California voters decide on several ballot questions to fund transportation

| 11/5/2008

While Californians cast ballots for president and several other elected officials on Tuesday, Nov. 4, voters in several counties throughout the state also decided on transportation-related questions. Included below is a sampling of the results for some of those initiatives.

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

Listed as Measure Q on the ballot in both counties, the tax increase required the approval of two-thirds of the combined voters in both counties. The vote in Marin County was 62.62 percent in favor while Sonoma voters gave it 73.5 percent approval – accounting for a 69 percent to 31 percent two-county margin.

In five years, the 70-mile route is expected to be up and running along the existing Northwestern Pacific Railroad line. A bike and pedestrian path is slated to run parallel to the route.

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

Critics questioned whether the train will 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. The tax is expected to raise nearly $900 million over 20 years.

In Santa Barbara County, voters easily exceeded the two-thirds margin needed to extend funding for road repair, congestion relief and transit for another 30 years. With nearly 79 percent of the vote, passage of Measure A authorizes the continuation of a half-cent sales tax applied since 1990.

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

Among the projects slated to benefit is widening of U.S. 101 between Montecito and Carpinteria. Commuter carpool and vanpool programs also will be expanded.

Two countywide questions on ballots in Santa Clara County had different outcomes. Measure B on the ballot would have authorized a one-eighth-cent sales tax to expand Bay Area Rapid Transit.

The tax fell just shy of the two-thirds margin needed for passage. Voting results were 66.27 percent in favor with 33.73 percent opposed. A 66.66 percent margin was needed for approval.

A different outcome was the result for Measure C. By a margin of 69.55 percent to 30.45 percent, it surpassed the two-thirds margin required to allow the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to continue planning, designing and constructing transit services for the South Bay.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor