Monday, October 6, 2008

Five Transportation Measures to Watch

With 23 transportation measures and counting on the November ballot, some elections are shaping up to be particularly compelling. From the ambitious to the politically embattled to a last ditch effort to keep a transit system operating, the following five elections are ones to watch:

Seattle, Washington- Proposition 1
– In November 2007, Seattle voters were presented with a 20-year, $47.2 billion Roads and Transit plan, which they rejected for its cost and construction time. This November, voters will again be presented with a transportation financing measure, but one that has been pared down to address voter’s concerns. If approved, Sound Transit’s expansion plan is expected to cost $17.8 billion and take only 15 years to implement 34 miles of light rail and expand bus service.
California, statewide- Proposition 1A
– Voters across the state of California will be deciding on a $10 billion bond proposal to begin construction of an 800-mile, high-speed rail line that would move commuters from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about four hours. If the measure is approved, construction could start as soon as 2011.
St. Louis, Missouri-Proposition M
– Originally scheduled for the ballot earlier this year, the half-cent sales tax increase had been postponed throughout the year due to Metro’s various legal setbacks and the political environment in St. Louis. Finally scheduled to go before voters this November, the sales tax is expected to generate a much needed $80 million a year to keep the transit agency operating and to support planned expansions. Without approval, St. Louis residents could expect to see deep service cuts and an indefinite hold on expansion plans.
Kansas City, MO-Question 1
– Several years in the making, this November’s 3/8-cent sales tax increase represents a promise made to voters by the city council after they overturned the results of the last light rail ballot measure. Two years ago, voters approved a plan to bring light rail to their city, but the city council overturned the plan, which they deemed underfunded and unfeasible, not long after the election. If approved by voters, the new plan, a 25 year, 14-mile light rail starter route could be the beginning of a new era for transit in Kansas City, although so could the plan approved two years ago, which is still waiting its day in court.
Mahoning County, Ohio-Ballot Question
– The 1/4 –cent sales tax measure was rejected by voters in March when it last appeared on the countywide ballot. Western Reserve Transit Authority (WRTA) requested that it be on the ballot again this November to give the agency more time to impress upon voter’s the dire need for additional funding. WRTA has said that without the additional $7 million the tax is expected to generate the transportation system will be forced to shutdown. Although, not as big of a financing measure as some of the others that will be on the ballot in November, countywide bus service will be completed eliminated if this does not pass.

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