Bay Area freeways would get bumpier with fewer repairs.
Buses, trains, ferries and paratransit vans would go unreplaced and break down more often, stranding riders.
Hundreds of Bay Area projects to ease road congestion and expand public transit -- like extending BART to San Jose or creating a rapid bus transit system through Oakland and San Leandro -- could be postponed or scrapped if Congress adopts House Republicans' plan to slash federal transportation funding by a third, federal, state and regional officials say.
Things could get even worse if Congressional bickering over budget cuts fails to renew the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon by its Sept. 30 expiration date.
"I want to sound a wake-up call," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of the sharp funding cuts proposed by Republicans. "It's unacceptable."
Boxer is stumping for her federal transportation reauthorization bill that would preserve existing funding levels for two years.
If the House Republicans prevail with their cuts, California would lose $1.7 billion a year and lose out on 60,000 jobs for projects that wouldn't be built, according to Senate public works committee staffers.
Republicans say transportation cuts are needed because of shortages of money in the Highway Trust Fund, which funds both road and public transit.
"While some continue to advocate the same old tax-and-spend approach, I prefer a new direction," said Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican who chairs the House transportation committee. "More short-term extensions or a two-year bill are recipes for bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund. These options will cut the legs from under our states and hamper their ability to move forward with many needed, large-scale projects."
Boxer used the Oakland side of the Caldecott Tunnel fourth bore construction as the backdrop for her warning last week. ¿She said the $381 million project illustrates how deeply federal money is interwoven into numerous projects to keep Americans moving.
The federal government is paying $181 million -- almost half -- of the fourth bore costs. State money, Contra Costa sales tax, bridge toll money and other sources make up the rest.
Neither the Caldecott Tunnel project nor the $6.3 billion Bay Bridge seismic retrofit is at risk because they already are funded, officials say.
But slicing away a third of the annual federal transportation dollars would delay or scuttle a wide array of highway projects and maintenance, said Malcolm Dougherty, acting Caltrans director.
"It's hard to single out individual projects at risk, because if you take away a third of the federal dollars, every project is at risk," Dougherty said.
Motorists would lose out on the chance for congestion relief and speedier travel if the many projects to add carpool lanes, improve interchanges and rehabilitate pavement don't happen, Dougherty said.
Public transit would be hit hard, too.
BART's plans to extend tracks to San Jose and replace its entire fleet of aging train cars would be in jeopardy if federal funding is cut by a third, said BART board President Bob Franklin.
"Our cars are already showing signs of aging," said Franklin, who traveled to Washington, D.C., recently to lobby for preserving federal funding. "If we do not replace our cars, our service will suffer and become less reliable."
Franklin also is worried because BART relies heavily on federal dollars to rehabilitate its tracks, train controls and other equipment.
Deep federal cuts would also put scheduled replacements of buses on hold at public transit agencies in San Francisco, San Jose, Antioch, San Mateo, Livermore and Oakland, said Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
"Our entire rolling stock for public transit vehicles would be affected," Rentschler said. "If you cut federal funding by a third, you could see less service and more fare hikes."
Projects that could lose funding under a federal plan to slash transportation money include:
Source: Metropolitan Transportation Commission Transportation Improvement Program