The San Mateo County Transportation Authority will receive more than $135 million annually from two half-cent sales taxes, but this money will only cover a limited number of projects focused on highway congestion, bicycle and pedestrian programs, local streets and other transportation needs. 

The Transportation Authority is requesting public comment on its draft five-year strategic plan to gather feedback about residents’ priorities when it comes to transportation needs. 

The plan will provide a blueprint used to determine what projects the department will pursue using money from the half-cent sales tax measures, which are named Measure A and Measure W. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a common theme throughout the draft plan is relieving highway congestion. It’s even written into Measure A and Measure W language. 

Although Measure A was passed in 1988 to address congestion, data and personal experience indicate congestion remains a problem in the county. Last year, voters approved Measure W, which provides half of its revenues for the San Mateo County Congestion Relief Plan. 

To analyze the congestion problem, the report uses Census data. From 2010 to 2017, more people started taking public transit, biking or using taxis or motorcycles to commute in San Mateo County. People who drove alone dropped by a little more than 1 percent. California Public Road data shows, however, the number of miles people drove each day increased by nearly 5 percent during the same stretch of time. This is especially true on area highways.

“The increase in Caltrans-maintained roads usage compared to all other roadways within San Mateo County suggests an increase in longer distance trips,” the Transportation Authority’s draft strategic plan explains. 

TA spokesman Dan Lieberman said the strategic plan provides a rubric for ranking projects. 

“This is more of the bigger picture,” he said. For example, if people want more priority for biking-related projects, or a heavier focus on reducing highway congestion, they could send in comments expressing those desires. 

Specific project ideas, Lieberman said, might be better served at a city level since the plan doesn’t indicate what projects the Transportation Authority will fund.

But residents can see what kinds of projects have been funded in the past. In Half Moon Bay, the TA has funded safety improvements on streets such as Poplar Street and Main Street, as well as trail extension projects. After the public comment period ends on Nov. 15, the board of directors will vote to approve the draft in December.  

“The strategic plan lays out the goals of the (Transportation Authority), how it distributes money, and what sorts of projects it will fund,” Lieberman said.

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