Majority of transportation ballot initiatives passed on Election Day

By |  November 8, 2012

U.S. voters approved 68 percent of the measures that appeared on Nov. 6 ballots to increase or extend funding for highways, bridges and transit, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

The association tracked 31 measures overall, including five statewide initiatives and 26 that were local. Voters approved all seven of the bond initiatives on ballots. Eighteen measures were designed to increase, extend or renew a sales tax for transportation purposes; two were property tax extensions; and one was for a local gas tax. The total value approved was $2.4 billion.

The results are consistent with previous elections, ARTBA says. In 2010, voters approved 61 percent of similar measures, with 78 percent approval in 2008, 77 percent in 2006 and 76 percent in 2004.

“The results show the American people are looking for solutions to address their transportation challenges and are willing to pay more if they know the revenue generated will be used for its intended purpose,” says Alison Premo Black, the ARTBA chief economist who compiled the list.

Three of the four statewide measures to raise additional transportation funds passed with an average approval rate of 63 percent. Arkansas voters approved a one-half cent increase in the state sales tax to cover a $1.3 billion bond issue for roads and bridges. The temporary sales and use tax will help fund improvements for state highways and bridges, county roads, city streets and other surface transportation.

Alaska voters approved a bond issue of $453.5 million for transportation.

Although 65 percent of voters in Los Angeles supported Measure J, which would have extended the 30-year one-half cent sales tax passed in 2008 for an additional 30 years, the ballot initiative needed a 66 percent supermajority for approval. The current sales tax measure is set to expire in 2039.

Three ballot initiatives did not specifically ask voters to increase funding for roads, bridges or transit, but they did address transportation issues. Voters in Michigan opened a path to one of the largest bridge projects in the nation by rejecting an initiative that would have required a statewide referendum before building an international crossing to Canada. The referendum was initiated by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge to prevent a new crossing over the Detroit River.

Earlier this year, the Canadian government announced an agreement with Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.) to build and pay for a new, publicly owned bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, just two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. The Canadian Transport Minister said the bridge will now be built as soon as possible. The cost of the project is estimated to be $1 billion.

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