The Merced County Association of Governments went against staff recommendations last week on how to spend transportation funds over the next 27 years.
MCAG voted unanimously on Nov. 21 to pursue a scenario with more housing, fewer people relying on public transportation and more farmland development in its Regional Transportation Plan. The blueprint will determine what improvements and which projects will receive funding priority through 2040.
The plan, which is not set to be finalized until June, is based on population growth patterns in the county, state goals and community input. Lori Flanders, an MCAG spokeswoman, said the state requires that a plan be in place but there is no mandate to follow it.
“It determines where our priorities are as far as transportation,” Flanders said.
MCAG chose from three scenarios:• Scenario A includes 5,200 daily bus riders, 18.5 percent traffic congestion, a 4.5percent reduction in greenhouse gases and 18,100 acres of farmland being developed.
• Scenario B has 5,400 daily bus riders, 18.2 percent traffic congestion, a 5.9percent reduction in greenhouse gases and 14,900 acres of farmland being developed.
• Scenario C consists of 5,800 daily bus riders, 17.4 percent traffic congestion, a 6.7 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and 9,900 acres of farmland developed. Scenario C also includes 20.7 tons of pollutants per day, while the other two scenarios list the number at 20.6 per day.
MCAG staff recommended Scenario B; MCAG went with ScenarioA.
“I did not support Scenario B,” said Les Palocsay, part of a vocal contingent of Los Banos residents who fear the state is laying the groundwork to impose crippling environmental regulations on the Central Valley. “B does not reduce greenhouse gases and it has 7.4houses per acre.”
Palocsay said Scenario A has 5.4houses per acre and provides more choice for Merced County residents.
“We’re fighting for freedom of choice for the individual and for the elected government officials,” he said. “What’s voluntary today can be mandatory tomorrow.”
Flanders said the Regional Transportation Plan will proceed to the environmental impact phase, which will be completed by March. She said the public will give additional input once the environmental report is complete. The plan will be voted on by MCAG in June.