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SB-1 Is Rebuilding the Sacramento Region

From its very beginnings to the modern day, California has always been a land of opportunity that attracted those with a pioneering spirit. Yet for all of our strength, ambition and innovation, it’s incongruous that 60% of our roads require rehabilitation and that a state that ranks as the world’s 5th largest economic powerhouse can – at the same time – rank 48th in the nation when it comes to the condition of our highways.

SB-1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, helps solve this under-investment by bringing necessary resources to rebuild California’s roads and failing infrastructure. The 12-cent gas tax increase, which went into effect in November 2017, is estimated to provide $54 billion for transportation infrastructure repairs across the state over the next 10 years. In the Sacramento region alone, our cities and counties expect to receive $1.1 billion of these funds for local repairs and improvements, with further investment going to highways, bridges, and other state-operated infrastructure that we use every day.

The state’s under-investment in infrastructure in recent decades was the inevitable result of the fact that the gas tax established in 1990 was not indexed to inflation and has not increased since 1994. In the nearly 25 years since then, the purchasing power of the funds from that tax has diminished, creating a wide gap in investment. Two other factors further stress this situation: first, increases in fuel efficiency mean that vehicles consume (and pay gas tax on) less fuel per mile driven; and second, the state’s population continues to grow, increasing use and wear on our infrastructure. SB-1 effectively addresses the shortfall created by all these factors.

Key regional projects like the Highway 50 corridor enhancements between Sacramento and Placerville, the Highway 65 Interchange in Placer County, and the City of Sacramento’s Grid 3.0 project, have all been made possible because of continued SB-1 funding. The measure also allows for investment in smaller projects that would otherwise be overlooked. Among the SB-1 projects set to benefit Woodland is a much-needed redesign of West Main Street, including new bike lanes, sidewalks, and better access to transit.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District, the region’s largest and most utilized transit service provider, providing over 90% of the ridership in the region, relies on SB-1 investment to introduce new programs, expand routes and improve services that the region’s growing population needs and deserves. The $6 million designated annually to SacRT in formula funds is already expanding the popular SmaRT Ride on-demand microtransit service and boosting frequency of light rail service.

Additionally, SB-1 makes it possible to compete and win grants by filling the funding gap. Most often the state and federal policies require a dollar for dollar local investment match. Earlier this year, Sacramento Regional Transit was awarded $84 million out of $400 million needed to modernize its light rail system, including the purchase of low-floor vehicles, double tracking of light rail line between the Sunrise and Historic Folsom stations, increasing service frequency to 15 minutes between Folsom and downtown Sacramento, and planning for peak time express trains once double-tracking is complete.

Simply put, SB-1 funding is enabling local and statewide improvements, which will enhance regional connectivity and improve quality of life for those who live, work, stay and drive in the Sacramento region. Via Proposition 6 on this year’s ballot, voters will determine whether SB-1 will continue to deliver the transit and road improvements that our communities need. Investing in expanded and innovative transportation programs that reduce road congestion, improve mobility and quality of life, and serve a growing population will allow for cities and regions to compete globally.

Bill Mueller was Chief Executive of Valley Vision.