Input continues for drafting regional transportation plan

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 5, 2013 

The Merced County Association of Governments visited Los Banos on Tuesday in a continuing effort to determine how it will spend transportation funds for the next 27 years.

Matt Fell, MCAG's transportation manager, held a workshop for public input on the Regional Transportation Plan. The plan will determine what improvements and which projects receive funding priority through 2040. The plan, in its beginning stages, is based on growth patterns in the county, state goals and community input.

Fell also held a workshop in Los Banos, and other parts of the county, in April that asked residents their preferences on where transportation dollars should be spent.

"Over the summer, we did a lot of computer modeling and putting together scenarios based on that first round," Fell said. "Where we are now is we're talking about these scenario options."

Fell asked attendees of the meeting to choose their preference among projects like road maintenance and construction, expanding bus service and increasing bike and walking paths in the county. He also asked if there is a desire for cleaner air, less traffic congestion, having less farmland development and encouraging less driving.

Fell said MCAG's board of directors — representatives from the six cities in the county and the Board of Supervisors — will weigh the public input and approve a plan by March.

Fell said the state requires that MCAG's regional plan include a component that addresses greenhouse gas emissions countywide. The penalty for not doing so could be California withholding transportation dollars, Fell said.

Les Palocsay said gas milage has increased in the past few years, causing greenhouse gases to decline. He asked if Fell included that in his calculation. Fell responded that the scenario was accounted for in the plan.

Planning Commissioner Arkady Faktorovich said he was not impressed with the portion of the plan addressing the reduction of cars on the road. Faktorovich said he doesn't believe Fell understands the issue.

"I know we have a state law. I don't have a high opinion of the state," he said. "I cannot understand why MCAG is involving itself in stuff it shouldn't be involved in. This whole scenario doesn't compute. You don't even know the essence of this plan, where it came from, what's the reason of it."

Fell will hold four more workshops on the Regional Transportation Plan in cities throughout Merced County during the remainder of the month. A draft plan will be available for review in November and MCAG is scheduled to adopt it in March.

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