The decision to place Measure M on the ballot was not taken lightly. But even as we have maxed out the usual sources of transportation funding, like the gas tax and developer impact fees, it’s only a fraction of what we need to fix our highest priorities, like filling potholes and reducing congestion in the I-80 and SR 65 corridors. It truly was desperation to generate the funds that we need for our local transportation priorities to support our economy and our quality of life.
What about the gas tax? The gas tax revenue has dropped to a third of what it was 20 years ago. Cars today have improved gas mileage and there are many hybrid and all electric vehicles sharing the roads as well, which means drivers purchase fewer gallons of gas every year. What’s more, the purchasing power of funding that comes from gasoline sales taxes has fallen because of inflation. A dollar today does not buy what it did 20 years ago, and the revenue from gasol ine taxes set 20 years ago cannot keep up with the costs for road repairs today. By relying only on gasoline taxes, the County currently has less than half of the funds it needs to maintain Placer County’s roads, let alone make improvements.
Developer fees? The state constitution only allows developer impact fees to tackle projects that are needed because of new development, and we have tapped them to the maximum. Unfortunately, those funding sources can’t be used to pay for existing needs or road pavement repair and maintenance.
More recently, beginning in 2015, PCTPA held a series of six Town Hall Meetings and asked for the public’s input on our transportation and funding situation, and then in February 2016 conducted a series of telephone forums, all to hear from you about the major transportation challenges Placer residents face every day. PCTPA staff wrote the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan to tackle those challenges. PCTPA’S Board of Directors adopted the Plan, every City and Town Council approved it, and finally the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place it as Measure M on the November ballot. We have looked at every option to fund our transportation needs, and Measure M was our big hope.
In November 2016, the Placer citizens voted on that ½ cent sales tax to fund the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan. Although it received a strong majority (63.83%) of voter support, it was still not enough as Measure M required a two-thirds majority vote, or 67% approval, to pass.
The Placer region is still facing the same challenges with increasing traffic congestion and deteriorating roads identified last year but without enough funding to fix them. And following the election, Placer County will continue to have a gap in transportation funding.
So what does this mean for our region? Certainly, we’ll do the best we can with what we have and continue to seek Federal or State funding opportunities that become available.
It is still too early to see if and how the Trump Administration will propose to address the nation’s infrastructure needs and the State continues to mull over how it will fund its growing transportation crisis. Unfortunately, even if both the Federal and State government find a way to increase funding, it’s likely that the money will go to those areas that can come up with matching funds. Because we don’t have our own “skin in the game”, it’s unlikely the Placer region will be able to attract much of those Federal and State funds.
As we have always done, PCTPA is working to leverage what little money we have and aggressively pursue State and Federal dollars for transportation projects to keep our county moving. But the reality is with the lack of adequate funding sources all of us may be experiencing increasing traffic congestion and worsening pavement conditions for years to come.