Opinion - The Facts About Measure B and Transportation Funding

By Bob Murdoch and Jeffrey Spencer | October 6, 2016 |  

There were several inaccuracies in the opinion piece posted on this site by Debra Desrosiers of Don't Double the Tax about Measure B that we would like address.

What Ms. Desrosiers failed to mention is that Measure A has funded many successful transportation projects in Elk Grove and throughout Sacramento County since the Measure was initially passed in 1988. Elk Grove has leveraged $46.6 million in state and federal grants using $20.2 million Measure A funds.

Specifically, in Elk Grove, Measure A has helped to fund the reconstruction of the Hwy 99/Sheldon Road & Hwy 99/Grant Line Road interchanges along with the Elk Grove Creek Trail and crossing of Highway 99, traffic signal improvements to reduce congestion and improve safety, traffic calming on residential streets, and numerous sidewalk and trail projects to promote alternate modes of transportation. Currently, Measure A provides $3.6 million annually for roadway maintenance and provides the bulk of the funding for the City’s annual $3.7 million pavement rehabilitation project.

Despite these important transportation improvements, funding for transportation projects continues to decline. The federal gas tax – the primary funding source for transportation – hasn’t been raised since 1993, which equates to a nearly 40 percent decline in buying power. According to the Association of General Contractors (AGC), highway and bridge project costs have significantly outpaced general inflation for most of the past decade.

What’s more is that federal transportation funds cannot be used for routine maintenance, such as filling potholes. When there is deferred maintenance on roadways, the repair costs goes up. For example, in Elk Grove a minor pavement surface treatment like a slurry seal costs $28,000 per lane mile while reconstructing a failed roadway that has not been maintained costs almost $800,000 per lane mile.

The reality is that there is a backlog of more than $1 billion for transportation maintenance and rehabilitation projects throughout Sacramento County. According to the 2016 California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment, there are 11,285 miles in Sacramento County that need to be repaved to the tune of $2.9 billion over ten years. The primary focus of Measure B is to address this funding shortfall.

In order to pay for large transportation projects, it is prudent to use bond financing. This allows projects to be completed earlier which avoids higher future costs, enables users to benefit sooner and takes advantage of the incredibly low interest rates. This is similar to homeowners financing the purchase of their house and what many other municipalities do. The Sacramento Transportation Agency’s (STA) policy requires strict limits on borrowing, which is why the STA has an AA+ or better rating from credit agencies. Borrowing at today’s nominal rates is far better than waiting to accumulate enough funding, while the pavement deteriorates further and inflation outpaces the current value of repair.

As far as the Sacramento Capital Southeast Connector, if Measure B passes it would allow funding to be front loaded thereby reducing the need for bond financing. If Measure B does not pass, the Connector project will still be delivered, just at a later date.

The STA also has strict accountability provisions. The Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee for Measure A meets regularly and Measure B requires five-year update plans and an annual audit by an Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee to review fiscal and program performance.

When Measure A passed many years ago, Sacramento joined a long list of self-help counties that have a dedicated local source of revenue for transportation projects. This funding is critical to continuing to secure Elk Grove’s share of state and federal grants funds. We encourage Sacramento County residents to get the facts. Visit www.sacramentogo.com for more information about projects that could be funded by Measure B if it is approved by voters this November and visit www.sacta.org for information about Measure A revenues and projects.

Bob Murdoch is the Public Works Director for the City of Elk Grove and Jeffrey Spencer is the Executive Director of the Sacramento Transportation Authority.

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