Measure B, on the ballot in Santa Clara County this November, would raise the sales tax by half a cent to fund transportation projects in the South Bay. Placed on the ballot by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), the measure would generate $6 billion to $6.3 billion over 30 years. This revenue would be spent on nine projects:
- BART Silicon Valley Phase II — $1.5 billion for capital construction of the extension of BART from Berryessa to Santa Clara (four stations).
- Local Streets and Roads — $1.2 billion would return to cities for use on streets that require maintenance or, if streets are in good repair, for other transportation purposes.
- County Expressways — $750 million for Tier 1 expressway projects in the County Expressway Plan, including intersection improvements, some highway widening projects, and the addition of high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
- Highway Interchanges — $750 million for highway projects based on a competitive grant program. Projects that receive funding would need to have a “complete streets” program that supports biking, walking and other non-car modes of travel.
- Caltrain Grade Separations — $700 million for grade separation projects in Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto.
- Transit Operations — $500 million for bus operations. This would be a flexible source of funding that could fund transit to serve vulnerable, underserved populations and to improve affordability. It could also go to improvements to the core bus network in order to improve ridership and operational efficiencies, in accordance with VTA’s Next Network program.
- SR 85 Corridor — $350 million for a lane for transit or other transportation alternatives on Highway 85.
- Caltrain Corridor Capacity Improvements — $314 million for Caltrain corridor capacity improvements and increased service in Santa Clara County, including service to Morgan Hill and Gilroy.
- Bicycle/ Pedestrian Program — $250 million for projects that connect schools, transit and employment centers, fill gaps in the existing bike and pedestrian network and make walking and biking safer and more convenient. The funding would be made available as a competitive grant program for capital projects.
A complete streets requirement would be applied to all spending categories and all projects funded with revenue from this measure. VTA is currently determining its complete streets policy. The measure would also establish an independent citizens’ oversight committee and an annual audit.
Hasn’t This Been Funded Already?
Santa Clara County is a “self-help” county, which means that it uses local transportation sales taxes to fund transportation improvements. County residents have a long history of supporting transportation sales tax measures, the first of which created the Santa Clara County Transit District in 1976.
In 2000, voters approved a local transportation sales tax (Measure A) to fund the extension of BART, expand light rail and more. However, the measure did not raise as much as anticipated due to the dot-com bust. In 2004, the, Federal Transit Administration expressed concern that VTA did not have enough resources to operate and maintain BART, in addition to its light rail and bus services. In 2008, voters approved another local transportation sales tax to raise revenue that would be dedicated to operations and maintenance. Due to the Great Recession, this measure also did not raise as much as anticipated.
SPUR’s Agenda for Change calls for the Bay Area to increase rail service in its urban core, reduce local and regional greenhouse gas emission and invest in infrastructure. Our land use policies — focusing housing growth in existing communities and adding new jobs in transit-accessible employment centers — require improvements to the regional transit system.
The Measure B sales tax would generate much-needed revenue to complete BART Silicon Valley Phase II, and it would make the project more competitive for federal and state funding. It would also provide a more stable source of revenue for Caltrain operations and capacity improvements, and it would support investments in walking, biking and transit. All of these things are necessary to support sustainable growth in the South Bay and the region as a whole. SPUR recommends a “yes” vote on Measure B.