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Major fixes for addressing traffic, sea level rise on Highway 37 identified

Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

Imagine driving along a four-lane elevated causeway above the brackish San Pablo Bay, shaving more than an hour off the normal Highway 37 commute.

Transportation planners have for years envisioned remaking the 20-mile route from Novato to Vallejo into the North Bay’s most important east-west corridor. Now, they are ready to act.

Officials in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties have been meeting for several years, pondering solutions to Highway 37’s notorious bottlenecks, where 45,000 cars per day stretch the normal 20-minute commute to as much as 100 minutes. They have also acknowledged that traffic improvements will be irrelevant without addressing sea level rise — without action, the highway will be underwater in 30 years.

The first fixes will be completed within the next seven years, officials say, and a new formal partnership defines the roles various agencies will play and sets the process in motion.

Branded as Resilient State Route 37, the program that includes the transportation agencies of the four counties plus Caltrans and the Bay Area Toll Authority, is planning vast changes to the highway. The Sonoma County Transportation Authority signed onto the partnership on Monday.

Read more at https://www.petaluma360.com/news/9236578-181/major-fixes-for-addressing-traffic

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SMART in line for $12.6 million transit grant to extend planned bike path

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Bay Area transit planners have recommended the North Bay’s commuter train agency be granted $12.6 million to support the build out of its planned bicycle and pedestrian pathway, SMART announced Thursday.

If approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as early as this month, the funding would go toward 4.7 miles of new paved pathway in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa. SMART’s original plan envisioned completion of 54 miles of trail adjacent to the rail corridor and upgrades to an existing 16 miles designated for bicycles and pedestrians, together running the 70-plus miles from Cloverdale to Larkspur.

Only 16.2 miles of the pathway are complete. About 5 miles of the multi-use path across San Rafael, Novato, Cotati and Rohnert Park were completed in 2017-18, with another 1-mile segment in Petaluma due to be built this year, according to SMART.

Should SMART receive the MTC grant, funded through state gas and vehicle weight taxes, the agency will build new segments from McDowell Boulevard in Petaluma to Main Street in Penngrove and from Golf Course Drive in Rohnert Park to Bellevue Avenue in Santa Rosa. SMART also has another grant application submitted for funding to complete another 12 miles of trail between Windsor and Petaluma.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9232713-181/smart-in-line-for-126

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , ,

Carpool decals set to expire for hundreds of thousands of California drivers with clean-air vehicles

Alexandria Bordas, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Clarence Dold has been a proud owner of a used Nissan Leaf electric car since 2016. Back when he was commuting to San Mateo from his home in Santa Rosa, being able to slide into the carpool lane and cruise past cars sitting idly in traffic was an added bonus to the smaller climate footprint of his electric vehicle. But as of Jan. 1, Dold and nearly 215,000 zero- and low-emission car owners in the state of California are set to lose their clean-air carpool status. That group is composed of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The state Legislature last year passed a measure that will no longer recognize the white and green carpool decals on clean-air vehicles purchased before 2017. Only vehicles purchased since then will qualify for the new passes, which are red. Those qualifying owners will have to apply to the state for the new passes.

Dold, who learned of the new law only weeks ago, said he felt the change unfairly treats drivers who have long invested in low-emission vehicles.

“What upsets me is that I thought I was going to get to use the decal for three years, and had I waited even just a few months, I would have qualified for the extension,” Dold said.

The new law is an attempt to address the overcrowding of carpool lanes — a result partly of California’s bid to spur the wider adoption of cleaner-burning vehicles 13 years ago by first offering owners of hybrid cars unrestricted access to carpool lanes. Caltrans documented the problem two years ago, pointing partly to increased carpool traffic stemming from clean-air decals.

California has the largest share of low- and zero-emission vehicles in the nation by far.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9089030-181/carpool-decals-set-to-expire?sba=AAS

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Sebastopol to roll out county’s first electric bus

Alexandria Bordas, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sebastopol leaders are celebrating an environmental victory after becoming the first city in Sonoma County to receive an electric bus.

