A compromise plan to have Pittsburg rejoin a key East Contra Costa transportation planning alliance and set aside funding for a long-sought extension of James Donlon Boulevard has derailed.
The East Contra Costa Regional Fee and Financing Authority, or ECCRFFA, and the TRANSPLAN Committee dropped a 2011 lawsuit against Pittsburg earlier this month, abruptly ending months of settlement negotiations.
Pittsburg filed a cross-complaint last week to keep talks alive, but to no avail because the suit was already dropped.
"It was a complete surprise to me," Pittsburg City Manager Joe Sbranti said. "We had sat down at the table for months and worked out a plan together that benefits all of the East Contra Costa cities. To have it just pushed away is disappointing."
Member agencies in ECCRFFA collect money from developers, which is then distributed to transportation-related projects. TRANSPLAN oversees regional transportation interests and plans.
Pittsburg officials say the 1.7-mile extension of James Donlon, which would allow East Contra Costa commuters to bypass Pittsburg's local roads, is being shortchanged. To make its point known, the city withheld 11 months of collected funds and ultimately left the financing authority in September 2010.
The James Donlon extension originally sat high on the priority list of area projects when ECCRFFA was formed, but later slid down because of regional consensus, according to the lawsuit.
A Nov. 29 letter sent by committee members to Pittsburg says the potential settlement fell apart because the city's development and potential fee figures over the next 18 years were inaccurate, and the "special treatment and concessions" the city would receive were unjustified. Pittsburg disputes the claims in the letter.
"It appeared we were not going to come to a total agreement, so instead of keeping putting money into attorney fees, we thought it would be better to drop the lawsuit," added board member Bob Taylor, of Brentwood.
Pittsburg projects that it will build around 150 to 200 units a year through 2030, which will result in $36 million to $51 million in fees, not the $120 million figure the agency says it was first given months earlier.
"It became apparent to TRANSPLAN members that this whole deal was mainly of sole benefit of Pittsburg," said David Schmidt, the group's legal counsel.
Sbranti said he gave accurate information to two different questions and the answers did not change. Projections of 7,500 to 8,000 units, which would total about $120 million in fees, come from Pittsburg's total projected future build-out, he said.
Further, Sbranti disputes the claim that James Donlon would not benefit the overall region. He points to studies conducted by traffic engineers for ECCRFFA that say about 90 percent of the traffic that would use the road would not be Pittsburg commuters.
Agencies now insist that Pittsburg rejoin the financing authority to receive its collected road funds. Pittsburg is weighing its options.
Sbranti said the city hopes it will receive a more receptive ear from the board's new representatives, Antioch's Wade Harper and Oakley's Kevin Romick.
"We are very willing to go back to the table and hopeful we can continue to work regionally to come up with a solution that can benefit everyone," Sbranti said. "We all have a common goal."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.