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The bridges of Alameda

Submitted by on 1, June 19, 2009 – 6:00 amOne Comment

10As I reported the other day, the state’s elected leaders, in an effort to close a multi-billion-dollar budget gap, have proposed a plan to take back more than $1 billion in gas tax money that is used by cities and counties to fund road and transit improvements. I reported that the plan would cost Alameda $1.2 million.

If that plan is enacted, Alameda County could also lose money, which could have a potentially bigger impact on the Island: The closure of the drawbridges that connect us to the rest of civilization. Apparently the bridges would operational during the day – after all this earthquake retrofit work is done, anyway – and then would be left up at night.

The Chronicle’s Michael Cabanatuan reports that the county-run bridges would have to be left in the up position if closed, because they could face millions in fines otherwise.

“We can’t afford those fines, so we would have to find other sources of money, or keep the bridges open – that is, in the up position,” the county’s public works director, Daniel Woldesenbet, told the Chron. “And some of the bridges carry 20,000 to 30,000 vehicles a day.”

Without the bridges, we’d only have the Webster and Posey tubes to rely on to get on and off the Island, and the ferry.

If the state takes the money, Alameda County would be out $36 million this coming year.

But Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant dismissed the suggestion that the bridges might be closed as little more than a bit of nifty political theater intended to get more money from the city.

“Obviously this was a trial balloon, and it was there to get the necessary reaction. It’s highly unlikely they would do that,” she told the City Council on Tuesday. “They want us to share in the expenses (of operating the bridges), and it’s just not possible.”

Vice Mayor Doug deHaan said a similar suggestion was floated in 1994, but that other solutions to the problem were found.

Their remarks came as the council opted to join the League of California Cities in exploring a lawsuit that would challenge the constitutionality of the state’s taking the gas tax money for its own budget-balancing use. Voters decided to amend the state constitution to require the use of gas tax funds for road and transit improvements effective July 1, 2003.

The mayors Alameda County’s cities have also banded together to demand that the state reconsider proposals to take the gas tax money and property tax funds totaling $42 million for the county (though that appears to, for the moment, be off the table).

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