Merced County leaders to voice need for Campus Parkway funding in D.C.

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comMay 6, 2014 

Business and political leaders from around Merced County boarded a plane early Tuesday morning on their way to Washington, D.C., where they will push for funding of the next phase of the Campus Parkway.

The group called One Voice will ask for $13 million to be placed along a matching pool for the “shovel-ready” project, according to Lori Flanders, Merced County Association of Governments spokeswoman.

In the works for more than a decade and a half, the four-lane expressway has been billed as vital to UC Merced’s success. The parkway would eventually connect the university to Highway 99 and could create access to a mostly open area, where retail and industrial space is available.

Merced Mayor Pro-Tem Josh Pedrozo, who is part of the trip, said on Monday he was looking forward to Merced’s opportunity for funding. “I’m excited to express our support for the (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, and how important it is to our community,” he said. “Hopefully, people out there understand it as well.”

Matching funds for the $33 million project are available from UC Merced, $750,000; Merced County, $100,000; the city of Merced, $2.75 million; MCAG Regional Impact Fee, $3 million; and MCAG State Transportation Improvement Program, $13.4 million.

Merced Mayor Stan Thurston said the grant will not be the only interest on the trip’s agenda. He said the two-day itinerary is chock full of meetings with about two dozen agencies. “It is very, very ambitious,” he said about the itinerary.

Last month, the decision to put county cash behind the project drew the ire of some officials on the West Side.

The MCAG Governing Board voted to dissolve a 2011 resolution that promised that the half-century-old $431 million Los Banos Bypass would be first in line for funding. The money comes from Regional Transportation Impact Fees, paid by developers of new commercial or residential structures to fund transportation projects.

Rescinding the resolution allowed officials to put the collected regional impact fees toward getting the TIGER grant for the Campus Parkway.

According to the Regional Transportation Plan, the Los Banos Bypass remains priority No. 1.

Since 2009, Congress has dedicated more than $4.1 billion to fund projects that affect the nation, a region or a metropolitan area through the TIGER grant. Last year, three projects in California received money for transportation projects through the discretionary grant. Of the 585 that applied in 2013, fewer than 50 received money nationwide.

Matt Fell, transportation director for MCAG, said the process is competitive but the Campus Parkway is in the best position it has ever been to get money. “We think we have pretty good chances compared to previous tries,” he said.

He said some features that could make it appealing to officials in the nation’s capital include its possibility to create jobs, the entities partnering to fund it and a relatively low grant request.

Additional county leaders participating in the One Voice trip include Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo, Gustine City Councilwoman Julie Anderson, Livingston City Councilman David Mendoza, Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra, Los Banos City Councilman Scott Silveira and MCAG Executive Director Marjie Kirn.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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