SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), Santa Cruz METRO, and local public works departments applauded voters for overwhelmingly passing Proposition 69 this week.
Prop 69, which establishes strong constitutional protections for transportation funding, prohibits fuel taxes and fees from California’s Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (Senate Bill -SB1) from being used for non-transportation purposes. Statewide, Prop 69 was approved by over 80 percent of voters; In Santa Cruz County, 85 percent of voters said “yes” on the measure.
“The overwhelming passage of Prop 69 is a strong signal from the voters that they recognize the need to fix our roads and transit system and support accountable, dedicated funding to do so,” RTC Executive Director George Dondero said.
SB1 transportation funds are generated through increased taxes on motor fuels and vehicle fees, which took effect Nov. 1, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018. Prop 69 prohibits the state legislature and governor from borrowing or diverting these funds for non-transportation purposes.
“Transportation projects can take several years to design, permit and build. Agencies need to have steady and secure funding to address ongoing maintenance and support these long-term projects,” said Steve Palmisano, City of Watsonville Public Works & Utilities Director. “The financing provided by SB1 and safeguarded by Proposition 69 makes that possible.”
SB1 provides approximately $20 million annually for road maintenance, public transit, and priority regional transportation projects in Santa Cruz County.
The cities of Capitola, Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz and Watsonville, and the County of Santa Cruz are using $7 million in SB1 funds this year to repair storm damage, fill potholes, make safety improvements to local streets and roads, and implement bicycle and pedestrian projects.
Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO) is using SB1 funds to replace buses that are necessary to maintain service. The RTC has designated the region’s shares of SB1-State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds to a combination of local road repair, highway, bicycle, pedestrian, and bus projects to be constructed over the next few years.
“Transportation issues are among some of the most critical challenges facing our community. In Santa Cruz County, we’re putting SB1 to good use repairing our road network after devastating winter storms. The funds are helping restore mobility sooner than would have been possible, and we’re doing it without diverting revenue from other essential county programs,” said Zach Friend, Chair of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.
Local projects that have already received SB1 funding include:
- Low and zero emission replacement buses to maintain METRO bus service
- Pedestrian safety improvements near Watsonville High School
- Safety lighting along the San Lorenzo River bicycle/pedestrian path in Santa Cruz
- Projects that improve traffic flow on Highway 1 and Highway 17
- Safety, bridge replacement, and traffic management projects on state highways
- Glenwood area bicycle lanes, safe routes to schools, and trails in Scotts Valley
Efforts to repeal SB1 are underway by opponents of the tax, and the initiative is expected to be on the November 2018 statewide ballot. The RTC board voted to oppose this and other efforts to repeal SB1 earlier this year. Commissioners emphasized that funds are needed to make transportation improvements requested by local residents and reiterated their commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability.
“The passage of Prop 69 shows that the citizens of California understand the importance of the transportation system,” said County Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who also serves on the METRO and RTC boards. “Between now and November, hopefully there will continue to be a growing awareness of the key role Senate Bill 1 plays to replace buses, and repair and expand roads and highways.”
Maps and lists of projects that have been approved for SB1 funds statewide are online at www.rebuildingca.ca.gov.