Friday, March 30, 2012

Leaders say Highway 12 can be more than ‘orphan corridor’


Solano County Supervisor and MTC Commissioner Jim Spering speaks at the Economic Development Corporation breakfast Thursday morning. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
Solano County Supervisor and MTC Commissioner Jim Spering speaks at the Economic Development Corporation breakfast Thursday morning. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Highway 12 is the region’s $6.3 billion corridor.

That’s how much economic activity is generated annually in ZIP codes along the corridor by households, businesses and governments, economist Robert Fountain said. A big contributor is manufacturing, especially food processing, he said.

He and others talked about Highway 12 at Thursday’s Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. Fountain’s work is part of an upcoming Solano EDC economic study on Highway 12. That study, in turn, is part of an effort by local, regional and state agencies to design a Highway 12 for the future.

Fountain’s $6.3 billion estimate looked at the Highway 12 segment from Highway 29 in Napa County through Solano County to just west of Lodi in San Joaquin County. The Solano County focus is particularly on the segment from Interstate 80 in Fairfield to the Sacramento River at Rio Vista.

Much of that Solano County stretch of Highway 12 is a two-lane rural road. Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said that it fails to get the same attention as I-80.

“I would label it as the orphan corridor,” Halls said. “It is the corridor no one wants to claim, except maybe Rio Vista.”

Highway 12 between Fairfield and Rio Vista has seen several safety improvements in recent years, such as adding a median barrier in some sections and plastic median poles in others, and widening shoulders. That safety improvement effort has just about ended.

Now local transportation leaders are talking about further possible improvements along this major link between the Bay Area and Central Valley, such as someday making Highway 12 a four-lane road and replacing the Rio Vista Bridge. Whatever improvements are decided upon would have to compete for federal and state money.

Solano County isn’t a big county like as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Halls said. Making further Highway 12 improvements will require a united community effort, he said.

“You’re going to have to decide to adopt this corridor,” Halls told the crowd of business and government leaders in the room.

The latest planning effort is looking at Highway 12 as more than a mover of vehicles and trucks. It is also looking at Highway 12′s role as an economic engine and its potential role.

Highway improvements usually start with engineers’ plans, then environmental studies and then public hearings, Fountain said. That’s backward, he said.

This effort is looking at the economics first, Fountain said. The Solano EDC study will look not only at Highway 12′s economic impact, but its potential economic impact if certain improvements are made, he said.

People can participate in the Highway 12 economic planning by going to to take a survey.

County Supervisor Jim Spering talked about how Highway 12 improvements can bring increased economic benefits to local communities. Rio Vista in particular will have a once-in-a-city-lifetime opportunity, he said.

“We’re only going to have one chance to maximize the investment in this corridor, so doing it right is important,” Spering said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or