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AASHTO Journal

Transportation Measures See Action on State Ballots

Several measures related to transportation initiatives and/or transportation funding were present on ballots at both the state and local levels on Tuesday, ranging from approval for light rail projects to a sales tax increase for transportation construction.

Arkansas voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase on election night, signaling big support for transportation infrastructure. The money will be used for construction and improvement of a four-lane highway system connecting the entire state. The measure allows the sales tax to be collected for 10 years. Seventy percent of that new revenue will go directly to the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, while the remaining 30 percent will be split between the state's cities and counties for local projects.

"We appreciate the opportunity we have been given," said Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett in a statement. "The new revenue stream will begin in July of 2013 and we will be working diligently throughout the coming months to prepare for beginning construction shortly thereafter. We plan to successfully complete this program within the coming 10 years."

Other states saw transportation measures passed by voters on the local level. Orange County voters in North Carolina approved a half-cent transit tax, which will help fund the expansion of a local bus service. The funding could also help support a regional light rail system in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. Conelius, Oregon approved an extension of a two cent per gallon gas tax. The measure, originally adopted in 2010, has raised more than $400,000 for road improvements to date. In Louisiana, voters narrowly passed (by less than 10 votes) a referendum to extend tolls for 20 more years on New Orleans' Crescent City Connection, twin cantilever bridges that carry U.S. 90 over the Mississippi River. Virginia Beach residents voted in support of a proposal to extend light rail to the city. Now the city council will have the final say on the matter. South Carolina's Richland County voters passed a one cent sales tax to fund local road projects and transit. Finally, voters in Alaska passed Bonding Proposition A, which allows for a general obligation bond to be issued for transportation projects in the state.

Some transportation-related measures were voted down, including Arizona's Prop 204, which would have established a permanent one cent-per-gallon sales tax to assist in funding transportation projects, schools, and human services. The tax is already in existence but will expire in 2013. Florida's Alachua County rejected a three-fourths cent sales tax to raise money for road repairs. Memphis, Tennessee residents also said no to a one cent-per-gallon tax, which would have gone to the local transit agency.

A Los Angeles County measure to extend a half-cent transportation sales tax for 30 years failed to garner 2/3rds support and did not pass. Up the coast in California's Alameda County, a similar measure that would have doubled funding for transit programs also failed to gain 2/3rds votes needed to pass.

Finally, Clark County voters in Washington State struck down a measure to raise money to pay for maintenance and operations of a light rail line from Portland, Oregon to Clark College in Vancouver, Washington.

One measure that was voted down to the delight of transportation officials in Michigan was a proposal to require a statewide referendum before building a bridge from Ontario to Detroit. The failure of this measure to pass now allows for construction of a new publically funded international bridge supported by the freight industry in both countries.

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