Castro Valley is one of a few unincorporated areas of Alameda County. As such, all changes or upgrades we want and need for our sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, roads, etc., are planned and carried out by the Alameda County Public Works Agency (PWA). Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley advises PWA. I spoke to Art Carrera, Engineering and Transportation Program Manager at PWA, on December 26 and am pleased to share what I learned about project cycles and funding sources.
- There are four discrete steps to executing a public works project:
- Design Funding: Any project begins with securing funding for the design phase.
- Design: Once PWA secures funding, they seek public input for the design, typically through holding a special meeting just for this purpose (like the one for Santa Maria recently). Notification is given to affected residents, schools and businesses. For the Santa Maria project, CVHS was notified about the meeting, as well as residents along the road. Going forward, BikeWalkCV (BWCV) will be notified of all meetings. If Supervisor Miley believes the project is in need of a greater amount of public input, the design discussion is added to a Castro Valley MAC meeting agenda. The purpose of the MAC is to serve in an advisory capacity to Supervisor Miley.
- Project Funding: Once the project is designed, PWA goes after project funding.
- Project Construction: Once PWA has funding to do the construction, it goes out for bid to construction companies and the project is completed.
Funding for public works projects comes from a variety of sources, each with their own selection criteria, red tape, and strings attached:
- Federal Money: There is a good amount of federal grant money that PWA can go after, but there are often lots of strings attached. The strings vary from red tape around changing designs to time limits on completing the actual work. For example, if they get federal money for a project but run into an environmental issue or need to change the design because of issues that come up during execution, there is a risk of losing the funds before the project is completed. They also can’t just add in little pieces to the project without going through a major change request.
- Accidents: Many funding sources allocate funds to projects where there is a high accident rate. They used to allocate funding both based on accidents as well as to prevent accidents, but the prevention funding (this was called a “Work Program”) no longer exists. Therefore, if there are a lot of reported accidents in an area, it’s easier to compete for funding. Castro Valley has quite low accident rates in most areas, so we are at a competitive disadvantage in that way.
- Grants: Outside of federal grants are many other grant sources, including Safe Routes to Schools. I reiterated BikeWalkCV’s interest in helping with the grant proposals and confirmed we would work with Paul Keener to execute on this.
- Measure BB: I will follow up with Art to ask specifically about how Castro Valley can benefit from Measure BB funds.