Crows Landing air base plan wins support

Stanislaus County's application for state bond money for a short haul rail system between the Port of Oakland and Crows Landing got the endorsement of the Stanislaus Council of Governments on Wednesday night, despite a large contingent of West Side residents opposing it.

The StanCOG policy board voted 10-4 to endorse the project, encourage staff to participate in preparing the application, and submit the application for the state trade corridor bond funding.

Oakdale Mayor Ferrell Jackson joined West Side representatives in opposing the measure. Patterson Mayor Becky Campo, Newman Mayor John Fantazia and county Supervisor Jim DeMartini, who represents the West Side, also voted against the bond-funding application.

The funding, $26 million from the $2.1 billion infrastructure bond money controlled by the California Transportation Commission and $60 million from the $1 billion in bond money controlled by the California Air Resources Board, would be used to create the rail connection between the valley and Bay Area.

The rail system is the linchpin of a 4,800-acre business and industrial park proposal by PCCP West Park LLC. West Park developer Gerry Kamilos of Sacra-mento is negotiating with the county on a master developer agreement for the project.

Many West Side residents oppose the project, however, because they fear the traffic and safety problems the trains and car traffic to and from the park would cause, and because of the lost farmland and small-town atmosphere.

West Side residents attacked the project from a variety of angles, from air quality issues to water resources, loss of farmland, the use of county land as part of the matching funds for the project, and whether the county's bid process for the project was proper.

"We feel this project is inconsistent with the size and scale of west side communities," said Patterson City Manager Cleve Morris. "We feel this will have a significant effect on the quality of life on the west side of the county."

Objectors pointed to an estimate that the project would generate 141,000 car trips to and from the business park per day and questioned how that could improve air quality.

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Executive Director Seyed Sadredin, how-ever, urged the StanCOG board to support the project. Trucks are a major source of pollution in the valley, and the short haul rail system would take many trucks off the road. "We need to do things like this," he said.

DeMartini attacked the way the project has been described, saying that the source of money for the matching funds for the bond money has changed, and support from surrounding jurisdictions hasn't materialized.

"I don't know how StanCOG can put their name on this," DeMartini said.

Campo asked that the policy board at least table the issue until some of the questions could be answered, and Jackson agreed.

Modesto City Councilman Brad Hawn commented that many of the objections raised were issues for a California Environmental Quality Act review.

"We passed millions, billions of dollars worth of bonds, and they will all go to LA because we can't get our act together," Hawn said. "This is about funding. If we don't have funding, we don't have anything."

County Supervisor Jeff Grover noted that the county's population is expected to double in the next 33 years, to more than one million. The county needs to create 100,000 to 150,000 new jobs for those new residents, he said.

"It's our obligation to pull together and make plans for that," Grover said.

The bond money is expected to be doled out by the state transportation commission by June, according to commissioner Kirk Lindsey of Modesto, who at- tended the meeting.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.

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