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Local bike funding at stake in November election

Published October 19, 2016
Dealer Tour Atlanta riders along the city's BeltLine trail.
Voters to pass or reject billions of dollars toward bike paths, programs.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — While the final presidential debate before the November election is set to take place tonight, the industry should also be aware of 20 city and local county ballot measures that are up for votes and could greatly impact funding for bike paths and trails.

In particular, California residents will play a key role in future transportation planning across the state with no less than 11 different ballot measures extending from Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County has the most ambitious proposal with Measure M, which aims to raise the sales tax by half a cent to fund a massive investment in the transportation infrastructure over the next 40 years. The plan includes $3.9 billion in investments for bike infrastructure.

But counties throughout the state are proposing similar half-cent sales tax increases including Contra Costa, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus County, Ventura County and Sacramento County.

“There’s a lot in California because there’s legislation that allows cities and counties to put measures on the ballot to fund transportation,” said Alex Logemann, state and local policy analyst for PeopleForBikes, who compiled a full list of measures with full details at the PeopleForBikes website. “At the state level there’s gridlock to get new funding for transportation in general, so local governments have taken the issue upon themselves to pass new taxes to come up with transportation dollars.”

The downside, Logemann said, is that California requires two-thirds of total voting in support of the measure for passage, which is an uphill battle.

In Broward County, Florida, residents will vote on a 1% sales tax rate increase to generate up to $100 million over the next 30 years to fund transportation and infrastructure, including bike lanes, complete streets, and traffic calming throughout the county.

In Atlanta, voters will consider a proposal to raise the sales tax by .4 cents for five years to raise $260 million for infrastructure; $213 million has been pegged for bike and pedestrian projects including work on the Atlanta Beltline trail, a popular commute route.

And in Austin, Texas, residents will vote on a measure that will generate $720 million for transportation — $120 million for bike/pedestrian projects including a Safe Routes to School Program. Under the proposal, the city would issue bonds to raise the $720 million, and the bonds would be paid for with an increase in property taxes of 2.25 cents per $100 of property valuation or $56 on a $250,000 home.

Logemann said the Austin measure, and a proposal in Burlington, Vermont, to issue a $27.5 million bond to fund infrastructure of which $12.5 million would go toward repairing and modernizing a waterfront bike path, have good odds of passing.

But given the super majority required in California, it makes it hard to predict whether The Golden State will see many bike-funding measures pass.

Logemann said that in doing research into various ballot measures and collecting data and voter information, he was surprised to see that nobody knows when a measure has an implication for bikes. He hopes that the cataloging of different proposals, which are posted on the PeopleForBikes website, will arm voters with information needed before they head to the polls.

“It’s been an ongoing process over the last couple of years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of focus on the federal transportation bill, but as we’ve grown in staff, we’ve had the bandwidth to do cool stuff like this.”

For more information, contact Logemann at alex@peopleforbikes.org

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