I would like to clarify some of the points made in Noel Brinkerhoff’s article published in the Napa Valley Register and the American Canyon Eagle on April 5, titled, “American Canyon May Go It Alone to Widen Highway 29.”
I was never interviewed by Mr. Brinkerhoff for his article nor did Mr. Brinkerhoff attend the March 15 Napa Valley Transportation board retreat. Please allow me to correct any misrepresentations so that your readers understand the point of the NVTA Board Retreat and NVTA’s interest in the proposed Highway 29 Widening Project in American Canyon.
Contrary to what the article stated, I did not “dismiss” the SR 29 Gateway Plan at the Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) Board retreat on March 15, rather I recapped what was in the plan and introduced alternative project concepts being considered at a staff-level working group, which is composed of county, city of Napa, and city of American Canyon staff members.
At the board retreat, I also summarized new regulatory requirements and policy considerations that have come to light since the SR 29 Gateway Plan was adopted in 2014.
First, the state legislature passed SB 743, a California Environmental Quality Act reform, which requires that transportation projects be assessed for impacts of increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT). These changes will likely affect project feasibility and will most certainly result in additional costs to mitigate VMT. It is widely known by urban and transportation planners that widening highways will result in induced demand –and, therefore, any congestion relief resulting from widening will likely be temporary.
Second, federal highway funds administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission can no longer be used for highway and road expansion. This is a policy that was introduced as an effort to comply with greenhouse gas reduction requirements.
Third, state officials have alluded to potential new requirements that would require local agencies to maintain any new infrastructure on the state highway system that was paid for with local funds. A requirement like this would place further cost on an already unfunded project and escalate the deferred maintenance need for road infrastructure in Napa County.
Finally, connected or autonomous vehicle demonstrations are now occurring all of over the Bay Area and around the globe. These vehicles take up much less real estate on the road and they are likely to be a prevalent element in Napa sooner than most people think.
Ultimately, the purpose of the retreat was to make the NVTA Board aware that there may be an opportunity to seek bridge toll funding through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) for projects that can establish a bridge toll nexus and to gain the Board’s approval to seek these funds for various projects in the County.
It’s not a secret that NVTA does not have the resources to fund a major highway widening project. Federal and state transportation revenues have not increased since the 1990s (although with recent passage of SB 1 and ACA 5 things are looking a little more optimistic). NVTA applauds MTC’s efforts in raising new revenue sources to maintain Bay Area bridges and reduce congestion in the bridge corridors.
The proposal that was approved by the NVTA board at its March 15 retreat could serve to kick start non-auto improvements included in the Broadway District Specific Plan.
Kate Miller, Executive Director