Every year all transportation agencies in the nine Bay Area counties are required by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to adopt a Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP).
This plan is the blueprint for each and every transit provider such as BART, County Connection, Muni, AC Transit, etc., for the next 10-15 years. This year, the Water Emergency Transit Authority (WETA) developed its first SRTP.
For several years the city of Martinez has been in WETA's plans for the expansion of ferry service in Contra Costa County, along with Antioch and Hercules.
They have completed studies on the most advantageous locations for ferry terminals in each community and authorized the funding for the required environmental work that goes along with any kind of waterfront development.
However, in the first draft version of WETA's transit plan, Martinez, Antioch and Hercules were left out of the report, signaling that WETA was dropping their plans for expansion to the East Bay area.
This was a huge setback for our plans to revitalize the Martinez waterfront and downtown.
Martinez immediately joined forces with Antioch to convince WETA to put us back in their short-range plans for expansion of ferry service. One of our core arguments was that the "E" in their name was being ignored.
The ferry agency was previously known as just Water Transit Authority (WTA). The "E" (emergency) was added when former Assemblyman Tom Torlakson carried a bill in 2007 that created a Bay Area water transit system capable of responding to emergencies or disasters affecting the transportation system in the region as a whole.
Martinez is the county seat and home to the Regional Medical Center, Office of the Sheriff, and Office of Emergency Services.
In the case of an emergency or disaster, transportation in and out of these facilities will be very important. Water transportation might be the only functioning system in the Bay Area.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier convened a meeting of all of the stakeholders, including representatives of Martinez, Antioch, Contra Costa County and WETA staff and commissioners. The result of that meeting and subsequent communication between the parties was the reinstatement of Martinez, Antioch and Hercules to the SRTP, and the inclusion of $25 million for expansion of ferry service to our cities.
However, WETA has made it clear that these monies can only be used for capital projects such as ferries, ferry terminals, landings, parking areas and the design work that they require. It will be up to the cities to find the funding to operate the expanded system.
The additional ½-cent sales tax that you pay every time you buy something in Contra Costa County (also known as Measure J) is dedicated to transportation and road improvements in every one of our communities.
The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) administers this tax money and has funded a multitude of transportation projects, including the extension of BART to East Contra Costa County, the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel and the Martinez Intermodal Station.
When Measure J was being crafted for the ballot several years ago, West Contra Costa County cities inserted a water transit component in their "wish list" which now is available for their use when needed. Measure J has $45 million available for ferry service from Richmond, Hercules or Rodeo to San Francisco.
Martinez and Antioch are exploring the possibility of doing the same with the reauthorization of Measure J in the future. Unfortunately, the fare box does not cover the cost of providing any type of public transit and it must be augmented with other types of public funding.
With ferry service on the distant horizon, Martinez is working very hard to find solutions to its aging marina. A partial dredge of the marina was just completed and boaters can now navigate in and out of the harbor during high and low tide.
State Sen. Lois Wolk will be touring the Martinez waterfront with me next week to get a firsthand view of our beautiful shoreline and the challenges we face to improve it.
The Martinez waterfront and marina are strategically located 32 miles northeast of San Francisco and 50 miles from Sacramento, which provides convenient access to the Delta and San Francisco Bay.
Even in its current condition, more than 6,000 boaters use the marina each year and an average of 200 boats rent slips. Of those slip renters, 36 percent are Martinez residents, 37 percent are from the East Bay Area (primarily Contra Costa County), 20 percent are from other parts of the Bay Area, and 7 percent are from inland Northern California from Redding to Sacramento.
One major improvement at the waterfront we hope to see this summer is the commencement of construction on a building that will house a new restaurant. The location will be generally in area of the former Albatross site.
If our strategic plans for the waterfront keep moving forward, watch for many more improvements over the next few years.
Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.