The county bus officially will be rolled out at the Sebastopol Transit Hub at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The launch comes at the heels of an announcement by Santa Rosa city officials that they plan to buy four zero-emission buses after securing nearly $3 million in federal funding.

Part of the county transit system, the Sebastopol electric shuttle will serve riders along the downtown corridor for free. Built in Lancaster in Southern California, the 30-foot coach has a range of 137 miles per battery charge and a 22-passenger capacity. It’ll offer riders wireless internet and USB charging ports.

“Sebastopol is the environmental leader of Sonoma County,” said Sarah Gurney, Sebastopol city councilwoman. “That’s why and how we got the first electric bus.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9029368-181/sebastopol-to-roll-out-countys?sba=AAS

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Programs encourage Sonoma County high school students to ditch car commutes

SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Efforts to shift school commutes away from single-rider trips to more sustainable modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, carpooling, and public transit are making a difference at 12 Sonoma County high schools.

“Since September 2017 the Safe Routes to School pilot program has seen measurable increases in active and alternative forms of transportation among students at participating high schools,” said Kelly Elder, Public Health Division manager at the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS).

The two-year pilot program is coordinated by DHS and funded by the Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program, aims to increase physical activity among high school students and decrease greenhouse gas emissions related to vehicle trips.

The Department collaborated with the Center for Climate Protection to implement youth leadership trainings at 12 local high schools, while W-Trans, a traffic-engineering consultant, received funding to assess walking and biking infrastructure around the schools.

“Our team has gathered information on walking and bicycling to and from school, and we led walking audits in the spring to identify critical pedestrian and bike safety issues,” said Principal, W-Trans, Steve Weinberger.

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/sonoma-county-high-schools-reduce-carbon-footprint-during-commute

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New ARB report finds California regions are falling short on climate goals, as pollution from driving increases

CLIMATE PLAN

Top findings

Today’s report on those plans finds that regions have made progress in some areas, but not nearly enough to meet their goals:

1. Regions are not on track to meet their climate goals, not for 2020 or even for 2035.
2. Statewide, driving is increasing. The trend is going in the wrong direction — each of us is driving more, not less.
3. Not enough investment is going toward climate-friendly transportation — including walking, bicycling, and public transit — or affordable housing near jobs and transit.
4. Action is needed at every level of government — cities, counties, regions, and the state — to get on track.

“To reduce emissions, the most sustainable options need to be the most convenient,” said Ella Wise, State Policy Associate at ClimatePlan.

Today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a new report finding that California regions are not on track to meet either their 2020 or 2035 climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additional action from every level of government is required, including more investment in sustainable transportation and affordable homes near jobs and transit. The report can be downloaded here.

Each metropolitan region in the state has a plan, required by law, to reduce emissions by reducing the need to drive. However, the report finds that regions are failing to deliver on their plans. Part of regions’ failure is due to challenges beyond their control, such as limited state funding and local land use decisions. But regions continue to invest in highways, which results in more driving, not less.

Read more at https://www.climateplan.org/new_report_california_regions_falling_short_on_climate_driving_increases

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SMART, Santa Rosa at loggerheads over Jennings Avenue pedestrian and bicycling crossing

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The North Bay’s year-old commuter rail line and the region’s largest city are embroiled in an increasingly entrenched public standoff over whether to construct a long-planned footpath across the tracks in northwest Santa Rosa — a crossing sought by the adjacent neighborhoods, bicyclists and some of the train system’s most vocal advocates.

Santa Rosa favors the pedestrian and bicycle crossing at Jennings Avenue, a project first outlined almost a decade ago and endorsed once again by the City Council this week. The crossing is meant to restore an east-west footpath that dates back to at least the early 20th century, according to the city, and until it was fenced off by SMART in 2015 remained a key community connector.

But the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system, which previously backed the ground-level crossing and twice offered letters of support for grant funding to build it, abandoned the concept about a year ago and has sidestepped any scheduled public discussion of the disputed pathway.

