By Carolyn Barbre
At the Lindsay City Council meeting on June 22, the draft Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) for fiscal 2004-05 was presented by Ted Smalley a transportation engineer who serves on the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG).
He was accompanied by George Finney, executive secretary for TCAG administration and Eddie Wendt who worked on the plan.
The RTP has three components, the first being the actual regional plan, the second an environmental impact report that identifies mitigation measures, and the third is air quality conformity.
The RTP is a 20-year plan that was first written and adopted in 1975, with updates every three years, the last one being in 2001. TCAG coordinates with federal, state, regional governments and the Native American tribal government to develop strategies that address transportation issues.
"We prepare so we can receive federal and state funding for highways including 65 and 198," Wendt said.
He said the plan has five elements. The policy element identifies goals, policies and objectives such as how to build roads and how to maintain the whole transportation system. He said there are 13 or so goals and a lot of policies and objectives. Tulare County's population is projected to grow by 135 percent in the next 50 years. The RTP is the foundation for addressing the traffic that will come with a half million more people.
There is an action element that includes needs. "We identify projects and then what to do to bring them to fruition - streets, roads, transit, pedestrian ways, bicycle paths, etc. Then how to pay for them."
Then there is the financial element which Wendt said gives them an estimate of what monies will be coming in over the next 20 to 30 years, aside from the fact that California is in a fiscal crisis, the monies have to match what is in the plan. There is an unmet needs section for projects with no funding.
Secretary Finney said the major item of interest was streets and roads. Over the next 20 years the county will get $615 million in State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)
funds, but that is $437 million short of what has been requested throughout the county, he said.
"We have not added new projects in three years. Present projects went up over $100 million [adjusted costs and inflation] and interchanges are problematic," he said.
In Tulare County there are more than 3,000 miles of roads in the unincorporated areas with more than $250 million in deferred maintenance. This represents one-third of the total deferred maintenance for the entire state road system.
Tulare County receives funds from the STIP, the Transportation Enhancement Act (TEA), congressional or senate legislation for farm to market funds, Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
funds and some local sources from developer and impact fees. The report states, "Through the local agency developer impact fee programs or other local funding sources, another $119 million in transportation projects are planned for construction over the next 25 years."
Over the next 30 years CMAQ has approximately $120 million for air quality improvement projects which is where Lindsay recently cleaned house. Included are low emission vehicles such as hybrid cars, heavy-duty engine replacement, alternative fuel vehicles, PM-10 street sweepers and others.
Public transit has no deficiencies and drivers are always encouraged to motor pool or take the bus when possible, or bicycle, or walk.
"Your city has been pretty successful in showing how TEA funds can be used for pedestrian projects. We encourage cities to adapt local bike plans. Exeter did," Smalley joined in.
Cross Valley Rail was completed in 2003. Other possible rail improvements include high speed rail, however it has no funding source at this time. Aviation projects total approximately $15.6 million.
The next opportunity to participate or have input for the Regional Transportation Plan at a TCAG meeting will be at 1 p.m. on Monday, July 19 in the board of supervisors chambers in Visalia.
Adoption is expected at the Aug. 9 TCAG meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the board of supervisors chambers. It is open to the public. For more information call 733-6291 or visit www.tularecog.org.