by Supervisor Sue Frost
Our roads are crumbling. That is not hyperbole, they are literally crumbling. And we don’t have the money or a realistic plan to fix them.
Recent reports show California roads are the 3rd worst in the entire country. NHTSA data notes that Highway 99 is now the 7th most dangerous freeway in America. And a study by national non-profit transportation research group TRIP estimates that 70% of Sacramento County’s roads and highways are in poor shape – 41% dangerously so.
The public is well aware of the problem – I hear about it from my constituents almost every day.
We need to get something done.
But instead of focusing on the immediate and urgent problem – fixing our roads – the Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA) is putting together a multi-Billion dollar shopping list of projects in the form of a countywide sales tax increase.
Sacramento County residents drive more than 965,955 cars on 5,200 miles of roads, which comprises about 85% of all travel. Compare that to just 97 buses and 42 miles of Light Rail tracks, which comprises about 1% of all travel. An overwhelming majority of people in Sacramento County use roads to get to work, take kids to school, shop for food; and go movies, restaurants, and basketball games. Even public transit relies on those roads – buses travel on roads and many RT users drive to stations to board light-rail.
Yet, surprisingly, the $3 Billion tax increase currently under consideration will devote only 28% to road repairs and 10% for freeway improvements, while dedicating as much as 50% to buses and public transit. Asking voters to raise taxes on themselves to pay for transportation projects that impact the fewest people isn’t a recipe for success.
It just doesn’t make sense. Worse yet, it could derail any chance of real action to fix our roads.
The majority of voters live outside the City of Sacramento in suburban cities like Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, Gold River, and Citrus Heights; or in unincorporated communities like Arden-Arcade, Fair Oaks and Orangevale. Residents in these communities are the most impacted by the poor condition of our roads, and they would be paying the biggest share of the proposed increase.
They are also the voters needed to pass a tax increase. Four years ago, these same voters opposed Measure B because it included too much spending on transit and trollies. Yet some STA members have convinced themselves these voters would support a new measure that nearly doubles spending on those projects.
Sacramento residents are currently paying a 1/2 Sales Tax passed in 2004 with the promise to fix our roads. We will continue paying that tax for two more decades. We are also paying billions more at the gas pump as a result of the gas tax increase the Legislature imposed with SB1. Each time, voters were promised that the new revenue would fix our roads and highways. Some projects have been done – but the condition of most of our roads hasn’t improved. And some of the money has been siphoned off for other purposes – something that is sure to be on voters’ minds.
STA’s own polling shows that while the public may be willing to support another tax for road repair and improvement, support from every community (including Sacramento City) falls off when it comes to RT or other projects. Measure B failed in 2016 because proponents cobbled together a wish list from interest groups instead of focusing on the issue voters cared about most. We cannot afford to repeat the same mistake.
I recognize that more revenue is required to make the improvements we need and tackle the volume of repairs we face. I believe voters are willing to pony-up more tax-dollars to get the job done. But clearly they are not willing to pay to fund more under-performing and money-losing public transit. And they are justifiably wary of more broken promises.
Fixing and improving our roads is imperative. It’s the most effective way we can reduce daily commutes, cut traffic snarls, and improve safety.
That is why I want STA to consider a stand-alone proposal that focuses primarily on fixing and improving our roads and highways – and include real public oversight to give voters confidence that the money will go where it is supposed to go.
I do not love the idea of raising taxes, but we have to fix our roads – and we have to do it now. I think the current proposal will make that harder, if not impossible.
Let’s focus first on fixing our roads. It’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do.
Finally, I want to invite everyone to my next Rio Linda community meeting on February 6th at 6:00 pm at the American Legion Hall (6700 8th St). It will be an opportunity for you to get an update from me, and to ask me any questions you may have. Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me call me at 916-874-5491, or e-mail me at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.
Sue Frost represents the 4th District, which includes all or part of the communities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Orangevale, Antelope, Rio Linda, Elverta, Gold River, Rancho Murieta, North Highlands, Carmichael, Foothill Farms and Fair Oaks
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