Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sales tax hike could pave way to aid transit

From the Vacaville Reporter // June 16, 2005

By Emmanuel Lopez/Reporter Intern

Improving the Interstate 80 and I-680 interchange and improving traffic flow along Highway 12 were some of the main concerns brought forward by Suisun City residents Tuesday night during a public meeting held by the Solano Transportation Improvement Authority.

The meeting was the first in a series of public input sessions that are part of the authority's push to get a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation passed in Solano County.

If such a measure goes to a ballot, it will be the county's third try at a sales tax increase for transportation.

Measure A, on the November 2004 ballot, failed to get the two-thirds majority it needed. If that measure had passed, the county could have raised $1.4 billion during the 30-year life of the tax, $250 million of which would have been earmarked for the I-80-680 interchange project, officials said.

The measure garnered strong support in Suisun City, with 69 percent of voters supporting it.
"The city has a strong idea of what it wants," said Daryl Halls, executive director for the authority.

The transportation authority is planning to integrate the priorities of Suisun City residents into a proposed expenditure plan for the tax that it will present to each of the county's city councils.
Napa and Solano counties are alone among the nine in the Bay Area not to have a local transportation sales tax in place.

"Solano County has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the Bay Area," Hall said. "Even with a half-cent increase, we would still be lower than the urban counties like Santa Clara or San Francisco."

One of the top local transportation concerns for Suisun City residents is the improvement of traffic and safety along the intersection of Sunset and Railroad avenues. Railroad Avenue intersects Sunset Avenue at a four-way stop several feet from a railroad crossing. At this point, the southbound lane begins to narrow from two lanes to one.

Councilmember Michael Segala said the hazard comes from when cars in the right-most lane want to cut across the road to turn left onto Railroad Avenue.

"It's really hairy, especially in the morning, when people are taking their kids to school," Segala said.

The city is planning to change the road so that it intersects farther south, where the intersection is controlled by a traffic light, Segala said.

Another issue discussed was the improvement of sidewalks, streets, curbs and gutters throughout the city.

"If you look at our streets and sidewalks, it's a mess," Segala said.

Mayor Jim Spering said improving the I-80-680 interchange to include lanes for high-occupancy vehicles, such as buses and carpools, would vastly improve connections between the various communities in Solano County.

Spering said improving connections would provide more transportation options to consider.

Spering said it's critical that the county create a detailed plan for the future. "If we don't develop plans to provide transportation choices, there's no point in preserving mobility," he said.

After all the public input meetings are finished, the authority then will present its modified proposal to the city councils in each of the cities in Solano County to vote on it prior to presentation to the Solano County Board of Supervisors.

That could happen as early as July. Transportation officials are on a timeline that could make it possible to put the tax measure on the November ballot.

Emmanuel Lopez can be reached at

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