Posted: 03/29/2012 04:35:20 PM PDT
FAIRFIELD - Worth an estimated $6.3 billion, Highway 12 is an economic giant whose power can and should be better harnessed, Solano County leaders said Thursday.
Usually known for its fatalities and gridlock, Highway 12 can be something more for the local economy, numerous speakers said during a Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast in Fairfield.
Instead, Highway 12, and its caravans of motorists, truckers and other drivers, represent untapped potential, speakers said.
Nearly 150 political and transportation leaders attended the breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn to learn more.
The event focused on an economic study being done as part of a comprehensive examination of highway improvements needed between Interstate 80 in Fairfield and I-5 near Lodi.
Though a vital link between the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area, Highway 12 gets little notice from state and federal leaders, Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering and others said.
"Highway 12 is an orphan corridor, "Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said. He stressed that local leaders need to work together to make the road a high priority among those who control transportation dollars.
"You're going to have to decide if you want to adopt this corridor," Halls said.
A wider stretch between Fairfield and Lodi, safer intersections, and replacement of the Rio Vista Bridge are among items already identified as big needs, although no funding has been found yet.
The most visible improvements underway include the widening a 5.8-mile segment from two to four lanes between Red Top Road north of Vallejo to Highway 29 in Napa County.
The current study does not include Vallejo. However, the largest city in the county's southern part benefits from Highway 12 and will be part of the broader perspective of the road's impact, Halls said.
Meanwhile, Spering said that as more highway improvements are tackled, transportation and political leaders only have one chance to maximize investments of public money. "Doing it right the first time is very important," Spering said.
Meanwhile, Economic consultant Robert Fountain of Benicia said the Highway 12 corridor represents a lot of dollar signs. His study will be done to help inform transportation planners on needed improvements.
Major industries along the corridor include manufacturing, worth nearly $2.1 billion; and government services, worth $1.3 billion.
Nearly one-fourth of the people on Highway 12 stem from households, while manufacturing industries account for 21.4 percent of the traffic, Fountain said.
Due out in about a month, Fountain's study will look at cities' economies along Highway 12 and how they could be improved.
Those interested in participating in the economic planning efforts can go to http://www.solanoedc.org and click on "Highway 12" to take a survey.
Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter@SarahVTH