County supes vote to total tunnel costs

Half Moon Bay Review, Aug. 7, 1996

By Eric Rice

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors took action Tuesday to try to put together a picture of what Measure T and a proposed tunnel through San Pedro Mountain would cost the county.

The board approved a request by Supervisor Tom Huening to have Controller Gerry Trias spell out how much it will cost the county to put Measure T on the ballot. Meanwhile, the board agreed to formally ask the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for an explanation of the broader funding issue that has dogged the tunnel since it was proposed last year.

The vote on the motion was 3-1 with Supervisor Ted Lempert dissenting over the request for Trias' report, and Supervisor Mike Nevin absent.

Questions continue to linger about how _ or if _ a tunnel would be funded, particularly surrounding the transferability of $50 million in federal money set aside in the mid-1980s for the Martini Creek Bypass. All supervisors agreed Tuesday it would be valuable to have the FHWA clear up the funding question.

But Lempert believes a cost estimate from Trias could be misleading. He said he fears it could amount to guesswork on what could conceivably have an impact on the tunnel.

"The people that understand and will determine the funding is the federal goverment," Lempert said. "The issue is not county money."

He stressed that the county's efforts so far have been focused on four elements _ completion of the independent tunnel; sound cost estimates for both the tunnel and bypass; and resolving the issue of funding.

But his colleagues on the board said they felt the information from the Controller's Office could be helpful. Supervisor Ruben Barrales said it would be an impartial fiscal analysis comparable to the impartial legal analysis by the county counsel of ballot measures.

"How can you argue giving the voters less information?" said Barrales, who usually sides with Lempert on bypass/tunnel issues.

Supervisor Mary Griffin agreed.

"I certainly believe it will give the voters a picture of the costs," she said.

But Barrales cautioned tunnel opponents against expecting the controller's estimate to delve into potential economic impacts of the tunnel, such as the loss of business if Highway 1 closes and a tunnel is not built. He said he expects Trias to deal strictly with county costs, such as election expenses and potential costs of processing the resulting General Plan amendment through the California Coastal Commission if Measure T passes.

Measure T would change the county's Local Coastal Program to make a tunnel the preferred alternative to permanently repair Highway 1 over the approved and partially funded Martini Creek Bypass.

Half Moon Bay Review