose, CA 95110 (at the corner of North First Street). Fill out a comment card for item 6.3. You will have two minutes to speak. You may take light rail there from the Mountain View Station (at Castro Street). If you choose to drive there, you may park in the lot at North San Pedro behind the County Government Center after 5pm. The entrance on West Hedding St is open after 5pm (while the other entrances are closed after 5pm).