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Metro eyes new transit ballot measure

Posted: December 26, 2013 4:17 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2013 4:17 p.m.
 

Metro officials are considering a new transportation tax measure on the Los Angeles County ballot in 2014 or 2016, a move that could speed up construction work for ongoing projects or allow the agency to approve new ones.

Though nothing has yet been finalized, Marc Littman, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Thursday that two primary options for a ballot measure are currently under consideration.

Proposals
The first would extend Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008 that provides funding for transportation and transit projects throughout Los Angeles County.

The measure, as approved, extends the sales tax hike through 2039 and is expected to generate more than $30 billion over its lifetime.

Littman said extending Measure R would allow Metro to accelerate work for planned or ongoing projects.
Measure J, a similar proposal to lengthen the lifespan of Measure R, fell just short of the necessary two-thirds vote for passage in the November 2012 election.

A second option, Littman said, would be a new measure that would supplement Measure R.

“With a new ballot measure, you could start from scratch with new projects,” he said.

Littman said Metro has retained a polling firm to survey county residents and see what kind of support there would be for a new measure.

Those findings will likely be presented and discussed at a Metro Board of Directors meeting in January, Littman said.

New projects
In the meantime, Metro officials are also canvassing local governments to see what types of projects might need funding.

“We’re going out to local councils of governments and asking for feedback on what projects they would like to see,” he said. “We’re going all around the county trying to get that grassroots feedback.”

County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich wrote in an email that the “new proposal will correct the fatal flaws in Measure J by including the input and participation of all regions of Los Angeles County.”

“Our goal is to ensure that transportation funding supports a comprehensive regional plan that includes rail connections to our airports, upgrades to Metrolink and projects benefiting communities neglected by Measure J including the South Bay, the Gateway Cities and the Antelope, San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita Valleys,” he wrote.

Measure R
Since its passage, Measure R funding has bankrolled a variety of projects countywide, including in the Santa Clarita Valley.

A project to construct a carpool connector between Interstate 5 and Highway 14 received $90.8 million in funding from the measure, according to Metro.

Funding has also been set aside to add new carpool and truck lanes to the I-5 through the Santa Clarita Valley. But Metro officials have since said that amount of money is insufficient for the carpool lanes.

The estimated shortcoming is a reason cited by Metro officials for a proposal to charge tolls to offset some of the costs of constructing the two new carpool lanes, which would run on a 13.5-mile stretch of Interstate 5 from Castaic to the junction with Highway 14.

Officials say funding from Measure R and another pot, Proposition C, would not be fully available for years and would still fall about $100 million short of the project’s estimated cost of $410 million.

Under a proposal approved by the Metro Board of Directors earlier this year, the county would seek out a partnership with a private company that would pay the upfront costs of building the carpool lanes, perhaps completing them by as early as 2019.

Metro would then assess per-mile tolls to help pay back the cost of constructing the lanes.

Those driving alone would be subject to the toll at all times and cars with fewer than three people would be charged during “peak” travel hours, according to the project proposal.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

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