Should the transportation sales tax in Alameda County be raised 1 cent permanently to pay for infrastructure improvements?
This is the question residents will have to answer when deciding how to vote on Measure B1 this November. This measure intends to raise an estimated $7.8 billion over 30 years to fund improvements to roads, freeways and public transportation throughout Alameda County.
An extension of Measure B, which was approved by voters in 1986 and extended in 2000, Measure B1 will double the existing sales tax from half of a cent to 1 cent, if approved by two-thirds of voters.
“Passing the new transportation measure will be critical to the future economic health and overall quality of life for Alameda County by creating more local jobs, reducing congestion, and providing greater access to a variety of transportation options,” said President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Nate Miley, in a press release.
The measure is based on the Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP), which outlines where and how the money will be spent.
A project of the 22-member Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC), the TEP allocates $7.8 billion to be distributed to projects, according to six categories of improvement.
Public transportation will receive $3.7 billion, which will provide consistent funding for AC Transit and paratransit “for seniors with disabilities,” a BART extension to Livermore and a student transit pass program.
Local cities will receive $2.3 billion in “pass-through funds” for upkeep and improvements on streets and roads. San Leandro could receive funding to improve the intersection of East 14th Street, Hesperian Boulevard and 150th Street.
Highway maintenance and improvement will receive $677 million for projects such as “access improvements” to Route 263 in Hayward and lengthened carpool lanes on Interstate 680 and Interstate 880.
Bike and pedestrian routes will receive $651 million for improvements. Money will also go toward closing gaps in the Iron Horse Trail, Bay Trail and East Bay Greenway.
$300 million will go toward improving safety and developing areas around BART stations, with the goal of linking various modes of public transportation with housing and jobs.
Competitive grants up to $77 million for “technology, innovation, and development” for public agencies who use “new and emerging technologies to better the transportation system.”
The bill specifies none of the funds collected by the tax can be taken by the state government. Administrative and staff compensation cannot exceed 5 percent of the funds generated.
The measure also gives the ACTC the authority to issue bonds for infrastructure projects in addition to the sales tax, not to exceed $1 billion.
Opponents of the measure argue it amounts to a tax increase “on all income levels” and would leave many residents paying “more than 10 percent in sales tax on everything they buy,” according to the official argument against Measure B1.
“This will make Alameda County less competitive in some cases than neighboring counties,” said former District 15 congressional candidate Christopher Pareja. “This will put an unnecessary additional pressure on retailers in Alameda County and if they have a choice to open somewhere else that may prompt them to do so.”
Pareja, who helped write the argument against Measure B1, told The Pioneer he questions the projected population growth in which the measure’s spending was based on.
“Since 1990, 3.4 million people have left California,” said Pareja, “yet this plan is calling for a projected population growth of 24 percent in Alameda County by 2035, which seems kind of farcical.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 4th, 2012 at 2:19 pm.