Getting Rid of Gridlock
Voters ante up to address traffic and transit concerns.
The November ballot box gave road and transit programs a big boost. Of the 30 or so state and local initiatives related to transportation funding, 23 won approval for a total of nearly $40 billion in new revenue. That brings the grand total to $100 billion in voter-approved transportation funds since 2000.
California accounts for a big chunk of this year's total. Voters there approved five separate bonding proposals that will allow the state to borrow $20 billion to finance improvements to the state's roads, bridges, ports and levees. Another big measure was Rhode Island's $88.5 million bond that will be used as matching funds for federal transportation investment.
On the local level, voters approved eight initiatives to extend or renew an existing sales tax for transportation. They also supported eight out of 12 tax measures to fund transportation projects. In Salt Lake County and Utah County, for instance, voters said yes to a quarter-cent sales tax through 2030. Salt Lake County alone is expected to raise $50 million per year, the bulk of which will go to the new TRAX light-rail lines with the rest used to buy land for a new highway and fiinance small road projects.
Many of the initiatives on the November ballots were aimed at protecting revenue already dedicated to--but not always used for-- transportation. Minnesotans will dedicate all of the revenue from the sales tax on vehicles toward transportation efforts. Currently, only about half of that money is spent on such projects. New Jersey voters also approved a constitutional amendment that raises the amount of the existing gasoline tax dedicated to transportation from 9 cents to 10.5 cents per gallon.