San Mateo County and the entire Bay Area are experiencing one of the greatest economic expansions in at least a generation. San Mateo County’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation and the Bay Area as whole is a global economic engine. But with that success, San Mateo County’s roads have become more congested than ever and our mass transit systems are under tremendous stress.
To keep our county a viable place to work and to live, we will need to make new investments to improve our transportation networks and to make up for long-deferred modernization of our transit system. And this will require that we do what San Mateo County always has done so well: work together, build consensus and unite behind broadly supported solutions.
San Mateo County is unique. Within its borders are 20 diverse cities and towns. There is no “big city” like San Francisco or San Jose to dominate the landscape. As a result, a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect among elected officials, the business community and community leaders has become our modus operandi.
In the past 40 years, we have worked together to create SamTrans, to save Caltrain, to extend BART down the Peninsula and to fund local and county transportation projects through the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.
Now, in the face of tremendous needs, a profound and unprecedented opportunity exists — a convergence of state, regional and local funding initiatives that could enable truly transformative transit improvements. Thankfully, our local state representatives — Senators Jerry Hill and Scott Weiner, and Assemblymen Kevin Mullin, Marc Berman and Phil Ting — are working side by side with Gov. Jerry Brown and Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly on a comprehensive transportation funding package for California announced just last week.
This transportation legislation targets funds specifically to reduce congestion on major commute corridors like Highway 101, one of the most dynamic economic environments in the nation. This priority would not be in the state’s proposal without the work of the Peninsula Mobility Group, a broad coalition of elected and community leaders, associations and private sector and government employers convened by the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, or SAMCEDA.
The PMG is focused on supporting projects and efforts to improve mobility within San Mateo County and across the bridges and county lines our residents drive every day. It is leading a coalition in support of the important work of our local and regional transportation agencies as they study and implement comprehensive infrastructure projects, maximize the efficiency of our highways with “managed lanes” technology, expand mass transit capacity, increase ferry service, launch express bus service and improve bike and pedestrian mobility. It is a prime example of how we get things done here.
This broad coalition is focused on reducing bottlenecks and congestion along Highway 101 and up and down the El Camino Real corridor, on revitalizing the Dumbarton Corridor and on unclogging State Route 92.
We will also vigorously advocate and support mobility options accessible to residents of all socioeconomic levels, leverage private sector financial support and partnerships and look for ways to reduce red tape and streamline the permitting process for making improvements which get people out of their cars, to work on time and home to their families so they can enjoy a better work/life balance.
In our county’s history, there may be few years as momentous as 2018 will be. In addition to the state transportation funding package, a regional measure is being planned for 2018 to raise bridge tolls and pay for transportation infrastructure improvements throughout the Bay Area. And on the local level, SamTrans and Caltrain are preparing to seek public support for a 2018 ballot measure that would make possible the reinvention of the county’s transportation system focused on reducing traffic congestion and improving mobility.
More than ever, we must do what we do best in this county: Build a coalition of advocacy that includes our San Mateo County community of elected and transit leaders, SAMCEDA and PMG major employers to act locally to educate residents, expand the private sector’s role in supporting transportation solutions and explore ways to seek voter approval for new funding streams we control locally — all with goals we can all agree upon: improve mobility, reduce traffic congestion and preserve the quality of life in San Mateo County.
Let’s work together to take control of our own mobility future.
Carole Groom is a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, chair of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and member of the SamTrans Board of Directors. Dave Pine is the vice president of the Board of Supervisors and a member of the SamTrans and Caltrain Board of Directors. Rosanne Foust is president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association and past chair of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.