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Election Update 2014: Voters Weigh in on Transportation Issues

Streetsblog.net; Land Line Magazine, cfte.org – November 6, 2014

Earlier this month, voters in states around the country had their say on various transportation-related initiatives. Here are some annual averages from the past few years, followed by a portion of the measures on the ballots this year.

2014 Results YTD

18 States
59 Measures
Win: 42
Loss: 17
Success Rate: 71%

2013 Results

8 States
15 Measures
Win: 11
Loss: 4
Success Rate: 73%

2012 Results

17 States
62 Measures
Win: 49
Loss: 13
Success Rate: 79%

Statewide voters in Louisiana rejected an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow for the investment of public funds into a yet-to-be-created transportation infrastructure bank. In addition, it would have set up a revolving loan program for municipalities to borrow for road improvements.

Maryland voters said yes to amend the state constitution to create a “lockbox” to secure revenue from fuel taxes, vehicles sales tax and registration fees, and transit fees for transportation purposes.

In a loss for transportation funding, Massachusetts voters approved a reversal of a state law that ties the state’s fuel tax rate to inflation, which allows for regular increases.

Oregon voters approved statewide Measure 88, to overturn a 2013 state law to make four-year personal driver licenses available to residents unable to prove they are in the country legally.

Rhode Island voters approved the statewide Question 6 regarding whether to authorize borrowing $35 million to move forward with a variety of upgrades that include repairs to the Providence train station, expanding bus service on popular routes and better links between the city’s airport and train station.

Texas voters approved a statewide Proposition 1 that authorizes rerouting half of the state’s oil and gas severance tax revenue from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to the state highway fund. It is estimated to amount to $1.4 billion in the first year.

Wisconsin passed a statewide question of whether to require all fuel tax and vehicle fee revenue to be used only for the state’s transportation system.

In California’s Oakland and Alameda Counties, a half-cent sales tax hike passed the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass in Alameda County, funding nearly $8 billion in transportation projects with most going toward transit, biking, and walking.

Voters in Fairfax County, Virginia, widely approved a transportation bond package full of good stuff. According to Network blog Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling:

The $100 million bond includes $77.5 million in pedestrian projects, $6.5 million in bike projects, and $16 million in spot road projects. The vote shows that Fairfax residents want safe walk and bike routes and are willing to pay for them.

This continues to be an amazing success rate (71%), which tells me Americans are generally okay with paying for transportation, upon the condition that they know what they are going to get for their investment.
JN

Gov. McCrory, DOT Secretary Tata Unveil 25-Year Vision

Governor McCrory’s Press Office – September 17, 2014

Raleigh, N.C. – Governor Pat McCrory and Transportation Secretary Tony Tata recently unveiled the Governor’s 25-Year Vision for transportation in North Carolina. The plan details the challenges faced by and solutions proposed for each of the state’s four major regions: coastal, eastern, central and western, as well as comprehensive solutions for the whole state.

This 25-year vision builds on the foundation established by the Strategic Transportation Investments law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor McCrory last summer. The law changes the way North Carolina funds and prioritizes major transportation projects, allowing the state to make the best possible use of its existing resources over a 10-year period.

While the new law is still in the implementation process, the N.C. Department of Transportation estimates that based on current data it will be able to fund more than twice the number of projects it could under the previous funding formula. The 25-year vision will take these efforts a step further to ensure that the state is maximizing its resources and fully leveraging its infrastructure over the long-term.

The vision does not include a list of specific projects, but rather provides high-level solutions for the state by laying out the future investments needed to help each region and North Carolina as a whole achieve their full potential.

In addition to identifying challenges and solutions, the vision also addresses the critical need for alternative funding solutions that will allow the state to close the growing gap between infrastructure needs and available funding, and invest in the strategic vision.

For more information and to view the Governor’s 25-Year Vision, visit www.ncvision25.gov.

John’s Comment: While I recognize this story was generated from Governor’s office itself, and therefore somewhat self-promoting by nature, I included it because of the way he and Secretary Tata tie transportation to the economy, jobs, healthcare, education and recreation. Nicely done, and I think any DOT in the country would be pleased to have their Governor talk about the importance of transportation the way Governor McCrory does in North Carolina.

DOT Secretary Appointee Downplays Tolls as Funding Solution

Land Line Magazine – May 22, 2013

The top candidate for President Obama’s U.S. Department of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, says interstate tolls should play a small role in the solution to fund shortfalls facing the Highway Trust Fund. In a round of questioning from a Senate committee Wednesday, May 22, as part of his confirmation process to become DOT secretary, Foxx said tolling should only be used as a means to add new capacity.

Foxx was questioned by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, led by Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and ranking member John Thune, R-SD, about how he planned to run the DOT and solve infrastructure funding challenges.

Foxx told the committee he would use his experience as the current mayor of Charlotte, NC, to deal with the difficult road ahead. He also offered his views on the issues of tolling and a public-private infrastructure bank.

“Tolling, in my work as mayor, has a place,” Foxx told the committee. “But it’s sort of like what I said earlier about an infrastructure bank. We’re not going to toll our way to prosperity in our country. It can be used in some cases to add capacity … but I don’t think it is a complete solution.”

Foxx said his three priorities for transportation are safety, efficiency and building for the future. If the full Senate gives Foxx confirmation, he will take over for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The Tom Warne Report

ODOT to move away from ‘Highway-Centric’ Approach

Bikeportland.org – May 22, 2013

The Oregon Department of Transportation has announced another step forward in their approach to highway planning. The announcement is a continuation of ODOT Director Matt Garrett’s recent promises to change the agency’s title of “Highway Division” to “Transportation Division” (April 2012), and provide options to commuters.

“Like all public agencies, ODOT is facing challenges and changing expectations from the public. Funding is increasingly constrained, and because our footprint as an agency is not financially sustainable, we need to be more efficient. At the same time, economic and demographic trends are shifting the public’s transportation needs and behaviors, driving a need for more transportation options.

These forces all point toward the need for ODOT to evolve as an agency, moving away from a siloed and highway-centric approach to business. While ODOT began life as the Oregon Highway Department a century ago, today we are much more. While highways will long remain the core of our portfolio, today we have extensive involvement in rail, freight, public transportation, active transportation, and interfaces with aviation and maritime resources. Governor Kitzhaber has challenged ODOT and the state’s transportation leadership to reenergize this multimodal transformation.” The Tom Warne Report

Gov. Signs $6B Transportation Bill for Va. Roads

The Virginian-Pilot – May 14, 2013

RICHMOND – The tense final days of Virginia’s legislative session have led to a landmark $6 billion transportation funding bill, which was signed this week by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The governor praised the measure as a bipartisan effort 27 years in the making – as the last time state lawmakers put a major investment toward roads was in 1986. In the bill, lawmakers decided to find a new way to finance transportation in the state by converting the 17.5-cent gas tax into a wholesale tax, raising the state sales tax to 5.3 percent and committing more existing revenue to be spent on road needs. To that end, the car title tax will be raised and transportation will also get money from anticipated internet sales tax revenue.

The measure will generate separate funding in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to pay for priority projects in those areas.

In response to criticism from fiscal conservatives, McDonnell said frustration is commonplace with any such compromise. “There will be something in this bill that everyone does not like.” The Tom Warne Report

Sales tax is much more responsive to the ups and downs of the economy. This is a good transition for Virginia and a major milestone for a state that has struggled putting a package together for a long, long time. TW