Bay Area transit stands to gain billions from fall ballot measures

Billions of dollars for Bay Area transit are on the line at the polls this November, when voters will decide the fate of three transportation-related ballot measures.

Proposition 1A, known as Transportation Funding Protection, would close the loophole that allows state legislators to divert revenue from the gasoline sales tax to other state needs.

In 2002, voters passed Proposition 42, which mandated that all taxes paid at the pump would go toward transportation improvements, but also included a “loophole clause” that allowed statelegislation to divert the funds for other state costs.

The “loophole” in Prop. 42 led “to the underinvestment in transportation,” said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s transportation financing agency.

Since the passage of Prop. 42 in 2002, nearly $2.5 billion earmarked for transportation projects has been diverted to other programs.

Opponents say that closing this loophole kills an important source of funding for state schools when the economy is in trouble.

State legislators would still be able to divert gasoline tax revenues, but only twice in a 10-year period, and then the money must be paid back with interest within three years.

With approval of Prop. 1A at the polls Nov. 7, the Bay Area would receive about $270 million a year for transportation beginning July 1, 2008, according to the MTC.

The money that would come to the Bay Area with an approval by voters would be divided up among a number of Bay Area transit agencies, including Muni and BART.

Proposition 1B, the $20 billion transportation infrastructure bond, promises to fund public transportation modernization programs, transportation improvement projects and local road upgrades. The Bay Area would receive a total of $2 billion over the 10-year period, according to the MTC.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the money at stake Nov. 7 is critical. “We have a huge funding gap right now,” Johnson said. He said the $250 million that would come to BART through Prop. 1B would help pay for rehabilitation of the system. “We have $8 billion in capital needs that we don’t have the funding for,” he said. Also, BART needs at least $2 billion to replace in the next 15 years its 669 aging cars, he added.

Proposition 1C would approve a $2.8 billion bond to fund development near transit and affordable housing projects. Of this amount, $300million would be available for transit-oriented developments. Projects such as the redevelopment of Treasure Island, the development of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and construction of the Transbay Terminal at Mission and First streets could benefit from this funding source. The three ballot measures do not designate funds for specific projects.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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