Strong public support for infrastructure investment continues

By |  December 2, 2019
As the federal government continues to neglect infrastructure, more states have stepped up of late to provide necessary funding for roads and bridges.Photo: iStockphoto.com/Juan-Enrique

As the federal government continues to neglect infrastructure, more states (and voters) have stepped up of late to provide necessary funding for roads and bridges. Photo: iStock.com/Juan-Enrique

Voters in 19 states sent a decisive message of support for transportation investment this year, approving almost 90 percent of 305 state and local transportation ballot measures.

In total, the 270 approved initiatives are expected to generate more than $9.6 billion in one-time and recurring revenue, according to an analysis conducted by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) Transportation Investment Advocacy Center (ARTBA-TIAC).

“The ballot results are a great reminder infrastructure investment remains one of the few areas where red states, blue states, Republicans and Democrats can all come together,” says Dave Bauer, ARTBA president. “It should also demonstrate to lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the public will be on board for the passage of a long-term bill that significantly boosts highway and transit investment at the federal level.”

The results reaffirm a decade-long trend of voters strongly supporting investments to maintain and improve their state or local transportation networks. Voters have approved 81 percent of nearly 2,000 transportation investment ballot measures tracked by ARTBA-TIAC since 2010, including 2019’s results.

“Public support for increasing infrastructure investment continues to help local governments and the transportation construction community improve safety, mobility and overall quality of life for residents as projects get underway,” says Carolyn Kramer, ARTBA-TIAC director.

Specific measures

According to ARTBA, voters in Maine overwhelmingly approved – by a 76 percent to 24 percent margin – a $105 million bond measure to support transportation infrastructure projects. The vote was Maine’s seventh successful transportation bond in eight years.

While transportation investment fared well nationwide, Washington state voters endorsed by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin a measure that reduces or repeals certain motor vehicle taxes and fees and removes the authority to impose certain new fees without their approval. This decision will cost the state nearly $4.3 billion in state and local transportation revenue over the next six years.

Voters in Colorado rejected by a 55 percent to 45 percent vote a measure that would have permitted the state to retain excess tax collections in order to fund education and transportation.

The 305 measures tracked by ARTBA-TIAC is the largest number ever for an odd-numbered, off-year election. Although historically most transportation measures are put on the ballot in even-numbered years when congressional or presidential elections drive higher turnout, an increasing number of measures are being considered by voters during odd-numbered years and primary elections.

According to ARTBA, there were 57 measures in 12 states that would raise more than $20 million each, compared to 21 measures in 2017.  Of that total, 89 percent were approved.

Of 25 measures that would raise more than $100 million, voters approved 92 percent.  This included a bond measure in Harris County, Texas, to support transit expansions in Houston under the “Moving Forward Plan.”

Of the local ballot measures, most (302 of 305) were property tax increases, primarily in Ohio (154) and Michigan (15), where many municipalities consistently ask voters to renew such assessments to pay for local roads and infrastructure repairs.

Additionally, local bond measures in Texas appeared on 25 ballots and received 96 percent approval, which will generate nearly $6 billion, ARTBA says. Most of these measures established municipal utility districts.

The approved measures will support $7.7 billion in new transportation investment revenue and $1.9 billion in continued funding through tax extensions, renewals or protections. The timing of the market impact of these actions is difficult to project as revenue approved will last up to 25 years, ARTBA adds.

 

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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