SFMTA thrown under the bus over disuse of bond funds

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed is wondering publicly why The City’s transportation agency is spending the 2014 voter-approved $500 million transportation general obligation bond so slowly.

Breed is requesting a hearing with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials to explain the delay in spending bond money, timelines of transit projects, and if transit officials had cut any projects because of the depreciation of the bond money. The hearing is co-sponsored with Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Breed said that voters trusted the transit agency when they approved the Proposition A bond measure in Nov. 2014 with nearly 72 percent of voters approving the bond measure:

“Almost two and half years later, I am concerned that the MTA is misusing our trust.”

She added:

“With each passing day we are paying interest on bonds that we have sold, but are not using. With each passing day the value of this money goes down while cost of construction goes up.”

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the transit agency has so far spent $12 million of $500 million, which is about only 2 percent of the bond money.

A SFMTA document shows that the transit agency has already spent the majority of the $12 million on Muni Forward projects such as on the 5-Fulton, 10-Townsend, 14-Mission, 30-Stockton and L-Taraval.

The transit agency received approximately $66 million during the first issuance of the bonds back in June 2015. Of the $66 million, nearly $40 million remains, according to the document.

Public outreach and scheduling of projects has caused some of the delay in spending the money, said Rose:

“…Due to the demand for extensive public outreach and the need to schedule the projects in a coordinated manner, where all of the infrastructure work can be done at once, the process is slower than we anticipated.”

Rose added:

“We are doing everything we can to accelerate the spend rate, while continuing to work with the neighborhoods and partner agencies to get work done as fast as possible.”

Breed did mention the outreach process and how a few people can sometimes block a project:

“We can’t continue to let a handful of people block transportation improvements that benefit thousands of people. It’s not fair. It’s not democratic.”

She said while the outreach process is important, officials have to make a decision and accept that not everyone will like the decision:

“We can’t let our transportation system die of a thousand cuts or in this case, 500 million of them.”