Funding for Bay Area transportation improvements discussed

SAN JOSE, Calif.

A major traffic study already claims the Bay Area has the second worst commute in the nation. Nearly 60,000 new jobs were created in San Francisco and Silicon Valley last year, and that number is expected to be higher this year, putting more strain on the highway system.

"Our public transportation system, our roads continue to deteriorate, so we do have challenges that a great economy brings," said San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener.

A study group is working on prioritizing needs in Sacramento.

Here in the Bay Area, stakeholders looking into the economic future of the region said better transportation is crucial for job growth. But who will pay for it?

"It's not all public sector dollars," said Collaborative Economics CEO Doug Henton. "Private sector funding can be part of the answer, and we have projects in the state, including Doyle Drive in San Francisco, which is totally privately funded. Other states, other countries are doing this."

The BART extension to San Jose is another example where the state kicked in only 10 percent for the $2.3 billion project. 51 percent, or over $1 billion, is coming from a half-cent sales tax for 30 years, approved by voters in 2000.

"Voters have consistently supported measures that are providing more transportation," San Jose City Councilmember Rose Herrera said. "I mean, we would not be having the BART extension to Berryessa and to downtown San Jose without the support of the voters. The name of the game is regional, and it's public-private partnerships and working together."

And San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York thinks the new Levi's Stadium will warm people up to support and ride public transit once they take it to games.

"People are going to take public transportation to Levi's Stadium," York said. "Once Californians get a little bit more comfortable using public transit going to a sporting event, you're going to see that happen more and more."

As you can see, this project is still five years away. Any new infrastructure project being talked about now will take years of planning, financing, and construction, which means relief from congestion is many years off.

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