Several California ballots include transportation initiatives

| 9/4/2008

Transportation funding is a hot topic in states throughout the country. California is no exception as the November elections loom.

Ballots in several counties around the state will include initiatives on transportation funding options. Here is a sampling of some of those initiatives.

Voters in Marin and Sonoma counties will decide on a proposed 20-year, quarter-cent sales tax increase. The revenue would be used to build and operate a passenger train and rail stations between Cloverdale and Larkspur.

Listed as Measure C on the ballot, the tax increase requires the approval of two-thirds of voters in both counties.

The 70-mile rail route would run along the existing Northwestern Pacific Railroad line. A bike and pedestrian path would run parallel to it.

Advocates say the passenger train would reduce congestion on the U.S. 101 corridor by 1.5 million vehicles annually. Greenhouse gas emissions and personal carbon emissions also would be reduced, they say.

Critics question whether the train would attract enough daily passengers.

The price tag of the train and stations is estimated at $450 million. The adjacent bike and pedestrian path is $90 million, The Associated Press reported.

In Santa Barbara County, voters will determine whether to extend funding for road repair, congestion relief and transit for another 30 years. Measure A on their ballots would authorize the continuation of a half-cent sales tax applied since 1990.

The collection of the tax is set to expire in 2010. It is estimated that extending the tax until 2040 will generate more than $1 billion. The local revenue would be matched by more than $500 million in taxes and fees, which include federal and state fuel taxes.

A two-thirds margin is needed for passage.

Two countywide questions are on ballots for voters in Santa Clara County. Measure B on the ballot would authorize a one-eighth-cent sales tax to expand Bay Area Rapid Transit.

The tax must gain two-thirds approval for passage, and will be collected only if matching state and federal funds are obtained.

Measure C will ask voters whether the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority should continue planning, designing and constructing transit services for the South Bay.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor