Voters Want More Transportation Investment, Improvements


Voters in 22 states approved 193 of the 280 state and local transportation investment measures on their ballots Nov. 8. The general election success followed voter support for 76 of 81 transportation funding measures in primary elections earlier in the year.

Overall, voters passed 74 percent of transportation-related ballot initiatives in 2016 maintaining the 10-year average success rate. The 2016 ballot outcome will provide $207 billion in funding extensions and new revenue over the coming years.

“It shows that communities across the nation are not willing to take the status quo approach like Washington, D.C.,” said Dr. Alison Premo Black, ARTBA’s chief economist and director of the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ (TIAC), which tracks ballot measures. “States and local governments are taking the initiative to grow their transportation infrastructure.”

California voters approved 14 of 27 measures worth $133 billion, about two thirds of the nationwide total on Election Day. This largest share is a 1-cent sales tax in Los Angeles that will provide $120 billion over 40 years for local road, bridge, and transit projects. Rural and conservative regions of the state also stepped up investment, said Michael Quigley, executive director of California Alliance for Jobs and a member of TIAC’s Advocates Council.

He noted that even among the measures that didn’t pass, all received more than 50 percent backing, and most had more than 60 percent support, but fell short of the two-thirds “supermajority” required for passage in California.

“That’s a tough threshold,” Quigley said. “It often takes a couple of tries before voters say ‘yes.’ You have to learn their priorities and create bipartisan consensus. It’s important to emphasize local investment and local control.”

Voters in five other states approved $1 billion or more of investment: Washington state passed 10 measures worth $54 billion; Georgia delivered five initiatives totaling $4 billion; Nevada ratified a proposal for $3 billion; South Carolina authorized $2.7 billion; and North Carolina okayed $1 billion.

Sources for the revenue included gasoline, sales, and property taxes as well as bond issues. Two thirds of the money will be dedicated to roads and bridges, with the rest going to transit and multimodal projects.

Meanwhile, voters in Illinois and New Jersey passed transportation tax “lockbox” measures to prohibit state lawmakers from diverting transportation user fee revenue to non-transportation uses.

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