The Contra Costa Transportation Authority is holding Telephone Town Hall Meetings to inform the public of the Initial Draft 2020 Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) and get their input before finalizing the plan and placing another tax measure on the March 2020 ballot to fund it. The meeting for East County will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 8 (see previous post on this website, below)
The plan (www.ccta.net/theplan) currently has a total price tag of $3.061 billion and the tax is in addition to the county’s current half-cent sales tax for transportation from Measure J, which voters approved in 2004 and expires in 2034. The new tax would last until 2050. The CCTA attempted to pass a similar additional half-cent sales tax in 2016, known as Measure X, but it failed. The only new section of roadway in the entire county in that plan was the $117 million “limited access” connector between Vasco Road and the Byron Highway, next to the Byron Airport. Voters overwhelmingly voted against the measure and it failed.
Fortunately, that project was included in the Regional Measure 3 expenditure plan which did pass. But, RM3 didn’t include the long-planned Route 239, the proposed four-lane freeway between Brentwood and Tracy, which will connect East County to Interstate 5, the economic lifeblood artery of the state.
That road has been on the books for over 60 years. But, planning for it only began in 2013 as part of what was known as the TriLink Project, as it crossed the three counties of Contra Costa, San Joaquin and a sliver of Alameda, and was to also include two lines of transit down the middle, connecting the end of the BART line in East County to Tracy.
However, the TriLink Project website is no longer active and neither the four-lane freeway nor the transit lines are included in Contra Costa County’s plans for the next 30 years.
Yet, it’s Route 239 that will ensure East County’s long-term economic viability, allowing current businesses, including agriculture, to get their products to market quicker. Plus, it will open up our area for greater local job creation, and complete what I refer to as the beltway around Mt. Diablo, eliminating the cul-de-sac effect with the three two-lane roads connecting us to the east and south.
Antioch and East County have the freight rail connecting us to the east and west, plus the river connecting us to the world, to move goods. But we only have Highway 4 and BART connecting us to the west for moving people and goods.
Central County folks oppose Route 239 saying it will “induce growth in East County.” But they’ve been saying that for almost 50 years about every new road improvement, including the Hwy 4 Bypass/extension, which we had to fight for over four years from 1994-98 to just get approvals, not any money. In fact, it was that same mindset that prevented Hwy 24 from being extended to East County back in the 1970’s and the result is a surface road with the three names of Ygnacio Valley Road, Kirker Pass and Railroad Avenue, today.
I grew up in Walnut Creek and moved to Antioch because it was more affordable. In fact out of all us who attended the 35th reunion of the Northgate High School Class of ’81 in 2016, only four classmates still lived in Walnut Creek. Where did many move to? East County. So, as I said to my fellow elected officials when I was on a panel during a transportation conference back in the late 1990’s when I was serving on the Antioch City Council and Contra Costa Transportation Authority, don’t blame us for the growth. They had kids and we needed somewhere to live that we could afford. That was when East County was pushing for funding and approvals for Highway 4 widening and the Highway 4 bypass/extension. We received it and those projects are now completed.
It’s time we completed the transportation infrastructure in East County and Route 239 is a key part of it.
Besides, that road won’t induce residential growth. We have the Urban Limit Line to control that. But it will induce economic growth with more local jobs, which is what East County needs.
We need both Route 239 and the transit link between Antioch and Tracy. But, for now, let’s push for funds for the freeway to be included in the county’s new plan. Estimates are it will cost an additional $1 billion. I say add it to the total and let the voters decide.
We need bold leadership from our local elected officials and the voice of “we the people” to make it happen.