For those of you active in the transportation sector, the 2004 elections ended on a high note. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), voters approved 35 out of 46 ballot measures asking them to initiate, extend or increase taxes to fund transportation activities. (The “Special 2004 Ballot Initiatives Report” is available at www.artba.org.) These measures should generate at least $28 billion in new revenue for transportation infrastructure work around the country.
Given the more than year-long delay in reauthorizing TEA-21, this is good news. Here are just a few of the bond initiatives approved:
In California, voters approved a $980 million general obligation bond measure to fund shoring up the BART system (San Francisco/East Bay area) against a major earthquake.
In Ohio, voters approved up to $605 million of bonds to pay for capital improvement projects, including roads and bridges.
In Virginia, residents of Fairfax County approved more than $300 million worth of bonds for various projects, including infrastructure renewal and expansion of the Washington Metro. Voters in Arlington County approved a general obligation bond issue of $35.9 million for projects that will include transportation initiatives. And in Chesterfield County, voters approved five separate ballot questions that will dedicate $341.7 million to projects that include road improvement.
Ten out of 17 measures were also passed that introduce new taxes for transportation funding. Some of the more significant ones include:
In Colorado, voters approved the creation and funding of The Rural Transportation Authority. Revenue will be generated through a $.01 sales tax increase. Of the funding generated, 55% will go toward road construction, 35% for maintenance and 10% for transit.
In Georgia, a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will raise $468 million for various projects in Richmond County, including several road projects. Other projects include expanding the county jail, building a performing arts center and upgrading parts of the city’s sewage and water system.
South Carolina residents approved a half-cent sales tax that will raise an estimated $1.3 billion over 25 years for infrastructure projects and the public transportation system. The tax breathes new life into the Charleston Area Transportation Authority, which had been forced to sell property and lay off drivers to stay afloat.
While much of the news coming out of the elections is positive, there is still uncertainty over the future of federal transportation and infrastructure investment. With a ballooning national deficit and continued emphasis on the war on terrorism, domestic spending has taken a back seat. Election-year promises of further tax cuts will place even greater pressure on funding availability over the next four years.
With the elections now over, it’s crucial to keep investment in transportation and infrastructure at the top of mind for both new and returning legislators. Contact your state representatives at www.congress.org and ensure they understand the importance of keeping these programs off of the legislative chopping block.