Transportation

Sacramento considering half-cent county transportation sales tax

The existing Sacramento County Measure A transportation sales tax is helping fund a variety of county projects, including this $30 million remake of the I Street Depot downtown. County officials are considering asking voters to approve a new sales tax measure for further transportation improvements.
The existing Sacramento County Measure A transportation sales tax is helping fund a variety of county projects, including this $30 million remake of the I Street Depot downtown. County officials are considering asking voters to approve a new sales tax measure for further transportation improvements. tbizjak@sacbee.com

A decade ago, Sacramento County voters approved a temporary 1/2-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects. Now, planners are wondering: Will county residents be willing to tax themselves another one-half cent next year for more improvements, even though the existing tax is still in effect?

With state and federal transportation funds languishing, local officials are exploring whether to launch a campaign to raise funds for street maintenance and selected expansion projects, likely via a half-cent sales tax add-on for 30 years.

The county’s cities and transit agencies are still hundreds of millions of dollars short of the money they need to keep up with growing transportation demand, said Brian Williams, executive director of the Sacramento Transportation Authority.

“Local jurisdictions said just with potholes and maintenance, we can’t keep up,” he said.

Williams said his group, which is governed by members of local city councils and the county Board of Supervisors, is talking with city leaders and businesses to determine whether it would have success if it goes to voters next year to ask for financial help.

Williams will make a presentation Tuesday night to the Folsom City Council, one of several elected boards he is visiting. The existing sales tax measure, known as Measure A, has contributed funds in Folsom to construction of Lake Natoma Crossing as well as Folsom Lake Crossing and the light rail Gold Line extension.

Williams said there is no list yet of projects a new sales tax might fund, but possibilities include:

▪  New funds for the ongoing effort to build a new train and transit center near the I Street depot in downtown Sacramento.

▪  A major expansion of Grant Line and White Rock roads, to be called the Capital Southeast Connector, giving east county commuters in Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Folsom an alternative to busy Highway 50.

▪  Partial funding to extend light rail through Natomas to Sacramento International Airport.

▪  Funding for transit options for the growing number of older Sacramentans.

The tax measure would need approval from 67 percent of voters to pass. Williams’ group plans to start polling in April.

“If we are within striking distance, we would move forward in crafting an expenditure plan” listing projects to present to voters on the 2016 ballot, Williams said.

Meanwhile, he said, the STA is putting up signs around the county pointing out where the existing Measure A transportation sales tax has funded improvements to show voters what it has accomplished.

The STA has published information about its efforts, as well as survey questions, on its website at www.sacramentogo.com.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

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