The Merced County Association of Governments is revamping how regional transportation funds are allocated.
The move comes four years after $2.3 million originally set aside for land acquisition for the Los Banos Highway 152 bypass was redirected to the Merced-Atwater Expressway project.
“In December, the board decided it would be best if we took a comprehensive look at the entire plan and update it,” said Matt Fell, the association’s transportation manager. “It’s a regional pool of money, but it’s (uncertain) whether or not a return to source idea would work.”
Regional Transportation Impact Fees, which are paid by residential and commercial developers to mitigate traffic issues, are collected by the association and used toward projects in the county.
Fell said association officials may sign a contract as soon as this month with Pleasanton-based TJKM Transportation Consultants to revise the program. Fell said it will take about a year for the company to complete the project.
Traditionally there has been a priority list and for years the Los Banos bypass was deemed the top priority. In 2011, housing and commercial development had slowed, leaving stagnant the money set aside for land acquisition for the bypass. At the time, association officials voted to borrow $2.3 million from the bypass project to advance the engineering of the Merced-Atwater Expressway project. The MCAG, however, put back just $1.6 million.
Officials promised state transportation funding for the bypass in 2014-15 to make up the difference but the California Department of Transportation vetoed the deal.
Merced County Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said he recalls the issue.
“I am totally familiar with the process and I expressed my concerns at the time,” O’Banion said. “They are looking at alternatives, (but) I believe the RTIF process has been fair.”
O’Banion and Mayor Mike Villalta, who are MCAG board members, voted against the transfer of funds to the expressway project.
O’Banion said he’s OK with MCAG establishing a new formula for distributing the regional fee.