Back-Seat Driver

California transit chiefs wonder: Will Trump ding them in his budget?

Low-lying rural Sacramento County roads have become roadblocks and danger zones this winter.
Low-lying rural Sacramento County roads have become roadblocks and danger zones this winter. rbyer@sacbee.com

Does President Trump spell trouble for transit in California?

With the Trump administration’s first federal budget proposal due soon, transit executives are worried. California Transit Association officials say they will head to Washington next week to lobby Congress and they hope to talk to some Trump transportation officials, offering this message: Transit is good for the economy.

Transit gets millions of Americans (who don’t have cars or who don’t want to clog freeways) to and from their jobs, they will point out, and it creates jobs for bus drivers, bus builders and others.

The new administration has been hard to read, transportation officials say. Trump has said he wants to fix America’s infrastructure, including trains, roads and bridges. But the Heritage Foundation, which is said to be assisting the Trump budget team, has proposed phasing out the Federal Transit Administration and its programs over a five-year period.

Should that happen, Sacramento Regional Transit bus and light-rail officials say they worry they could see as much as 21 percent of their annual operating budget disappear.

The California Transit Association’s Michael Pimentel says Congress, including Republicans, might be disinclined, however, to go along with a slashing of federal transit funding, given that Congress committed a fair amount for buses and trains in 2015 when it passed a five-year transportation spending plan.

Sacramento’s road warriors

We’ve heard from a lot of residents recently who report issues that need fixing. Some have gotten satisfaction; others, not so much.

Andrea Jackson of Sacramento called to complain about a pothole – 16 inches wide and 2 inches deep – in her neighborhood. She and others reported it, but nothing was done, she said, despite the city’s pledge, reported here, that it would fix potholes within 48 hours of a report. A few days later, she called back, surprised and pleased. The pothole had been fixed.

Not so satisfied is Rancho Murieta resident Matt Corsaut. Scott Road, the most direct route to Folsom, floods several times in winter, at the same spot. He asked the county to fix it.

Sorry, county officials said, that would require a bridge, an elevated roadway, a water channel and environmental impact report. Estimated cost: $9 million. A county planner sent Corsaut a suggested solution: On days when Scott Road is underwater, use another road.

In north Sacramento, John Burke points out that Caltrans hasn’t really finished its $136 million Interstate 80 Across The Top project, despite holding a ribbon-cutting in December. There still is no striping on a section of the westbound lanes, he said, and that’s left a dangerous situation when the afternoon sun is in drivers’ eyes. When will that work be done? So far, Caltrans is only saying: When the weather gets better.

James Purcell got a little more satisfaction. The parking meter at his midtown medical office recently refused to take his credit card. He put cash in, but got a ticket. He called the city’s parking chief, Matt Eierman, who spent a lot of time going over it with Purcell and concluded the meter’s card reader needed cleaning or fixing. The citation will get tossed. Purcell advises: If you have trouble with a meter, call the city’s 311 phone line to get it on record.

Perhaps the most aggrieved residents last week are those living next to the midtown rail tracks. Once again, trains were blowing their horns in the night, waking people, despite that area being a federally designated no-horn zone.

Some of it may be related to track work in the area, which requires horn blowing. Some of it, however, may be because track problems elsewhere are causing trains to be rerouted through midtown, and some engineers may be unfamiliar with the quiet zone. The problem likely is not over. Union Pacific will be doing more track work in midtown this year. City officials say they have not yet gotten details from the railroad.

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