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Election 2012: Local elections include transportation issues
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

Voters in communities around the country will decide in a few days whether to boost transportation funding. Locales in Illinois, North Carolina and Washington are among the locations where votes will be tallied to determine whether sales tax increases and other funds will benefit roads, rail and transit.

Ballots in Orange County, NC, will include a question about whether to raise the sales tax by one-half cent for regional transit. Specifically, the $661 million project would benefit a combination of new bus and rail service.

The tax would be applied to goods – except housing, utilities, food, medicine and fuel.

Included in the plans is a light rail line to link Orange, Durham and Wake counties within the next 15 years.

In 2011, voters in Durham County approved a related ballot measure. However, voters in Wake County have yet to take up the issue.

The Orange County vote would help pay for the 17-mile rail line project in the county. As proposed, it would run from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to East Durham along state Highway 54.

Supporters say the transit initiative would help relieve congestion in the area and encourage economic growth near rail stations. Opponents have expressed concerns about costs and the limited focus in the county to the areas around Chapel Hill and Durham.

Across the country in Lynden, WA, voters will cast ballots on whether to raise the sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent to help pay for road improvements, pedestrian trails and bridges.

The 10-year tax is estimated to raise $300,000 annually. Most of the money would be used for road rebuilding and repaving.

Supporters say the money is needed to help compensate for a drastically reduced street maintenance budget.

Voters in Stephenson County, IL, will decide whether they support a county-wide transit system.

The referendum will ask voters whether the county should provide a transportation system funded by federal, state, and Stephenson County funds. It is an advisory question, meaning it is not binding.

A transit system is already being developed in the county, but officials are looking to gauge the interest of voters in the proposed system.

For more 2012 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the story topic. Comments may be sent to state_legislative_editor@ooida.com.

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