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SLOCOG Hopes to Capitalize on New Calif. Transit Bill

San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) is preparing a proposal for the Ca. SB-1 (Bill), The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, in hopes to garner funds for the County’s transportation development and improvement programs. The SB-1 deadline to receive proposals requesting money for 2018 is next month.
A major project that SLOCOG hopes that SB-1 could help fund is the stretch of the 101 south of San Luis Obispo referred to as the Shell Beach Straits. The project is the US 101 South Bound Pismo Congestion Relief (SBPCG).
For years, the Shell Beach Straits has experienced congestion on a daily basis. The 2014 San Luis Obispo Land Use Element and Circulation Elements Report (LUCE) stated that despite one-third of all jobs in the County are in San Luis Obispo, it only houses 17% of the population. This fact translates into over 25,000 people commute into and then out of SLO Monday through Friday.
SLOCOG is keenly aware of the congestion and has been addressing it for some time. The organization has worked with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in completing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The issue, of course, is a lack of funds needed to complete the project, and rather than holding off on all transit improvements, SLOCOG decided it would be more prudent to work on less expensive projects as stated in its 2016 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP). The projected cost of the SBPCG is between $11.3 and 24.7 million and is planned to begin construction in the winter of 2024.
SLOCOG proposed a half-cent sales tax that would have generated an estimated $25 million over the course of 9 years for transit improvement and development. The tax was voted down in Nov. 2016. With the failure of the proposed local tax, the SBPCG will rely on SB-1 for financial support.
“Our goal is to get our project recognized by the state,” said Richard Murphy, project development and programming division chief for SLOCOG.
Murphy admitted that SLO County might not receive funds in the first round of proposals. Most of the initial monies generated by the transit bill would most likely go to larger cities, but there is still a chance of catching the state’s eye, and SLOCOG is ensuring that our county is competing in the first cycle.
“We may not be successful in the first 2 rounds,” Murphy said.
Murphy went on to say that it is important for SLOCOG to get its projects “shelf ready.” Murphy also cautioned that state funding tends to move at “glacier speeds.”
SB-1 will generate the majority of its funds with a $0.12/gallon tax on gasoline and a $0.20/gallon tax on diesel. There will also an additional fee imposed varying between $25 and $175 based on vehicle value under the Vehicle License Fee Law. SB-1 is estimated to generate $6 billion annually with $1.5 billion going directly to fund local streets and roads maintenance and rehabilitation, this can potential include the completion of streets projects, traffic signals, and drainage improvements. The fuel taxes go into effect Nov. 2017 and the value-based transportation improvement fee begins on January 1, 2018.
By Mark A. Diaz

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