Moreno Valley seeks new source after failing to win money to synchronize traffic lights
Download story podcast
10:00 PM PDT on Friday, May 30, 2008
By DAN LEE
The city of Moreno Valley is looking for new funding sources after a state commission turned down the city's request for more than $7.4 million to synchronize traffic signals.
City officials had applied for Prop. 1B funding from the California Transportation Commission to synchronize signals at 102 intersections and create a traffic management center. The signal synchronization would ensure the smooth flow of traffic and reduce backups at intersections.
The commission awarded $98 million for 62 signal synchronization projects statewide this week, but Moreno Valley was one of 55 projects that did not receive funding, according to city officials.
"It was a very competitive process," city Public Works Director Chris Vogt said by phone.
The projects were evaluated for how quickly construction could begin, how effective the projects would be, how much in emissions they would reduce, and how much the local agencies were willing to contribute financially.
Some cities and transportation agencies were more successful than others. For example, the city of Pasadena won $789,000 for eight different projects, while San Mateo County applied for and won $10 million.
Moreno Valley had sought to synchronize traffic signals along portions of Alessandro Boulevard, Cactus Avenue, Frederick Street, Heacock Street, Ironwood Avenue, Lasselle Street and Perris and Sunnymead boulevards.
The traffic signals would have cameras and equipment to receive a transmission from a traffic management center, where city officials could synchronize the signals. But state officials didn't rate the project highly.
Russ Chittenden, Caltrans' Prop. 1B program manager, said it appeared that Moreno Valley's project would not create as much benefit as other cities' proposals. Chittenden was not part of the panel that reviewed Moreno Valley's application.
Moreno Valley also did not contribute enough money, he said. Cities and counties that won state funding had pledged to pay at least 35 percent of their projects' costs on average -- more than double Moreno Valley's contribution, Chittenden said.
The $98 million was the only portion of Prop. 1B money dedicated to traffic signal synchronization. But Chittenden said there are other dollars that could be used for synchronization.
Michael Geller, campaign treasurer for the Moreno Valley Taxpayers Association, criticized city officials' inability to obtain state funding, saying that they also have failed to win any state bond money for library construction. Moreno Valley residents are paying for those bond measures, he said.
"We deserve our fair share, and no one seems to be held accountable," Geller said by phone.
Geller's campaign committee is targeting Councilmen Charles White and Frank West in this November's election. Geller sent an e-mail to voters in White's and West's districts, criticizing the city's failure to obtain state funding.
West defended city officials' efforts, saying that they had taken the initiative to apply for the money and understood the process. Other agencies, including Riverside County and La Quinta, did not get funding, he said.
If politics played a part in the selection process, then Moreno Valley needs to step up its lobbying and legislative efforts, as well as increasing the city's clout by getting more residents to register to vote, he said by phone.
White said there was little city officials could do after the fact, having complied with the application process.
"I think Mike Geller is just whistling Dixie, trying to make a bad scene where there isn't one," White said by phone.
Vogt said the city has received millions of dollars in Prop. 1B funding for pavement repair, new traffic signals and to repair or replace bridges.
The city still plans to move ahead with the traffic synchronization project, but is now looking for different funding sources, he said.
"We're going to pursue other grants and opportunities, including federal funding," Vogt said.