October 16, 2008

MTC Honors East Bay Contributions to Bay Area Transportation

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will honor 11 people, projects or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to transportation in the Bay Area with the 28th "Excellence in Motion" awards. Five of the recipients are in the East Bay. An awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Oakland Museum Cafe, 1000 Oak Street, Oakland. A reception open to the public begins at 8:30 a.m., with the awards presentation by MTC Commissioners beginning at 9 a.m.

"This year's winners include the dedicated government staff and contractors who worked at amazing speed to repair and reopen the damaged MacArthur Maze, innovators who implemented the nation's first car-share AccessMobile to transport residents with disabilities, and a Bay Area company reducing greenhouse gases by converting over 1,100 trucks to run on biodiesel," said MTC Vice Chair and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. "These winners exemplify what all our transportation partners want -- safe and reliable roads, increased mobility and a healthy environment in the Bay Area."

East Bay winners reflect the ongoing effort to make the Bay Area's transportation network viable for a diverse and growing population of residents and businesses. They include:

Caltrans and the MacArthur Maze

When a gasoline tanker truck exploded in the MacArthur Maze on April 29, 2007, seriously damaging the southbound Interstate 880 and eastbound Interstate 580 connectors, Caltrans responded quickly. Over 300,000 vehicles use these connectors daily, and a long-term closure of the roadways would have resulted in serious consequences to the Bay Area economy.

The day after the accident, Caltrans conducted a site survey to assess the extent that soil under the freeway was contaminated with fuel that had leaked from the damaged tanker truck. More than 1,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil were quickly removed to a disposal facility. Caltrans awarded three separate emergency contracts to implement repairs, and launched an intense public information campaign to let the public know about transit alternatives and traffic detour routes, and to inform both the public and government officials about the status of repairs. As a measure of the campaign's success, the traffic gridlock expected after the closure of the two freeways did not materialize. With crews working around the clock, the I-880 connector was reopened in just eight days and the I-580 connector reopened 26 days after the accident. For their exemplary efforts to keep people and goods moving through the Bay Bridge Corridor while quickly and efficiently managing major repairs to the damaged freeways, Caltrans will receive the Excellence in Motion Grand Award.

City CarShare and City of Berkeley's AccessMobile

City CarShare and the city of Berkeley's AccessMobile will receive the Doris W. Kahn Accessible Transportation Award for providing the nation's first wheelchair-accessible carshare van for those with disabilities. The AccessMobile can accommodate two individuals using wheelchairs, plus three additional passengers and a driver. Funded by Berkeley and City CarShare, the AccessMobile cost more than $50,000 with City CarShare, a nonprofit carshare provider, matching $25,000 won by the city in 2007 through the National Organization on Disability's Accessible America contest. Access program participants can use the van around the clock, greatly increasing travel options for the disabled, and improving the quality of life for the disabled, their families and friends. The AccessMobile began operating on Earth Day, April 22, 2008.

"The AccessMobile is a shining example of innovative ways we can make car-sharing accessible to the entire community," said Berkeley Mayor and MTC Commissioner Tom Bates. "Through creativity, passion and commitment, City CarShare, our staff and our disability commission did an amazing job in developing a carshare vehicle that can accommodate disabled people with wheelchairs."

Jean Hart, Alameda County Congestion Management Agency (Retired)

Jean Hart, who retired in 2007 after serving for 14 years as the Deputy Director of Planning for the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency, will receive the Greta Ericson Distinguished Service Award for her long-term leadership in the transportation field. Ms. Hart was pivotal in building consensus for projects that crossed county lines and involved numerous stakeholders, including the planned conversion of high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes on Interstate 680 to high-occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes, which will alleviate congestion and generate funding for additional transportation projects. Ms. Hart also headed the San Pablo Corridor Study, which resulted in the AC Transit Rapid Bus service that now runs at five- to seven-minute intervals from San Pablo to Oakland, increasing the efficiency and reliability of bus travel in this busy corridor.

AC Transit's Richmond Facility Workers

The Miriam Gholikely Public Service Award goes to the workers at AC Transit's Richmond Facility for their community service and volunteerism at the Richmond Rescue Mission. The project began when Hector Perdomo, an AC Transit bus driver, overheard a conversation between a mother and her son while he was driving the 72M line. The mother, who was living at the Richmond Rescue Mission, didn't have the resources to buy her son the only gift he wanted for Christmas, a basketball. Moved by the encounter, Mr. Perdomo went to the rescue mission and learned the names of other families at the mission and convinced his co-workers to help brighten their holiday by picking names from a "giving tree" and purchasing gifts for the families. The AC Transit workers delivered over 100 gifts to the rescue mission on Christmas Eve 2007. Plans are now underway to make the holiday project an annual event. "Many times our minds are filled with angry faces, but now my mind is filled with their happy faces," said Perdomo.

Safeway, Inc.

Pleasanton-based Safeway, Inc., one of the largest food retailers in the U.S., is receiving an Award of Merit for its leadership in reducing greenhouse gases. As part of its "Greenhouse Gas and Sustainability Initiative," Safeway completed the conversion of its entire mainland fleet of 1,100 big rig trucks to run on biodiesel, effectively reducing greenhouse gases and the public's exposure to toxic diesel exhaust. In 2006 alone, Safeway eliminated more than 350,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by converting its fleet and employing more effective energy procurement, conservation and recycling practices. Safeway has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emission by six percent from a 2000 baseline by 2010.

"Safeway is proud to lead by example to help protect the environment," said Vice President of Transportation Tom Nartker. "Using biodiesel to power our transportation fleet will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions being released into the environment by 75 million pounds annually. That's the equivalent of taking nearly 7,500 passenger vehicles off the road each year."

MTC is the regional transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. For a complete listing of all the Excellence in Motion winners, visit the MTC Web site at http://www.mtc.ca.gov/.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission

CONTACT: Catalina Alvarado, +1-510-817-5783, or John Goodwin,+1-510-817-5862, both of The Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Web site: http://www.mtc.ca.gov/