June 2016

Transportation Measure Headed for November Ballot

Today at a very well attended public hearing, the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) finalized the transportation funding plan and approved placing a Safety, Pothole Repair, Traffic Relief, Transit Improvement Measure on the November 2016 ballot.

The 2016 Transportation Improvement Plan to be funded by the measure will benefit residents through a balanced mix of projects across transportation modes and geographic areas of Santa Cruz County. The plan will improve safety for children walking and bicycling near schools, repair potholes, repave streets, improve traffic flow on Highway 1, maintain transportation for seniors and people with disabilities, reduce global warming and air pollution, provide transportation options like sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, preserve rail transit options, and other projects to meet the mobility needs of current and future generations. If approved by the voters in November, the half-cent sales tax measure would also reduce reliance on Sacramento and Washington for transportation funding, create local jobs and stimulate local economic vitality.

The RTC’s action follows extensive public input and review of a poll of likely voters showing that over 2/3 of likely voters support the transportation improvement measure.

Based on public input, the final package of projects reflects modifications by the RTC board to increase funding to maintain transportation service for seniors and people with disabilities provided by Santa Cruz METRO and Community Bridges Lift Line, and reduce funding for future projects in the rail corridor.

Today’s action by the RTC board includes approval of the full ballot measure text, which will be included in the voter guide. The ballot measure asks voters to approve a one-half cent sales tax for thirty (30) years, with citizen oversight, independent audits, and strict financial accounting requirements. With the state’s ¼ cent sales tax expiring at the end of the year, the measure would effectively only increase sales taxes by ¼ cent. Later this month the County Board of Supervisors will take action to place the measure on the ballot.

The RTC board discussed the desperate need for local funds due to the ever dwindling levels of state and federal funding to operate, maintain and improve the local transportation system.  In addition to delivering local projects directly, funding from the ballot measure would provide matching funding to leverage additional grant dollars for the region’s transportation system.

“Whether you live along the coast, in the mountains, in valleys or somewhere in between, the Safety, Pothole Repair, Traffic Relief, Transit Improvement Measure provides benefits to everyone in Santa Cruz County regardless of the transportation they use, their age or abilities.  The measure is equitable, addresses mobility for the masses and invests in projects that reduce pollution.” said George Dondero, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission.

Members of the community testified for and against several projects and in the end Commissioners recognized the need for compromise, adopting a plan that addresses the diverse transportation needs of our diverse community.

Summary of Key Benefits:

  • Safety for kids near schools: New funding for Safe Routes to Schools projects.
  • Local street repair: Improved neighborhoods and increased safety for cyclists and pedestrians by repairing potholes and repaving local streets and roads countywide.
  • Maintain transportation services for seniors, veterans and residents with disabilities.
  • New bridges for cyclists and pedestrians: Cyclist- and pedestrian-only bridges to be built over Highway 1 at Chanticleer St. and Mar Vista Dr.
  • Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail: Continued expansion of the Coastal Rail Trail spine of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail for cyclists and pedestrians along the rail corridor in Watsonville, Santa Cruz and Capitola, and connecting to Monterey County.
  • Investigation of future transit options in the rail corridor: Conduct a transparent public process to analyze options to meet future mobility needs; the plan does not include funding for any new commuter or visitor rail service.
  • Improvements to Highways 1, 9 and 17:
    • Highway 1: Traffic relief for South County and Mid-County commuters, small businesses, transit buses and first responders through the addition of auxiliary lanes.
    • Highway 17: Protection for motorists and wildlife by building a wildlife undercrossing at Laurel Curve and funding the Safe-on-17 Freeway Service Patrol.
    • Highway 9: Safety improvements in the San Lorenzo Valley.

Summary of telephone survey of likely voters:

  • Voters clearly feel Santa Cruz County needs additional funding to meet its transportation needs.
    • 86% recognize that more money is needed to properly maintain and repair streets and roads
    • 75% recognize that more money is needed to increase the use of alternative transportation including transit, walking and biking
  • More than two-thirds (68%) are willing to support a countywide ½ cent sales tax measure funding a mix of projects across transportation modes
  • More than 2/3 of voters think it’s extremely or very important to spend measure funds to:
    • Improve safety for children walking and bicycling near schools (76%)
    • Improve traffic flow on Highway 1 (75%)
    • Maintain senior and disabled transit services (72%)
    • Repair potholes (73%) and maintain streets and roads (69%)

More information about projects in the expenditure plan, and ordinance for the ballot measure is available on the RTC website: www.sccrtc.org/move  or www.facebook.com/sccrtc.

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