On Tuesday, Menlo Park City Council’s agenda includes an item to consider hiring a federal lobbyist to pursue funding for transportation projects.
Council is getting many letters in opposition, and a few in support, regarding the specific lobbyist being considered, who led the Citizens’ United campaign to allow unlimited interest group spending on political campaigns.
Regardless of lobbyist and firm, however, it is unusual that Menlo Park is considering hiring a federal lobbyist to get funding for transportation projects that cut across multiple jurisdictions, where there is not yet agreement on the projects that are needed.
SamTrans has recently conducteda major study considering options for the Dumbarton Corridor. However, Menlo Park isn’t the lead agency for any of the transit or highway projects proposed for the Dumbarton corridor. All of the projects cross multiple jurisdictions.
If Menlo Park wanted to freeway-ize Highway 84 – as contemplated by the SamTrans study, Caltrans approval would be needed for the project, and the project would also include a highway grade separation in East Palo Alto. A Dumbarton Rail project would need support from transit agencies. And it would include stations in Redwood City, and East Bay stations in locations that might include Newark and Union City. The other jurisdictions would need to agree on the project.
By contrast, West Santa Clara Valley cities got together, agreed on the need for Highway 85 transit solutions, and lobbied successfully together to get funding allocation in VTA Measure B, even though the project was not yet mature. Individual cities, e.g. Mountain View or Cupertino, did not attempt to “go it alone.”
Before one city starts to lobby the federal government, it seems reasonable to create a high-level shared picture of the desired projects, with agencies and jurisdictions that share the corridor.
What do you think? Add comments below and send your thoughts to Menlo Park City Council, firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s. It does seem to be possible to get federal funding these days without vetting, but such deals seem risky, see: