Virtually every day the media reports about important public policy issues that need action, but instead are stuck in political deadlock. One of the rewards of being a local elected official is working with public and private partners to get things done for our citizens and businesses.

Part of that work involves many special purpose agencies that work on everything from airports to water. As the board chair of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), I see first-hand the benefits of 31 city and county elected officials working collaboratively at a regional scale to improve the quality of life in our communities.  

SACOG is a 22-city, 6-county regional planning and funding agency focused on transportation issues. SACOG exists in large part because in exchange for transportation funding, the state and federal governments require cities, counties, and state transportation departments to jointly plan a system of roads, freeways, and transit. But we do more than just transportation planning. SACOG also plans for our region’s housing needs, operates a 511 traveler information program, and is doing nation leading research on rural economic development strategies.  

SACOG is known around the country for its Blueprint, a vision for maximizing public investments in transportation and other infrastructure by aligning them with smart growth land use planning. In 2002, the Sacramento region faced a future of worsening congestion-a projected increase of over 50 percent by the year 2025-and increasingly worse air pollution. The Blueprint was an attempt to solve these challenges by looking comprehensively at transportation, land use and air quality.  

While voluntary, the Blueprint represents a consensus among the cities and counties of the region based on the recognition they share common challenges and will succeed through common strategies. As a result, the Blueprint has resulted in more transportation and housing choices, more opportunities for housing closer to jobs, and less agricultural land converted to urban uses in the Sacramento region.  

The Blueprint and our long-range Metropolitan Transportation Plan have resolved many of the difficult issues through the long-range planning work.  We leverage that consensus around our long-range vision to help us fund and construct transportation projects faster and more efficiently. Over the last two years, we’ve done this with federal economic stimulus funds. By mid-2010, only 27 percent of road and highway projects were completed nationally. In our region, we had more than half of our projects completed, and as of this February, we have 78 percent of projects completed, with another 14 percent underway. These projects brought a total of $122 million to our region in the middle of a recession-saving or creating thousands of construction jobs at the same time that housing construction came to a halt.  

Last year, our region’s collaborative efforts paid off as we were awarded $65 million in competitive state transportation funding. The project to extend carpool/bus lanes on Highway 80 in Sacramento County is among a number of state transportation bond projects in our region that are moving swiftly into the construction phase. This project will create many badly needed jobs during its construction. When completed, it will increase quality of life for citizens through quicker commutes, reduce air pollution, and allow businesses to get goods to market more easily.

We are proud of our accomplishments, but are not done. While the economy continues to suffer, we need to continue to offer innovative plans for our communities, and deliver the transportation projects that help keep our communities and our economy moving.  

Susan Peters is a Sacramento County Supervisor and chair of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.