OAKLAND -- Preparing to ask Alameda County voters for a higher sales tax for transportation, a county commission on Thursday approved $7.8 billion in road and transit projects to be funded by the measure.

Among them is $400 million to extend BART to Livermore -- a project sharply debated because some critics say it shows the plan favors expansion at the expense of maintaining existing bus systems reeling from service cuts.

Tri-Valley leaders called the BART money an essential down payment on delivering rapid transit to a city in the heavily congested Interstate 580 corridor. The vote was 24-2 by the Alameda County Transportation Commission to approve the tax-spending blueprint for fixing potholes, widening roads, adding carpool lanes, and operating and improving bus systems.

Commissioner Keith Carson, a member of the county board of supervisors, had expressed concern that not enough money will go to bus service. His was the lone no vote. The votes of certain commission members, like Carson's, count twice because of the large areas they represent.

Although critics opposed a BART Livermore extension, commission member and county Supervisor Scott Haggerty said it would be unfair to block BART funds for increasingly urban Livermore.

"There needs to be a little love for the people of the Tri-Valley," he said. "They are not all walking around in cowboy boots."

Livermore resident Paul Weiss said the BART extension to his city is needed to ease traffic and pollution along the I-580 corridor.


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"Let us have BART," he said. "We are a basin for smog. We don't need all that traffic along I-580."

Joel Ramos of the Transform transit advocacy group, one of about 30 speakers at the meeting, said the plan is too explicit in allocating money to Livermore BART rather than considering alternative transit.

Approving the spending plan was a major step toward going to Alameda County voters in November with a measure to double the countywide sales tax from a half cent to a full cent.

Now the spending plan needs approval from at least eight of 14 city councils in cities representing a majority of the county population.

Transportation commissioners said a higher tax is needed to repair and restore roads, highways and transit systems battered by state funding cuts and sales tax collections reduced in a struggling economy.

Mark Green, Union City's mayor and head of the county commission, said the plan will make it easier to get around in the county and region.

"There is something for everyone regardless of your transportation mode," he said.

The largest share of the money -- 48 percent -- would go to mass transit and paratransit services. AC Transit would get $1.45 billion in operating and maintenance funds.

If it wins two-thirds approval from voters, the measure would make Alameda the first Northern California county with a transportation tax as high as a penny.

The total sales tax rates in most Alameda County cities is 8.75 percent, including the current half percent transportation tax that expires in a decade.

Spending plan for sales tax
Here is a summary of a plan to spend $7.8 billion over 30 years from a proposed 1-cent sales tax ballot measure.
Mass transit and paratransit: $3.7 billion (48 percent of total), includes operating funds of $1.45 billion for AC Transit, $77.4 million for BART maintenance, $38.7 million for Livermore Amador Valley Transit and $774 million to operate paratransit for seniors and the disabled. It also includes $400 million to extend BART to Livermore.
Local roads and streets: $2.34 billion (30 percent)
Highway efficiency and freight: $677 million (9 percent)
Bicycle and pedestrian: $651 million (8 percent)
Transit-oriented development: $300 million (4 percent)
Technology innovation: $77.4 million (1 percent)