Sacramento has an exciting future ahead – new housing, economic growth, better schools, world-class health care. Our economy has almost fully bounced back from the recession, regaining nearly all the 110,000 jobs that were lost. The urban core has a renewed sense of energy.
As our population grows and economic development increases, we must ensure our transportation infrastructure can accommodate our needs and let businesses and residents take full advantage of opportunities ahead. That’s why our network of roads, bridges, public transit and bicycle facilities needs to be improved in strategic ways.
As chairman of the Sacramento Transportation Authority, I have a good understanding of the many different road and transit projects that have been completed in recent years and many more in the works. But I also understand that we simply do not have the resources to tackle all the projects we need.
We rely on a limited combination of local, state and federal funds, including the Measure A sales tax approved by Sacramento voters in 1988 and renewed in 2004.
Revenue from that half-cent sales tax has helped build new interchanges, fix bridges, expand light-rail routes, repair roads and add carpool lanes on Interstate 80 and highways 50 and 99. Measure A also supports Paratransit service for seniors and the disabled and has improved bicycle and pedestrian safety.
In Folsom, Measure A funded bridge repair and improvements at the Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake crossings. In Elk Grove, it financed the extension of light rail to Cosumnes River College. Measure A funded the new intermodal transit station at Fourth and I streets in Sacramento and widened Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights.
But we know there is much more to do to tackle deferred road maintenance, enhance our bicycle network and address the bottleneck that is Business 80. Improvements like these will make your daily commute faster and more convenient.
It may be time to consider asking voters to support a supplemental sales tax to fund transportation projects. The Transportation Authority board is considering putting a measure on the November ballot. If the measure added a half-cent tax, it would raise $116 million a year. Half the proceeds would repair and repave existing roads, while the other half would build new infrastructure. If the measure enacted a quarter-cent, most of the $58 million per year would likely be used to fix and maintain existing infrastructure.
To make an informed decision on a possible ballot measure, the authority is evaluating needs and resources, and reaching out to residents, community groups, business organizations and local officials to hear what their priorities are.
We should be proud of how Sacramento’s economy is bouncing back – more people are working, construction is humming and more people are on the move. But our aging transportation systems need more money to keep up.
Steve Hansen represents District 4 on the Sacramento City Council and is chairman of the Sacramento Transportation Authority. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.