The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to place a transportation sales tax increase measure on the November ballot, a measure that failed by a faction of the two-thirds favorable votes it needed two years ago.
This time it might pass with Art Dao and his team at the County Transportation Commission rewriting the measure to add a "sunset" clause that will give voters a chance to vote on it again 30 years from now.
By removing an "in perpetuity" condition that was in the 2012 proposal, Dao may have enough votes to gain the two-thirds needed.
He'll certainly have the support of Mayor Jerry Thorne, whose opposition to the permanency of the tax measure two years ago, along with two others on the Pleasanton City Council, was believed to have caused the measure's defeat by a mere 721 votes out of 527,403 ballots cast.
Thorne admits that a 30-year sunset clause "is probably in perpetuity for many of us," but it's the principle that counts. He and apparently enough others just won't vote for a tax that will last forever.
Before winning last Tuesday's vote by county supervisors, Dao appeared at meetings before the Pleasanton City Council and the Alameda County Mayors Council in an effort to persuade the lawmakers to support the measure this time around.
Besides explaining the new sunset clause, he said the 2014 measure would bring millions of dollars to Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley to improve transportation. It would include $130 million to turn Highway 84 into a four-lane expressway from I-680, across Pigeon Pass and to connect to the four-lane segment now being built from Airway Boulevard near the I-580 interchange to the western end of Ruby Hill Drive and Vallecitos Road.
The measure also would provide $400 million to help fund an extension of BART to Livermore, another $1.26 million annually for local streets and roads, and $340,000 annually for local bike and pedestrian projects.
The measure would provide traffic relief, including financing to every city in the county to repave streets, fill potholes and upgrade local transportation infrastructure. Funds would also be available to expand BART, bus and commuter rail service, including BART expansion and improvements within Alameda County, bus service expansion and commuter rail service improvements.
Dao gained support this week in a new report by the Bay Area Economic Institute that details the economic impact of the 2014 transportation measure if voters approve it in November. The report finds that the 30-year, $8 billion plan will yield $20 billion in economic activity in the region and create nearly 150,000 full-time-equivalent local jobs in a wide variety of occupations, including design, construction, engineering and transit operations.
Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, summed up the views of Dao, Alameda County mayors and the supervisors the best:
"Investing in Alameda County's transportation system means investing in Alameda County's future prosperity. The 2014 Transportation Expenditure Plan outlines a bold and necessary vision with its focus on expanding and modernizing BART, fixing roads and highways, and providing transit programs for youth and seniors. This plan will help make Alameda County a place where businesses of all shapes and sizes want to start, stay and grow."