Most 2017 Transportation Ballot Initiatives Successful
Infrastructure investment was a big winner on Election Day 2017 as a variety of state and local ballot measures around the country to raise taxes or authorize borrowing won voter approval. Here’s a roundup of what happened Tuesday and a look ahead to 2018.
Statewide Ballot Measures
The only statewide measure on the ballot Tuesday was in Maine, where voters approved the issuance of $105 million in bonds to fund highways, bridges, ports, railroads, aviation, transit and trails. The bond measure, which is expected to bring $137 million in matching grants, represented the second of three consecutive years of borrowing planned by the Maine Department of Transportation to fill highway funding gaps, Maine Public Radio reported.
As I noted in a previous blog post, Louisiana and West Virginia already approved transportation-related ballot measures earlier this Fall.
Local Ballot Measures
Among the local ballot measures considered Tuesday:
- A $937 million bond package won support from voters in Denver, Colorado, The Denver Post reported. The city’s first large bond program in a decade will fund about 460 projects, including road repaving, bridge replacements, sidewalk construction, bike lanes and bus rapid transit.
- A $184 million infrastructure bond package won approval in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The package incorporates $38 million for transportation projects, including $4.7 million for public transit.
- Voters in Kansas City, Missouri overwhelmingly approved plans to construct a new terminal at the Kansas City International Airport, WDAF-TV reported. Plans call for the consolidation of the airport’s three terminals into one new terminal that will be privately financed.
- Voters in Lebanon, Missouri meanwhile agreed to continue a transportation sales tax on the books since the 1980s that pays for staff, construction and maintenance of the city’s roads, according to KY3.com.
- Grand Forks, North Dakota voters approved a half-cent increase in the local sales tax to fund road and water projects, Governing noted.
- Athens-Clarke County, Georgia approved a 1 percent transportation special purpose local option sales tax (TSPLOST) increase, which is expected to raise $109.5 million over five years to fund a total of 19 projects, including $25.6 million for road construction and rehabilitation and $7.1 million for downtown streetscape improvements, The Athens Banner-Herald reported.
- Voters in Lawrence, Kansas approved the renewal of a citywide sales tax for 10 years to fund infrastructure improvements, transit operations and affordable housing projects.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan voters approved the extension of the property tax that supports the operations of a regional bus system, The Rapid, for another 12 years.
- Voters in Harrisburg, North Carolina narrowly approved a $4 million transportation bond that will be used to complete a little over $5 million in transportation projects with federal and state grants contributing the rest, according to The Independent Tribune.
- Voters in Travis County, Texas (Austin) approved a $185 million bond package for roads, parks and drainage projects, The Austin American-Statesman reported. The borrowing will be made possible by five years of property taxes.
- Galveston County, Texas voters approved three ballot measures authorizing a total of $80 million in bonding, including $56 million for the construction, maintenance and operation of county roads, The Houston Chronicle reported.
- Fort Bend County, Texas voters supported a $218.6 million mobility bond that will be used to fund 63 road projects around the county, according to the Community Impact Newspaper.
- A quarter-cent sales tax measure in Allen County, Ohio to help maintain the Allen County Regional Transit Authority’s current levels of operation was not successful. But Mahoning, Ohio’s ballot measure to permanently renew a .25 percent sales tax, which raises $8.5 million annually for the Western Reserve Transit Authority, did win voter approval.
What’s Ahead for 2018
Next year could see even more transportation-related ballot initiatives in play. Among those already announced or being considered for the 2018 ballot:
- Competing measures to repeal California’s 12-cent gas tax increase approved earlier this year.
- A measure to approve new taxes, fees or bonds to fund local transportation projects in San Francisco, including perhaps a 20-cent-to-$1 fee for Uber and Lyft rides.
- A May referendum in Nashville proposed by Mayor Megan Barry that could include increases to four taxes (the city's sales tax, hotel-motel tax, rental car tax and business and excise tax) to fund a $5.2 billion mass transit plan.
- Sacramento County voters could be asked whether they want to tax themselves to generate additional funds for roads and transit. A similar measure was rejected by voters in 2016.
- A statewide referendum in Mississippi proposed by a Republican state senator that would ask voters to say “yes” or “no” to tax and fee increases to fund an approved list of road and bridge improvements.
- A possible gas tax increase in Missouri.
- A legislature-approved measure that would provide constitutional “lockbox” protection for Connecticut’s Special Transportation Fund.
- A possible transit agency-proposed bond measure in Portland, Oregon that would help pay for a new light-rail line and other regional projects.
- A possible Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce-supported statewide transportation funding measure in Colorado.