New Draft Spending Plan Increases Highway Dollars

Yesterday, the Bottleneck Blog reported on the breakdown of highway expenditures that Metro is proposing if the proposed half cent sales tax increase is successful in this fall’s election. Snoble was most likely trying to counter some of the spin coming out of the San Gabriel Valley that they are getting less than their fare share of the sales tax dollars. In addition to funds for the Gold Line extension to Azusa, the San Gabriel Valley will also see a $1.7 billion investment in expanding its highway system.

But for transportation reformers, the news was bad. If Metro moves forward with this new budget, the amount spent on highway projects will be increased from 15% to 20% of the entire tax. Presumably the money will come from the "Local Return" budget line, further reducing the amount of funds available for bicycle and pedestrian projects. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no discussion of setting aside any of the budget for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

To read the full text of Snoble’s letter, read on after the jump. For a breakdown of the highway expenditures by region, check out the Bottleneck Blog.

Attached is a draft proposal for the highway portion of the new sales tax developed in response to the subregional equity concerns raised after the "discussion draft" Expenditure Plan was released on June 26, 2008. Overall, the new draft highway proposal assumes that 20% ofthe proposed new sales tax, as opposed to 15%, will be available for highway projects. The proposed highway program places a high priority on a geographic balance. As I indicated in my correspondence earlier today, we understand that you will ultimately require the transit capital projects to gain a complete picture of the geographic balance we are to recommend, but I cannot yet release that information due to the sensitivity ofthe negotiations now underway.

Subregional areas whose percentage share of the project specific portions ofthe sales tax that would be less than their population and employment burdens were granted a heavier highway investment to compensate for the potential geographic inequity. To develop the proposal, Metro staff relied upon comments made by Councils of Government in response to the draft 2008 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), particularly those comments pertaining to projects included in the strategic or unfunded portion of the LRTP.

With a couple of exceptions for grade separation and interchange projects, the geographic focus ofthe proposal means that many highway projects will require substantial additional investment from other fund sources, such as public private partnerships, state, and/or federal funds. In many cases, the new sales tax funds would be used to develop the environmental and design portions of the projects.

Per AB 2321 (Feuer), the proposed highway expenditure plan also reflects mandatory sales tax funds for projects that already have full funding from Metro’s draft 2008 Long Range Transportation Plan. For this set ofprojects, subregional areas can expect to receive a like commitment offunds for alternative projects as required by AB 2321. We understand that a consensus sales tax proposal is crucial to our ultimate success and we look forward to engaging in a full discussion ofthe proposed sales tax soon.