Last year, the California Legislature approved Senate Bill 1 – the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 – to provide more than $5 billion annually for road maintenance and rehabilitation. It was the first gas tax increase in 23 years and based on the failing service levels of our transportation infrastructure, it was long overdue. SB-1 was a huge step forward in enacting a practical solution to an issue that has taken its toll on California residents, both mentally and fiscally.
According to global transportation research firm INRIX, Los Angeles ranked as the most congested city in the world for the sixth straight year. Greater Los Angeles drivers lose 104 hours (almost three work weeks) annually to congestion, which translates to $2,826 per motorist per year in productivity and fuel.
But there is some good news on the horizon. California counties are starting to receive new SB-1 revenues that they can use for local roads, highways, bridges and other transportation projects, ensuring the integrity and improvement of our multi-modal transportation network.
Proposition 69, a companion measure on the June 2018 ballot, would prevent the Legislature from redirecting SB-1 funds for any purpose other than transportation improvements. This lockbox initiative ensures that we will enjoy a safer, less congested transportation system.
While most of the transportation revenues anticipated from SB-1 are constitutionally earmarked, some funding is excluded from those protections, such as the new diesel sales tax and vehicle registration fees. Prop. 69 serves to safeguard revenues that are not already protected. Taxpayers deserve to know that the funds raised will, in fact, be spent only on transportation-related programs.
Los Angeles County is expected to receive nearly $1 billion a year in SB-1 funding for road transit improvements, which can go a long way to repair aging and deteriorating bridges, tunnels and overpasses, highways, freeways and our local streets, roads and pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks. Funds will pay for filling potholes, relieving congestion by adding new lanes and removing bottlenecks, and upgrading our rail system, buses and other public transportation services.
In the San Fernando Valley, SB-1 is expected to provide $202 million for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project. This 9.2-mile mass transit project would operate in the center or curb-lane along Van Nuys Boulevard from the Van Nuys Metro Orange Line Station north to San Fernando Road, where it would proceed northwest along San Fernando Road to the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station.
SB-1 funding is vital for one of the Valley’s most important transportation projects. The East San Fernando Valley Line is part of Metro’s Twenty-Eight by ’28 Initiative to build 28 major projects in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.
With Prop. 69, voters have the power to ensure that the recently-enacted taxes are spent on what was promised – transportation. It does not raise taxes; it merely protects existing taxes and fees that we are already paying. As a safeguard to stop what has happened in the recent past, Prop. 69 stops SB-1 funds from being diverted to the state general fund or used for non-transportation purposes.
Prop. 69 is a measure that puts a high priority on improving and maintaining our critical transportation infrastructure now and in the future. Direct investment in our transportation network will yield thousands of good-paying new jobs that in turn will continue to strengthen the Valley economy. It will shorten our commutes, transport goods to market more efficiently and improve the overall quality of life for all Angelenos.
A yes vote on Prop. 69 will protect revenues dedicated to transportation for every city, county and transportation agency in the state for repairing local roads and improving public transportation. Let’s make the right choice.
Art Hadnett is president of HNTB Corp.’s West Division based in Los Angeles. HNTB is an infrastructure firm that provides architecture, engineering, planning and construction services.