Millions earmarked for green transit, but some say not enough: Tahoe on tap to get $8 million for ferry planning, $4 million for BlueGo buses from transportation bill | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Millions earmarked for green transit, but some say not enough: Tahoe on tap to get $8 million for ferry planning, $4 million for BlueGo buses from transportation bill

Staff and wire reports

Of nearly $23 billion coming to California to improve highways, roads and public transit systems, some $90 million has been earmarked for transportation projects that don’t involve cars or any motorized vehicles.

The transportation bill signed by President Bush on Wednesday includes $8 million for ferry service across Lake Tahoe and $4 million to replace BlueGo buses with natural-gas powered vehicles. Nick Haven, transportation planner at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune last week the $8 million for ferry service will probably not go to purchase boats, but would be spent on planning and design of a ferry service.

Marin County will demonstrate the influx of funds for alternative methods of movement with a $25-million pilot program creating pedestrian and bike trails that connect workplaces, schools, stores and other popular destinations.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri also will receive $25 million each for similar projects that are designed to motivate commuters to rely less on cars.

The six-year, $286.4 billion highway bill passed by Congress last month still includes money for run-of-the-mill highway and transportation jobs. California’s share includes $59 million for seismic upgrades to the Golden Gate Bridge, $33 million for road-widening in San Luis Obispo County and $155 million to relieve congestion at Southern California ports.

The legislation also included $2.3 million for landscaping improvements along the Ronald Reagan Freeway; $2 million for a 2.8-mile bike path in the city of Whittier; $5.8 million to complete the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Trail between Monterey and Santa Cruz counties; and $1.2 million to widen roads and add bike lanes in Fresno County.

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Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, is encouraged by the funding, but said the money needs to be spent in larger cities to alleviate traffic and congestion.

“I’m looking out at Market Street at rush hour and a quarter of the traffic is bikes, but no money is coming to make Market Street a better place for biking,” Thornley said. “It’s a great victory for bicyclists and pedestrians and general sustainable transit in Marin … but the benefits of that $25 million will be out of proportion to the population served.”

The Sierra Club claims the bill takes a step backward from previous years and is infused with “pork” to bolster the constituencies of legislators while doing little to alleviate problems in areas that need it most.

“We believe the transportation bill has to be about more than just roads,” Olson said, calling California’s cut for non-motorized transportation enhancements “a tiny percentage” of overall funding. “The bike paths and the walking accommodations are important parts of our transportation infrastructure and should continue to be.”

David Sandretti, a spokesman for Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sees the bill as a significant step toward a greener future. “Even with a bill the size of the one we passed, you can’t do everything,” Sandretti said. “Obviously, the success of these types of projects will foster a greater devotion of resources in the future if they pay off. We’ll just have to see how successful they are.”

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