SMART officials say the at-grade crossing would endanger path users, including schoolchildren. The proposed crossing, about 1 mile north of the downtown Railroad Square station, would traverse tracks where oncoming trains usually travel at 35 mph, according to SMART.

But public comments from Santa Rosa council members over the stalled project reflected the city’s growing sense of frustration. Some were confused by the impasse. Others were incensed. The path is meant to serve an area of the city that otherwise lacks suitable pedestrian access across the tracks.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we’re having a conversation about the safety of this crossing at this point,” said Mayor Chris Coursey, a former SMART spokesman. “If this crossing as designed isn’t safe, then there isn’t a safe crossing on SMART’s line. It’s a railroad that needs to be integrated with these communities. Crossings are part of the design. This crossing needs to be part of the design.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8866793-181/smart-santa-rosa-at-loggerheads

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Sonoma County mulls changes to controversial quarry project

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday revived one of their most controversial land-use debates, examining potential changes to a planned quarry west of Cotati that has been in the works for a decade and a half.

Quarry developer John Barella wants to alter some of the conditions the county imposed when it narrowly approved his project off Roblar Road eight years ago. The Board of Supervisors last year hired a consultant to study Barella’s proposed changes and is now considering a draft of the resulting environmental analysis.

Much of Tuesday’s discussion centered around a 1.6-mile stretch of Roblar Road that would be used hundreds of times daily by large trucks hauling aggregate from the quarry. Barella’s team says the original county requirement to widen the road to 40 feet proved unworkable and proposed constructing a road that’s 32 feet wide instead.

The proposal prompted safety concerns from some supervisors and community members, particularly since the road is used by cyclists.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the only current board member who was in office when the project was approved, called for further road improvements that would slow traffic and better accommodate bicycles.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8845302-181/sonoma-county-mulls-changes-to

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California counters Trump on car emissions standards, expands other climate rules

Tony Barboza, LOS ANGELES TIMES

In an escalation in the fight against climate change and the Trump administration, California regulators approved new measures to defend the state’s vehicle emissions standards and bolster rules to cut carbon pollution from transportation.

The state Air Resources Board voted Friday to require automakers to comply with California’s strict rules on car and truck pollution if they want to sell vehicles in the state. It’s California’s latest move against the Trump administration’s plan to freeze fuel economy targets and revoke California’s power to set its own standards. State officials said the counterstrike was necessary to close a potential loophole automakers could use to evade compliance with California’s more stringent rules.

“The health of our state, our nation and the globe are at stake, and that is a fight worth having,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who sits on the board.

The measure seeks to strengthen California’s footing as it fights to preserve its emissions rules, both in court and in negotiations with the White House. At the same time, the move brings the nation one step closer to having two different standards: One for California and the dozen other aligned states that account for one-third of the U.S. auto market, and another for the rest of the country.

During the board’s meeting in Sacramento, the 16-member panel also expanded a climate rule that reduces carbon pollution with tradeable credits that gasoline and diesel producers must purchase from producers of lower-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and biodiesel. By further incentivizing those cleaner technologies, the low-carbon fuel standard is expected to cut the cost of a new electric vehicle by up to $2,000 while raising gas prices by up to 36 cents over the next 12 years.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-carbon-fuels-20180928-story.html

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SMART to begin work on extension of commuter rail to Windsor

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board of directors Wednesday authorized spending $24 million to launch the next, highly anticipated phase of railwork needed to extend commuter train service north to Windsor.

The unanimous board decision represents a major expansion geared toward fulfilling the promise made in 2008, when voters approved a two-county, 70-mile line stretching from Cloverdale to Larkspur.

The SMART board approved the spending with two 12-0 votes, setting in motion rail safety upgrades and design work needed to expand the rail line north by 3 miles from the current northbound terminal near the Sonoma County Airport.

The work is set to begin this fall, with heavy construction in 2020 and system testing in 2021. Agency officials said SMART could start serving Windsor, with a population of 27,000, by late 2021 or early 2022.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8754419-181/smart-to-begin-work-on