By Ken Yeager
Special to the Mercury News
Posted: 01/04/2012 08:00:00 PM PST
Supervisor Ken Yeager condensed this from the speech he will deliver at Thursday evening's VTA meeting.
As a member of the board of directors of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority for the past 11 years, I am honored to serve as chairman during what will prove to be a banner year.
In 2012, my goal is for VTA to do a better job of telling the story of how it has accomplished so much and why we need to change the Bay Area's transportation, political and administrative landscape so that we can accomplish even more.
One reason why VTA can achieve so much is that it is the only agency in the Bay Area where transit, congestion management and sales tax authority all are under one roof. This makes us extremely efficient. Most counties have a different governing board for each function, and those boards often are at odds with each other. Each also has its own administrative staff, which is duplicative and expensive.
VTA's solid planning has built trust with voters. The willingness of residents of Santa Clara County to tax themselves has allowed VTA to undertake massive infrastructure improvements.
We are just a few months away from breaking ground on construction that finally will bring BART to San Jose. This will be the year's most exciting project, creating about 14,000 related jobs.
It didn't happen by chance that the main contract for BART is $77 million less than originally estimated or that the construction schedule will be more condensed. VTA went beyond the conventional practice in awarding the contract to make it easier for the contractor to work faster and less expensively. Adding to the cost savings and the anticipated schedule improvement was the board's adoption of the first Project Labor Agreement for VTA. This agreement promises fair wages and a smoothly run project (empahsis added).
Santa Clara County is what is known as a "self-help" county. Because we have our own sales tax dedicated to transportation, we have been able to address many of our county's transportation infrastructure needs on our own. However, our forward thinking has worked against us when it comes to securing funding through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional governing body that makes transportation funding decisions for the Bay Area.
Santa Clara County has one-quarter of all the Bay Area's residents and one-quarter of its jobs, yet Santa Clara County doesn't come close to receiving one-quarter of the regional transportation dollars administered by MTC. This may be because representation on MTC is not proportional to population. With one-quarter of the Bay Area population, Santa Clara County has only one-eighth of the representation on MTC. That is why we must continue to urge the state Legislature to pass AB 57, which will add a seat on MTC for the city of San Jose.
Another example of VTA challenging the status quo is its proposal to create the Caltrans Innovative District, or "iDistrict," at VTA headquarters. This new model will streamline Caltrans operations in Santa Clara County, resulting in the completion of more projects on time and on budget.
What better place to serve as an incubator for more efficient government and improved transportation technologies than the Silicon Valley. Success here can be replicated throughout the state, for the benefit of all Californians.
I ask my fellow board members to help us get our fair share of regional transportation dollars and to promote the idea of the iDistrict. If we can succeed on these fronts, we can achieve even more to address the transportation needs of our county.
Ken Yeager is a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and takes over this month as chair of the Valley Transportation Authority. He wrote this for this newspaper.
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