Thursday, February 8, 2007

The 126/101 Connector

After I posted my Victoria Corridor blog last week, many people asked me just exactly why I thought the long-delayed 126-101 connector was off the table politically.

Most major transportation investments in these parts are controlled by the Ventura County Transportation Commission. That's a countywide entity created by the state to guide how transportation money in our county is spent. VCTC has 17 members -- all five county supervisors, one elected representative from each of the 10 cities, and two public members. Mayor Morehouse appointed me to be Ventura's representative in 2006. In addition there are two other Ventura residents among the 17 commissioners -- Supervisor Bennett and Keith Turner, our former county planning director, who is one of the two public members.

VCTC maintains a priority list of major transportation projects, and those projects get built as funding becomes available. This funding is typically from the state or federal governments; because we failed to pass Proposition B in 2004, we are the only large county in the state without a major local source of transportation funding, which means we must wait longer and lobby Sacramento and Washington harder to get transportation projects built.

The126/101 connector, which would take freeway-to-freeway traffic off of Victoria, is currently at the bottom on this list and there is no realistic possibility that it will be built in the foreseeable future unless something changes -- either we move it up the list and/or we pass a countywide transportation sales tax.

The politics of VCTC follows geographical lines. There is the West County, including Ventura and Oxnard; and the East County (Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark), and the Santa Clara Valley (Fillmore/Santa Paula). East County reps typically push hard for road projects and with considerable success. The Highway 23 widening in Thousand Oaks is a good example -- it was high on the list to begin with, and Congressman Gallegly, who's from Simi Valley, delivered a lot of additional federal money to make the project happen. It's now under construction. Another good example is the Lewis Road expansion in Camarillo -- supported by VCTC as a very high priority because it connects Highway 101 to the CSUCI campus.

In my view, West County concerns are often overlooked or outvoted at VCTC. This is not always true, but often it feels that way. So the politics of VCTC are stacked against the 126/101 connector. Countywide it is not viewed as a high priority.

Nevertheless, I do think it is probably worth revisiting this issue with our friends in Santa Paula and Fillmore and with Supervisors Bennett and Long (all of whose constituents must use Victoria) to see if we can lay the foundation to move the connector up the list in the future. But this is a long-term effort.

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