State transportation ballot initiatives: how’d they vote?

| 11/10/2008

With Election Day in the side-view mirror, voters in states on both coasts have made their decision on transportation ballot issues that will be significant to truckers and others who rely on highways and other roads.

Washington state voters nixed an effort to open high-occupancy vehicle lanes to all traffic during “off-peak” hours; require synchronization of traffic lights on heavily traveled routes; and increase funding for roadside assistance. It also sought to end a requirement for state transportation agencies to route one-half of 1 percent of a project’s cost on art, and instead using that money for the traffic-congestion relief fund.

Initiative 985 would have been funded using motor vehicle sales tax revenues and red-light camera fines. Any revenues remaining would have been used for roads – not transit. The question lost by about a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.

Critics said that opening car pool lanes would worsen congestion. Others shared concern about whether the initiative could jeopardize federal funding.

Meanwhile, Seattle-area voters voted in favor of a regional transit system. Proposition 1 is a nearly $18 billion measure to expand light rail, commuter train and bus service to Lynnwood, north Federal Way and the Overlake Transit Center east of Seattle through a half-cent increase in sales taxes.

In Alaska, the state’s ballot included a question about whether to borrow $315 million for road work around the state. Voters rejected the bond proposition by a margin of 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent.

Among the questions on ballots in Rhode Island was whether to allow the state to borrow $87 million to improve its transportation infrastructure. Question 1 was approved by more than a three-fourths margin. Projects in line to receive funding include repairs and building bridges and highways, replacing public buses and extending a commuter rail line.

Its passage also makes the state eligible for $436 million in matching federal funds for transportation. Rhode Island faces a nearly $3 billion repair bill during the next six years, The Associated Press reported.

In total, voters across the country on Election Day approved efforts to generate more than $71 billion in new revenue for transportation work.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor