RTC Supports Protecting and Maintaining Transportation Revenues

Without Senate Bill 1 funds, new projects, road maintenance and jobs in Santa Cruz County will be in jeopardy.

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (Commission) voted on March 1, 2018 to oppose efforts to repeal California Senate Bill 1 (SB 1): the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, which will provide approximately $20 million annually for road maintenance, public transit, and priority regional transportation projects in Santa Cruz County. SB 1 also provides opportunities for Santa Cruz County to compete for additional funds to reduce highway congestion, build infrastructure to support commerce, and expand transit. The new Senate Bill 1 transportation funds are generated through increased taxes on motor fuels and vehicle fees, which took effect November 1, 2017 and January 1, 2018.

SB 1 funds have already been committed to local projects. Under the law, each city and the County of Santa Cruz receives an annual sum of SB 1 funds to repair and maintain existing local roads; the projects receiving these funds are reviewed and approved in public meetings by city councils and the Board of Supervisors, and are disclosed on the California Transportation Commission website. The cities of Capitola, Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz and Watsonville, and the County of Santa Cruz are using $7 million in new Senate Bill 1 gas tax funds to repair storm damage, fill potholes, make safety improvements to local streets and roads, and implement bicycle and pedestrian projects. Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO) is using SB1 funds to replace buses that are needed to maintain service. The RTC has designated the region’s shares of State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds to a combination of local road repair, highway, bicycle, pedestrian, and bus projects to be constructed over the next few years.

At its March 1 meeting, the Regional Transportation Commission also voted to support Proposition 69 (also known as Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5), which would provide constitutional protection for all new transportation revenues generated by SB 1. If Prop. 69 is approved by a majority of California voters in the June 5, 2018 Primary Election, the State Legislature and Governor would be prohibited from borrowing or diverting SB 1 transportation revenues. The Commission has previously supported similar measures intended to ensure transportation revenues are only used for transportation purposes.

Other local projects that have already received funding, as well as projects that are nominated for funding through the California Transportation Commission include:
• Low/zero emission replacement buses to maintain METRO bus service
• Pedestrian safety improvements near Watsonville High School
• Safety lighting along the San Lorenzo River bicycle/pedestrian path in Santa Cruz
• Projects that improve traffic flow on Highway 1 and Highway 17
• Safety, bridge replacement, and traffic management projects on state highways
• Active transportation projects – applications for bicycle and pedestrian projects, including improvements along Highway 9 in San Lorenzo Valley and a new Bicycle/Pedestrian bridge over Highway 1 at Harkins Slough Road connecting Green Valley Road and Pajaro Valley High School, will be competing for SB1 funds later this year.

Maps and lists of projects that have been approved for SB1 funds statewide are online at: www.rebuildingca.ca.gov.

Our local roads are in need of repair and are heavily congested, adding time and cost burdens on residents and businesses. According to the RTC’s Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), Santa Cruz County faces a gap between transportation needs and available funding of over $3 billion through 2040. If SB 1 is repealed, the funding gap will widen another $500 million in this same period. Measure D, Santa Cruz County’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, is being used to leverage additional SB 1 funding.

Some congressional candidates have pushed to repeal SB 1 funding for transportation projects and make it harder to fund transportation projects in the future. The initiative to repeal SB1 could be on the November 2018 statewide ballot if sufficient signatures are collected. The RTC board voted to oppose this and other efforts to repeal SB1. Commissioners emphasized the need for funds to make transportation improvements requested by local residents and reiterated their commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability.

For information about SB 1, go to www.rebuildingca.ca.gov.