2016 Election: Voters Approved Most Road Funding Measures

November 10, 2016 by Tiffany Hsu, @tiffkhsu

Traffic-weary voters overwhelmingly passed measures to fund road and highway repairs and construction, according to an analysis of 2016 election returns.

Some 69 percent of 280 transportation funding ballot measures up for vote in 34 states Tuesday were approved, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center.

The successful ballot measures — which prevailed in 23 states — will provide $201 billion in new revenue and funding extensions for local and state road and transportation projects.

In California alone, 15 of 26 measures worth $133 billion were approved, including a 1-cent sales tax in Los Angeles that would funnel $120 billion over 40 years into local infrastructure projects. The state’s roads are regularly called out as being among the worst maintained in the nation.

California, as well as many other states, requires at least a two-thirds majority for a ballot measure to succeed — ARTBA noted that 10 of the failed measures in the state collected more than half of the vote, but failed because they did not pass the required threshold.

Illinois and New Jersey passed so-called lockbox measures to prevent state legislators from rerouting revenues from transportation user fees to non-transportation users. In Georgia, a collection of measures to raise more than $3 billion for road and transit projects in the Atlanta metropolitan area using local sales tax increases were approved.

Overall this year, voters nationwide have cleared 74 percent of transportation ballot initiatives, compared 77 percent during the 2012 presidential election and 76 percent during the 2008 races, according to ARTBA

The U.S. needs to devote an additional $740 billion to infrastructure spending to fix decaying highways, roads and bridges, according to a report this week from national transportation research group TRIP.

Local and state governments are struggling to produce the funds, even as traffic levels surge.

Commercial truck travel, for example, rose 26 percent between 2000 and 2014 and is expected to soar 72 percent between 2015 and 2030, according to the group.

Currently a five-year transportation funding bill called the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST Act provides $305 billion in transportation funding. And incoming transportation-minded representatives and senators — many of whom are current incumbents who worked on FAST — appear to be readying themselves for more of the same.

New president-elect Donald Trump also spent the election season making vague promises to ramp up infrastructure spending to some $1 trillion over ten years.

“He’s talking in broad parameters,” said Matt Jeanneret, spokesman for the ARTBA. “The specifics of how you pay for it, that’s part of the legislative policy-making process.”

In his victory address early Wednesday, Trump pledged to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals.”

“We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it,” he said.

The quick call-out caught the transportation industry’s attention.

“We were heartened last night to hear Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, where one of the first things he talked about was infrastructure,” Jeanneret said. “Now it’s going to be his job to make the Republican leadership in the House and Senate make it their priority to have that happen early in 2017.”

Jeanneret noted that a potential way to set the tone for the administration from the get-go would be to push for infrastructure legislation with bipartisan backing.

“Any time you want to move a major piece of legislation, it’s going to be hard,” he said. “But we’re cautiously optimistic about it.”

Related: Infrastructure Spending: A Rare Point of Agreement for Trump and Clinton

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