Measure A: Investment in Local Transportation Infrastructure

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Sep 7, 2016 (San Diego) The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has a proposal on the November ballot to raise the sales tax by half a cent. It does not sound like much, but this could provide the funding needed to build up transportation infrastructure and bring to fruition the vision of the transportation plan called San Diego Forward

Opponents of this measure have filed sued in court according to KPBS. They write:

”Measure A supporters are playing fast and loose with the facts,” said Ricardo Ochoa, legal counsel to the Quality of Life Coalition. “The simple truth is Measure A is deceptive and does more harm than good to San Diego County communities.”

The lawsuit alleges that phrases in the argument in favor of Measure A that tout “reducing fares for seniors, students, the disabled and veterans” and improving “water quality by treating polluted runoff” are misleading because nothing in the proposition guarantees that the extra revenue would be used for those purposes.

So we decided to take a look at the measure, as part of our November 2016 initiatives. What is it? What does it do? And why is it opposed so vehemently by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, since it would benefit the city.

The measure proponents, including SANDAG, make a point that is quite clear, and we all agree. Our roads are a mess and in need of repair. In some cases, urgent repair. They state:

Two thirds of the roads in the San Diego region are in need of repair, and the average motorist in the region loses nearly $1,900 per year as a result of driving on congested and poorly maintained roads, according to a new report from TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, DC. Other key findings from TRIP1 include:
• Bad roads cost residents in the region 42 hours and 11 gallons of fuel each year.
• Our region’s economy depends on good roads as the majority of the freight (77 percent of $270 billion worth of goods that are shipped to or from sites in San Diego County annually) is moved by trucks.
• Each dollar spent on road, highway, and bridge improvements yields an average benefit of $5.20.

Other benefits that they allege will come from this are lower transit fees for seniors and disabled people. Quite frankly, unless we have a massive increase in the use of transit, how would this work is a mystery to us. It is economics and supply and demand. So that is a benefit that will have to see if it happens, assuming this is passed by voters.

There are problems with the San Diego Forward proposal that go beyond the issues raised by opponents. It is heavily reliant on expanding roads, and not transit. IF they build it, they will come, is not just a line from a movie. When you build more roads, people tend to drive more, and increase their miles travelled. That alone will increase congestion.

That said, our roads need fixing, there is not a question about that. Infrastructure spending will only get more expensive the longer we delay on repairing present infrastructure.

So what is planned for the money raised? Here is a list

* $4.3 billion for local infrastructure projects
* $2.6 for highways, managed lanes and connectors
* $7.5 billion for a new trolley line from San Ysidro to Kearny Mesa, and expansion of the Rapid system. It will also include funds to double track some sections in the north county for the Coaster and SPRINTER, as well as expanded hours of operations for the existing trolley lines.
* $2 billion for habitat preservation.
* %40 million for things like bike paths, and other paths to separate pedestrians from trolleys and other transportation systems.
* $178 million to synchronize local traffic signals
* $900 million to separate rail from traffic to avoid traffic from stopping for trolleys.

This plan also is intended, in theory, to meet climate change action plan goals, and to help with climate change.

For the moment, watch the courts, as descriptions in the final ballot proposal might change. Also opponents will likely go to the bat against this, and we expect SANDAG to promote this.

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