Local Leaders Split Over Transportation Measure
By Gennady Sheyner
Few would dispute that the Bay Area urgently needs relief from the traffic jams plaguing area bridges, highways and expressways.
But reasonable people are finding much to disagree about when it comes to Regional Measure 3 (RM3), a proposal to raise $4.5 billion for transportation improvements by gradually raising tolls at seven Bay Area bridges by $3 over the next six years, to an $8 toll. If approved by the voters of nine counties, including San Mateo and Santa Clara, RM3 would fund 35 capital projects — among them the extension of Caltrain to downtown San Francisco, expansion of BART to San Jose and Santa Clara and new express lanes, buses and ferries throughout the chronically congested region.
The measure, which originated as state Sen. Jim Beall's Senate Bill 595, has plenty of local champions, including Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss, state Sen. Jerry Hill and state Assemblyman Marc Berman, all of whom see it as a sorely needed investment in the region's transportation system.
Yet the measure also has some prominent Democratic detractors, including Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel. Simitian sees the measure as too punitive toward Bay Area drivers, noting that the toll hike could cost a regular bridge commuter an additional $750 annually. For Siegel, the measure doesn't go far enough in addressing congestion on the Midpeninsula, particularly around the State Route 85 corridor.