State takes public transit funding

July 21, 2009 7:51:32 PM PDT
The state budget deal will also mean unprecedented cuts in funding to fix local streets and roads. Those annoying potholes on the streets are going to be there for awhile because many of the people who fill those holes will lose their jobs.

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Imagine its money that fills that aggravating pothole in your neighborhood, but with the state taking that money away, there's nothing to fill it.

The state has been reducing public transit funding for years now -- nearly $5 billion over the last three years -- but this year, it's reaching past transit to local streets and roads.

"It's both different and worse," says MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler.

Rentschler says the state has slowly been siphoning off local governments' share of the gas tax for years. At one time, it was a 50-50 split, but now the state wants to keep it all.

For the Bay Area, that would mean a loss of $183 million for streets and roads including: $18.8 million from San Francisco city and county, $14.8 million from San Jose and $6.3 million from Oakland.

"Can we use any of the stimulus funds to make up a little bit of it?" asks Jean Quan from the Oakland City Council.

Councilmember Quan says there will be an estimated 30 layoffs from the Department of Public Works without federal stimulus dollars, it would be 40.

Quan says main arteries will be maintained, but forget about your neighborhood streets and in an older city like Oakland, potholes aren't the only problem.

"Three's a process called slurry sealing, and as streets start to fall apart you can save them and extend their life another 5 or 10 years. If I have 30 less people to do that, that means a lot more streets deteriorating much more quickly," says Quan.

Quan says the League of Cities, a group of the majority of the state's cities, plans to file suit to try to get the gas tax money back, if necessary.

"...because they're not talking about borrowing the money. In the past they talked about 'Oh, we're going to borrow it and maybe we'll give it back to you.' They're just taking it," says Quan.

The MTC says large transportation projects like the Caldecott Tunnel will be delayed, but not derailed, because the funding is segregated from the state budget.

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