Friday, October 12, 2012

Vallejo's Cal Maritime gets special visitor -- federal transportation chief

By Sarah Rohrs Times-Herald staff writer /
Posted: 10/12/2012 01:03:41 AM PDT

For U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, his department involves a lot more than trains, planes and highways.
LaHood reaffirmed that belief by spending Thursday morning at Vallejo's California Maritime Academy, a school on the forefront of training students for the maritime industry.
"Over the last four years we've taken a lot of interest in the maritime industry," LaHood said, adding he included the short visit to the California State University campus as part of a larger California trip.
LaHood was expected to tour BART stations and other facilities in San Francisco later Thursday.
He was also expected to announce this morning at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet north of Benicia that the Maritime Administration would award $392,913 to Cal Maritime stemming from proceeds of the sale of old obsolete ships in the Mothball Fleet.
Besides Thursday's tour, LaHood was on hand to commission new Cal Maritime President Thomas Cropper as a Rear Admiral in the United States Merchant Service, a requirement of his new position.
Following the short ceremony, LaHood toured the Golden Bear training ship and the school's simulation center, and spoke to students in a leadership conference. He also took a look at the Golden Bear's ballast water treatment facility and watched an demonstration of Cal Maritime's navigation and engine laboratories.
LaHood was accompanied by David Matsuda, chief of the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, and a small entourage of security officers and other officials.
LaHood is the first U.S. Secretary of Transportation to visit the campus, an action which gives the institution some clout, Cropper said.
"It's wonderful. We have a lot of confidence in our cadets and our programs. This reaffirms our confidence," Cropper said.
"The maritime industry has such broad implications for future employment in the state of California. They understand that," he added.
LaHood told cadets assembled in Rizza Auditorium that their future is bright and that his administration has invested in the maritime industry, including infrastructure improvements at several ports.
A new policy document, the Maritime Highway Plan, also outlines investments needed to invigorate the global maritime industry, he said.
Further, a new channel in the Panama Canal is generating considerable interest among ports the world over in expanding their capacities and depths, he said.
Investment in transportation is one area state senior transportation consultant Norman Fassler-Katz said is crucial. The consultant for State Sen. Alan Lowenthal was among the 100-plus crowd assembled on the Vallejo campus for LaHood's visit.
"The biggest issue for us is that there has to be clear federal freight policy in the next transportation bill and more funding sources, too," Fassler-Katz said.
LaHood said his department has made maritime industry investments a high priority, and he would try for more money in the next funding cycle.
Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.

Vallejo cheers new waterfront parking garage's completion

By Jessica A. York
Posted: 10/12/2012 01:03:39 AM PDT

Defiantly proud of this city, Mayor Osby Davis on Thursday commended the completion of Vallejo's waterfront parking structure as telling "the story of who we are and what we're going to be."

 "Vallejo has come back from a lot," Davis said to an audience of several dozen atop the new multi-million dollar garage's pedestrian paseo, which opens to the public Monday. "To those who said we were dying, this is another heartbeat that shows you it's even stronger. We're not dead, and we're moving ahead." 

Caltrans District 4 Chief Deputy Director Dan McElhinney argued that the structure is not just a garage.

"Of course, it's much more important than that," McElhinney said. "It's part of our economy, it's part of our success and we're reinvesting in California and reinvesting in America as we move out of economic hardship."

More than two years ago, Davis similarly stood with U.S. Rep. George Miller for a groundbreaking ceremony on the same site, then just an empty dirt lot and former home to Santa Clara Street's My Café restaurant.

Miller, as well as Rep. Mike Thompson, who is running in November's election to represent Vallejo following last year's congressional redistricting, joined Davis and officials from Solano County, the Vallejo City Council, state and county transportation agencies and many others in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the parking structure.

Describing the garage as both inviting and exciting, Miller admitted to feeling some trepidation over the years, while waiting on the project's completion. He said on drives to Napa, he would often make a special detour through Vallejo to check on its progress.

"I want to see what's going on over there," Miller said he would explain to his wife. "I was really concerned, because I'm a real optimist about Vallejo's waterfront ... and knowing what's gone on here, that this waterfront to me is one of the gems of the San Francisco Bay Area, I was really concerned what this was going to look like. (But) you did it right ...."

The event comes just prior to the three-level, 750-space garage's public opening, scheduled for 6 a.m. Monday.

City Public Works Director David Kleinschmidt said city maintenance staff will be on hand the first day to offer traffic control assistance, and that regular Baylink ferry commuters on the city's email list will receive notification of the coming garage opening.

The city expects to begin charging daily or monthly garage use fees -- estimated at $5 and $20, respectively -- as early as February. Parking in both the garage and in city waterfront parking lots, will remain free until then, officials said.

Parking security -- in the form of both 26 active surveillance cameras and hired patrol services in and around the garage -- will begin immediately, Kleinschmidt said.

The garage, part of a two-phase project that will eventually include a second garage atop what is now the Santa Clara Street U.S. Postal Service office, was funded primarily through federal, state and county transportation funds, including $7.7 million set aside with the help of Miller. The project has run about $36.7 million so far, officials said.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or Follow her on Twitter @JYVallejo.