It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a difficult year. By all standards, our world seems to have been turned upside down. From the small things that we took for granted, to larger, more important things, like our relationships with family and friends. Individually and collectively, this has been a year of loss. Loss of lives, jobs and safety nets.
Our sense of security and well-being gone with distance learning and sheltering in place as more than 3,000 people die each day nationally from Covid-19, while healthcare professionals and essential workers are fighting the battle on the front lines.
As outgoing chair of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) Board of Directors, I am here to report that the Transportation Agency has survived 2020 with hope and resiliency; and our plans to meet transportation needs in Monterey County continue to advance forward.
It has been four years since you trusted us with your vote of confidence with the passage of Measure X, to provide additional funding for transportation programs and projects. To date, Measure X revenues total $114.9 million; 60% of the revenues are being used by local jurisdictions to fix potholes and make road repairs and safety improvements in your communities.
During these Covid-19 restricted conditions, Measure X funded transportation projects have been moving forward providing local jobs now and maintaining the infrastructure needed to support our region’s economy in the future.
As promised, leveraging Measure X brought an additional $52.4 million in competitive funds from state grants; most recently, $20 million for the Castroville Boulevard Interchange. This is the first of three segments that make up the larger regional State Route 156 Widening project. Construction will start in 2022.
While Measure X monies are forecast to be significantly less over the next three years, the program’s existing fund balance along with new revenues will allow the Measure X regional program of projects to stay on track to meet programmed local match requirements for the next four years.
The priority projects worked on in 2020 include:
• King City Maintenance Facility — Construction started on the first regional Measure X project with the 2020 groundbreaking for the Monterey-Salinas Transit King City Maintenance and Operations Facility. This project will save hundreds of thousands in operating costs since buses operating in South County can now be based there, too.
• Imjin Parkway Widening and Roundabouts — The City of Marina is working hard on this project to widen Imjin Parkway to four lanes and add roundabouts between Reservation Road and Imjin Road. Having received $19 million in state monies last year, this project will be ready to start construction in 2021.
• Highway 1 Rapid Bus Corridor — Newly christened the SURF! Busway, Monterey-Salinas Transit started environmental review of this project in 2020. The new corridor will allow buses to use the old rail right-of-way to bypass Highway 1 traffic jams between Marina and Sand City.
• Highway 68, Salinas to Monterey — In 2020, Caltrans and TAMC further refined design concepts for nine roundabouts and several wildlife crossings along this key commuter route. Roundabouts will make it safer and faster to travel this corridor, while preserving its scenic beauty.
• Highway 101 South of Salinas Safety Improvements — TAMC started the year seeking public input to develop a program of safety improvements on US 101 between South Salinas and Chualar. Due to Covid-19, the Agency pivoted from convening public meetings to holding Zoom meetings and creating an online comment map. The consultant-TAMC team is reviewing this input and in early 2021 will present a proposed set of solutions for (virtual) review.
• Fort Ord Regional Trail and Greenway — After extensive public review and comment, the entire 30-mile greenway received its environmental approval in 2020. Also, the Agency adopted design concepts for each segment. In 2021, the details of the Canyon Del Rey segment, from Fremont Avenue to the Frog Pond, will be engineered, with construction expected to start in 2022.
• Salinas Station Improvements — The Salinas Rail Station has a new gateway entrance at Lincoln Avenue, courtesy of TAMC’s work to bring expanded passenger rail service to Salinas. Reconstruction of the parking lot, addition of a bus “superstation,” construction of new sidewalks and a completely new Lincoln Avenue entrance will be completed in January 2021.
As I hand over the gavel to the new incoming chair next month, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County remains committed to meet our transportation needs with determination and resiliency as we adapt to the aftermath of 2020. We welcome the promise of 2021 with hope and optimism.
Luis A. Alejo is Monterey County Supervisor for District 1, representing most of the city limits of Salinas, and Outgoing Chair of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County Board of Directors.