Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending

Sweeping changes are coming to two of San Francisco’s deadliest streets, which will get miles of two-way protected bike lanes, shorter street crossings, specially timed traffic lights and a red transit-only lane to speed Muni buses.

The changes to Howard and Folsom streets, approved Tuesday by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors, are designed to slow traffic through the booming South of Market area, making the streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians while speeding public transit. They’ve been in the works for years but the need for them was underscored by the death of Tess Rothstein, a 30-year-old bicyclist who was struck and killed by a truck while riding on Howard near Sixth Street in March.

Still, it will take until 2023 before the changes are completed.

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Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending

Author Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/REX/Shuttersto

The United States has spent more subsidizing fossil fuels in recent years than it has on defense spending, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015. Pentagon spending that same year was $599 billion.

The study defines “subsidy” very broadly, as many economists do. It accounts for the “differences between actual consumer fuel prices and how much consumers would pay if prices fully reflected supply costs plus the taxes needed to reflect environmental costs” and other damage, including premature deaths from air pollution.

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Salesforce Transit Center Poised for July 1 Reopening

 

Author Brenda Kahn

Update, June 11, 2019: MTC Executive Director Therese W. McMillan this week sent a new letter to San Francisco Mayor London Breed and to Oakland Mayor and MTC Commissioner Libby Schaaf with an update on progress made by the MTC-assembled expert Peer Review Panel (PRP) in its work to investigate the cause of the fracturing of two girders at the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco and to review repairs to these girders. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), which owns and operates the Salesforce Transit Center, today announced that the facility will reopen to the public on July 1 at 6 a.m.

“I am pleased to report the Peer Review Panel’s concurrence with the recent recommendation by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority that the steel structure is sound for continued service,”wrote McMillan.

“MTC supports the reopening of the Transbay Transit Center based on TJPA’s project team’s structural findings and the Peer Review Panel’s concurrence. We agree the steel structure is ready for service. The reopening date is subject to other work by TJPA that is beyond our purview, including review of testing and inspection reports, commissioning of building management systems, revalidation of fire/life safety systems, and ramp-up of operations,” McMillan continued.”We can represent to you and the public alike that the Transbay Transit Center’s girder problem was isolated and that the appropriate repairs have been performed.”

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San Rafael opens Grand Avenue bicycle-pedestrian bridge

After a decade of planning, a key bicycle-and-pedestrian bridge linking the Canal area to downtown San Rafael is open.

Residents joined city officials Thursday to celebrate the finished $3.47 million Grand Avenue bridge project in Central San Rafael adjacent to the Montecito Plaza Shopping Center.

“What an accomplishment by everybody that’s been involved,” Mayor Gary Phillips said at the event, adding that “the Grand Avenue bridge project fills a significant bike-ped gap.”

Phillips said street connections between the Canal neighborhood and the rest of the city are limited because of the San Rafael Canal creating a physical divide. The bridge provides bicyclists and pedestrians from the Canal neighborhood with access to downtown, the transit center, the Montecito shopping center and San Rafael High School.

The project included the installation of a 12-foot wide multi-use bridge immediately east of the Grand Avenue vehicular bridge that spans the Canal. It included a widened sidewalk at the intersection of Second Street and Grand Avenue. New sidewalk ramps, lighting, fencing and the replacement of the barrier rails on the vehicular bridge were also part of the project.

Transportation planners said the connection is part of the San Francisco Bay Trail Project, an effort by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to create a seamless 500-mile trail around the bay. The Bay Trail contributed a $100,000 grant to get the project done.

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Sonoma plans new traffic, bike lanes on Broadway

If Sonoma Public Works Director Colleen Ferguson has her way, the route of Broadway from MacArthur to the Plaza will have room for more parking, bike paths in each direction, and encourage foot traffic to support local businesses – without costing the city an extra dime.

“The city’s planning documents definitely show bike lanes on both sides of Broadway,” said Ferguson. “And it’s clear that the volumes of traffic on Broadway now can be accommodated by one travel lane until you get to the Plaza – you don’t need two lanes like we have now.”

What would it take to bring Ferguson’s vision to fruition? Apparently just some paint, thanks to the planned repaving of Broadway – aka Highway 12 – by Caltrans slated to begin next summer.

The majestic street, the so-called “gateway” to historic Sonoma, is far wider than it needs to be (and without the military rationale Napoleon needed to build the Champs de l’Elysee, a similarly over-wide boulevard in Paris).

That’s one reason there’s almost never a traffic jam on Broadway – though the T intersection at the Plaza where it runs into Napa Street can be congested.

“It’s 70 feet from curb to curb,” said Frank Penry of GHD, the city’s consultant for the Broadway Streetscape Enhancements & Traffic Circulation Project, part of the city’s annual budget currently under review.

Caltrans recommends 12 feet per lane of traffic, give or take, which means there’s room for at least five lanes on Broadway for most of its length inside city limits. Most of Broadway has four, plus a center turning lane.

That’s far roomier than the traffic calls for, says Penry. “There’s about 13,000 vehicles per day using this road, too little for four lanes,” he said. “That’s more appropriate for 25,000 to 30,000 cars.”

Given the need for bike lanes and parking in the downtown area, Broadway can offer a solution: reduce the number of lanes to one in each direction and there’ll be room not only for parking on both sides of the street, but bike lanes as well.

Closer to Napa Street, from McDonnell or Patten, the northbound traffic can be opened to two lanes, as it is now, to allow for left and right turns onto Napa, say traffic planners. But there’s no reason for two southbound lanes – and the extra space gained can not only create bike lanes, but a pedestrian “island” in the middle of the street to minimize the dangers of crossing Broadway on foot.

Often it’s foot traffic that creates vehicle-traffic slowdowns at the three-way intersection – it’s a long and harrowing walk across either Broadway or Napa Street, and vehicles have no choice but to wait their turn. “Every pedestrian has an impact,” said Penry succinctly.

Penry, along with Ferguson and Sonoma City Councilmember Logan Harvey, guided a handful of curious Sonomans on walking tours of upper Broadway last Tuesday, June 11. Outside Peet’s Coffee, a set of orange traffic cones were set up on Broadway to show how much room the parking, traffic lanes and other features would take, still allowing plenty of space for traffic.

The pavement on this section of Broadway is in disrepair, hence Caltrans’ scheduled repaving. The state transportation agency’s role is also to paint traffic stripes on the new surface – so all the city has to do is give them a new set of striping plans, and voila – as Napoleon would say – problem solved. “It will be a very positive change,” said Harvey.

Of course nothing is final until the paint dries; the public tours and information handed out at the Tuesday farmers market this week were designed to get public input on the proposal. Ferguson thought it served its purpose.

“Based on the community input received (at the farmers market), the consultant team will be developing a sketch of potential re-striping of Broadway between Napa Street and MacArthur Street,” she said, adding that there will be at least one other opportunity for public input, at a date yet to be determined.

The Broadway Streetscape Enhancements & Traffic Circulation Project is one item in the City of Sonoma budget being proposed at the June 17 council meeting. Other transportation-related projects include city-wide bicycle and pedestrian improvement, and downtown Sonoma parking strategy – both of which are at least partially solved by a Broadway restriping.

The complete proposed budget can be found on sonomacity.org, under the information about the special meeting of the city council, on June 5 at tinyurl.com/y5xbf8r7.

The City Council will consider the annual budget on June 17, at 6 p.m., at the City Council Chambers, 177 First St. W.

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