December 4, 2017
By: Mark Prado
With Marin drivers paying another 12 cents per gallon as part of a gas tax increase, local transportation officials are hoping to cash in on millions of dollars in new funding for local projects, including improvements to the busy Bellam Boulevard offramp in San Rafael.
The approval of a state gas tax increase by the Legislature in April is bringing $14 million a year to Marin for local roads, bus transit and the possibility of more funds for commuter rail and highway work. With the additional 12 cents, the gas tax has risen to 30 cents. That went into effect Nov. 1.
Now Marin transportation officials are positioning the county to get dollars for several “local partnership program” projects in which local funds are matched by the state dollar for dollar.
Only agencies that are supported by local sales taxes are eligible. Marin voters passed a half-cent transportation sales tax in 2004.
“Counties that have sales taxes are rewarded in funds from the state,” said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of the Transportation Authority of Marin.
The transportation agency voted last week to seek funding from those gas tax funds. Part of the cash will be distributed to counties across the state per a formula. Marin is in line to get $10 million annually for road repairs to be divided among cities, towns and the county.
The Marin agency is seeking $500,000 for design work for the Marin-Sonoma Narrows widening, as well as $510,000 to help with construction of a Second Street to Andersen Drive multi-use path in San Rafael.
The latter project will be done in conjunction with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit construction over the next two years, said San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips, a transportation agency member.
“We’re moving on this thing, so this (money) will be of help,” he said.
A second funding program is more competitive. Those funds need to be used for construction. The transportation authority put in for three projects:
- A Bellam Boulevard off-ramp widening, $2 million
- Sir Francis Drake Boulevard improvements, $5 million
- North-South Bicycle Greenway, work on the north segment, $2 million.
“These are our best candidates,” Steinhauser said. “We are trying to give our best projects to the (state). These are large facilities that carry a lot of users.”
The Bellam Boulevard work would widen the freeway offramp to two lanes, change the lane configuration at the intersection to accommodate through traffic to eastbound Interstate 580 and reconfigure the crosswalk on the west side of the intersection to make it a more direct and shorter, among other changes.
The county should know if it will get the money from the gas tax funds sometime early in the new year.
“We are talking about the best projects that we think can get funding to Marin County,” said Judy Arnold, county supervisor and transportation agency member.
The county also will get $3.8 million annually to put into Golden Gate Transit and Marin Transit bus service from gas tax money.
While other funds are not guaranteed, Marin officials would also like to see a flyover to connect northbound Highway 101 with the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge funded — at least in part — by gas tax revenue.
There also will be gas tax funding for intercity rail, which could help SMART complete planned service north to Cloverdale. Four sources of funding could be available to the rail agency through the new transportation funding plan.
Overall, the gas tax deal — via Senate Bill 1 — will generate $52.4 billion for transportation funding over the next decade statewide.