South, East Bay cities anticipate effects of Regional Measure 3

David Rodriguez/Staff

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Regional Measure 3, or RM3, narrowly passed with a 54 percent approval rate, increasing bridge tolls by a total of $3 in 2025, as of press time.

The Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan will increase bridge tolls in increments of three years starting in 2019 and ending in 2025, amounting to a $3 toll increase on all Bay Area bridges, except for the Golden Gate Bridge.

Throughout the East and South Bay, city representatives have expressed their approval of the measure, pointing to the many transportation projects that RM3 will fund. BART will receive $500 million and purchase 306 new rail cars, increasing its capacity by 40 percent, according to BART spokesperson James Allison.

RM3 is estimated to raise $4.45 billion to fund various transit projects by BART, AC Transit, Caltrain and other companies in an effort to decrease traffic and relieve congestion on public transportation, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s website.

“(BART) cars won’t be breaking down as much, allowing BART to run more closely to schedule and people to get home quicker,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “BART will also have extra cars that will make the trains longer, allowing more people to sit down on the BART.”

70 percent of the funds raised by RM3 will go toward public transportation, which Worthington said will benefit Berkeley citizens.

When asked about rising bridge tolls, Worthington said that he saw RM3 as a massive transfer of money from the upper classes to more working-class people. In paying for the bridge tolls, the upper classes are contributing to RM3, which will back operational costs, allowing lower-income citizens to use public transportation at a fraction of the regular fares, according to Worthington.

Worthington, however, said that an increase in cost is a justification for driving vehicles.

“If you are causing pollution and congestions, you pay a little bit of extra money,” Worthington said.

According to Berkeley city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, the impact of RM3 on Berkeley is unknown because the city does not know how the funding will be dispersed in Berkeley projects.

South Bay city councilmembers said they favor the measure primarily because BART will use the funding to expand lines to San Jose and Santa Clara.

Oakland city spokesperson Sean Maher said in an email that the Oakland Department of Transportation will benefit from the $150 million set aside for the “San Francisco Bay Trail/Safe Routes to Transit” budget of the RM3 spending plan, which can include projects for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Maher added that Oakland will benefit from various BART and AC Transit projects proposed in the measure’s spending plan.

Patrick McGarrity, chief of staff for San Jose City councilmember Sylvia Arenas, said RM3 will fund a “long-awaited program” that will expand the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, or VTA, light rail system from East San Jose to Evergreen. The light rail expansion is a project that been on the table for the San Jose city council since the 1990s, according to McGarrity.

McGarrity added that the proposed San Jose BART station will be set to open in 2020.

Teresa O’Neill, Santa Clara City Council member and VTA board member, said RM3 will help expand BART to Santa Clara, alleviating traffic congestion. Santa Clara City Council member Kathy Watanabe added that the measure will boost services that will help residents gravitate toward public transportation.

“We are in the heart of Silicon Valley. We feel the traffic crunch … because so many people are coming to Santa Clara to work,” O’Neil said.

Contact Francesca Munsayac and Nathan Chin at [email protected].