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Transportation improvements top $1 billion
April 17, 2009, 12:00 AM By Michelle Durand

Improvements to public transit, roads and waterways in San Mateo County will carry a $1 billion price tag over the next five years, according to a new report assessing what role transportation infrastructure will play in the region’s long-term vitality.

San Mateo County is home to improvements funded by multiple levels of government: Federal, state and local. Taken together, the electrification of Caltrain, ferry service in Redwood City and the multi-city effort to revamp El Camino Real known as the Grand Boulevard Initiative will require up to a $1 billion, according to "2009 Indicators for a Sustainable San Mateo County.”

The 13th annual report looking at trends and indicators in the county will be shared with officials today at a progress seminar in Monterey.

Transportation was a particular focus of this year’s analysis because of the county’s twin goals of keeping a growing population moving while reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.

"Transportation amounts to more than half of our county’s CO2 emissions,” said Tyler Hammer, executive director of Sustainable San Mateo County who said the report is a good assessment of what is happening and what the future could hold.

Ideally, the report seeks a sustainable state in which transportation infrastructure delivers cost-effective and effective modes while minimizing single-person vehicle travel and impacts to other resources, like money and the environment.

 Even without the completion of the highlighted projects, the report found a number of trends indicating the county is on the path to meeting those goals. In 2008, transit ridership hit its highest levels ever with average weekday riders of more than 130,000. Simultaneously, per capita gasoline consumption dropped 14 percent since 2001.

Aside from transportation, the 2009 report — which Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, calls the "conscience of San Mateo County” —  also cited a number of other trends:

• Voter turnout in November 2008 was the highest since 1992.

• Water demand increased 5.5 percent in 2006-07, due mainly to a dry spring;

• Unemployment increased although the county still falls among the lowest statewide;

• Solar power installation has nearly quadrupled over the last four years;

• Countywide, 57 percent of solid waste is diverted through recycling and reuse;

• The number of high school seniors meeting the UC and CSU eligibility requirements has dropped over the last five years;

• More than 39 percent of the county’s land is protected open space;

• About 8 percent of the county’s residents lack health care, a number unchanged since 2005 but better than the state average of 13 percent.

• Demand for homelessness aid and other safety net services jumped in 2008 with providers reporting 20 percent to 30 percent increases.

• The household income needed to purchase a median-priced home in the county is estimated at $165,000.

Less than positive trends included a higher average of child abuse referrals, agricultural production dropping 28 percent since 1998 and beach closures due to poor water quality increasing for the third straight year.

The full indicators report will be posted at www.sustainablesanmateo.org.


Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: michelle@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. 

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