July 31, 2009
Measure R Potential
There Are No Guarantees, but L.A. County Voters’ Approval of Measure R May Eventually Pay Dividends for the I-5 Gateway
By Tim Whyte
By the narrowest of margins, voters have approved Measure R, the half-cent Los Angeles County sales tax that is expected to generate $40 billion in transportation funding over the next 30 years — and could provide some funding to the Interstate 5 Gateway Improvement Project.
As of the “Interchange” press time, some provisional and absentee ballots remained to be counted, but it appeared the results of the Nov. 4 election would hold. Needing a two-thirds majority to win passage, Measure R had garnered approximately 1.7 million votes in favor versus approximately 840,000 votes against — winning by a margin of 67.22 percent in favor to 32.78 percent against.
Here at the Golden State Gateway Coalition, we’ll wait and see. While there are no guarantees Measure R will directly benefit our efforts to improve the Interstate 5 Gateway in Northern Los Angeles County, the potential exists for significant positive impacts.
Measure R, placed on the ballot at the behest of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, authorizes a half-cent addition to the sales tax in Los Angeles County for the express purpose of financing new transportation projects and “accelerating those that are already in the pipeline,” according to the MTA website.
The measure is expected to cost the average person $25 per year — an amount that may be easily offset by a typical commuter’s fuel cost savings in a future Los Angeles County where transportation improvements will have put a serious dent in the gridlock we see today.
It’s the “accelerating those that are already in the pipeline” impact that may be of the most significant benefit to the I-5 Gateway. Measure R specifically targets projects that are prioritized in the MTA’s Long Range Transportation Plan, and the new half-cent tax may even have benefits beyond that.
Essentially, Measure R creates another “pot” of construction funding for transportation projects, and while there is a lot of talk about how the measure will most significantly benefit Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s favored rail project, the “Subway to the Sea,” there are many potential ways for Measure R funding to both directly and indirectly fund Golden State Gateway improvements.
For example, under the initial plan for Measure R, a minimum of $90.8 million of the new revenue is to be allocated for “Interstate 5/State Route 14 Capacity Enhancement.” However, the major improvements at the I-5/SR-14 interchange have funding available from other sources — and that potentially could free up the Measure R revenue to be allocated to other projects within the same subregion.
The Gateway, of course, is a logical choice for that.
Further, the Measure R expenditure plan also calls for a potential $410 million allocation toward I-5 in Northern Los Angeles County. It’s not guaranteed money, and the timing is uncertain, but it’s there, on the list of “maybes.” The upshot of Measure R for those interested in improving the vital I-5 corridor is that the potential trickle-down effect — or, trickle-up, as it were — is quite significant indeed.
If the half-cent sales tax does in fact generate the expected levels of revenue (our current difficult economy notwithstanding), within the first half-dozen years of Measure R improvements we may begin to see significant progress on the so-called high-priority projects — new rail lines and the like in the City of Los Angeles — which will potentially clear the way for that $410 million allotment.
And, possibly, more.