Today: VTA Board Could Enshrine Road Expansions in Sales Tax Measure

Santa Clara County’s proposed 20-year sales tax could go toward making dangerous mega-wide roads like the Lawrence Expressway even wider. Photo: Santa Clara County

The Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors today could enshrine road widenings in its 20-year transportation sales tax, proposed for the ballot in Santa Clara County in November 2016.

The agenda for today’s 5:30 p.m. board meeting includes approval of the sales tax measure language, which includes goals [PDF] to “provide congestion relief” and “relieve roadway, highway, and expressway bottle necks and minimize traffic in residential neighborhoods.”

“In the past this goal was met with roadway widening,” wrote Gladwyn d’Souza, transportation committee chair for the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta chapter, in a letter [PDF] to the VTA board stating the organization’s concerns about the language. “Subsequent analysis has shown that the relief is temporary due to induced driving.”

The sales tax proposal, called Envision Silicon Valley, would fund at least two decades of transportation infrastructure projects in the South Bay, including the BART extension to San Jose, a network of bus rapid transit lines, a county-wide trail network, and safety improvements for walking and bicycling.

But widening Santa Clara County’s already-dangerous expressways to “relieve bottle necks,” even as traffic declines, would work against San Jose’s goals to reduce driving and end traffic fatalities, as called for in San Jose’s Envision 2040 General Plan and Vision Zero plan. Ninety-three percent of traffic fatalities occurred on major city streets and county expressways last year.

“It’s a fact that our transportation systems have been designed in the past to move cars efficiently,” SJ Transportation Director Hans Larsen told the City Council when it approved the Vision Zero plan on May 12. “This is a change in paradigm to say that safety is the top priority.”

  • SFnative74

    Those in SF who think more parking and wider roads are the way to go should go spend some time in San Jose, to see if that’s what they really want.

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

    “The Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors today could enshrine road widenings in its 20-year transportation sales tax, proposed for the ballot in Santa Clara County this November.”
    FYI – the sales tax measure is scheduled to go on the ballot in November 2016, not this November.

  • Gezellig

    Even Buenos Aires finally gave up on proving Braess’s Paradox over and over every day. The median of Avenida 9 de Julio now has BRT:

    “Subsequent analysis has shown that the relief is temporary due to induced driving.”

    Just like Nick Falbo did for the Protected Intersection, someone needs to make a visually arresting and understandable video explaining Braess’s Paradox and how it relates to traffic. It’s scary how few people in positions of power seem to get this.

  • AndreL

    BRT is a third-world solution. It is better to do nothing now, and save money for rail-based solutions later. There should be some sort of federal regulation against BRT, some way to kill this thing in US.

  • Gezellig

    My point was more the fact that even the “widest street in the world” is subject to Braess’s Paradox, so it’s folly thinking we can endlessly widen our way out of congestion.

    Btw, for what it’s worth, directly beneath that stretch in Buenos Aires are 5 excellent subway lines.

  • Richard Mlynarik

  • keenplanner

    Road widening can be “enshrined” even though it will make it much more difficult to meet Plan Bay Area/SB-375 GHG-reduction targets? Why aren’t we hearing any outcry from our heroic planners at MTC?
    I though the whole “adding lanes to reduce congestion” was universally known not only to not work, but to make congestion worse. Perhaps that doesn’t apply to San Jose.
    What would really work is if they stopped allowing every commercial and residential building to provide acres of free parking.

  • Ryan Price

    By “third world” you mean a really inexpensive yet highly efficient form of transportation that makes public transportation a highly accessible and attractive option for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds?


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