Sweeping Plan for Transportation Improvements Would Benefit Entire County

Published on June 24, 2016

A plan to improve area roadways to relieve both existing and future traffic and congestion and to improve public transportation is two steps closer to reality.

An effort to place a transportation sales tax on the November ballot to fund the plan got two key approvals this week, with the Placer County Board of Supervisors and the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency board both voting unanimously to support the plan. The supervisors OK'd a spending plan for the proposed transportation sales tax June 21; the planning agency board voted June 22 to support the proposal and to place it on the ballot.

The proposed half-cent transportation sales tax increase is expected to be before voters in the November election. If approved by voters, funds generated through the tax would fund highway projects, public transit expansion, local street maintenance and improvements and other projects in both suburban and rural areas.

With continued population growth throughout western Placer County, area roadways are crowded and traffic is expected to get worse. According to the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, transportation infrastructure improvements are needed in the region to accommodate current and growing population and economic needs.

Currently, the agency uses gasoline tax and federal and state funding for transportation infrastructure. Developer-paid traffic impact fees also contribute to future infrastructure needs. PCTPA estimates that over the next three decades, $3.5 billion will be needed to fund priority transportation projects. Existing funding mechanisms will only provide about $1.4 billion. The proposed tax increase would generate another $1.6 billion over 30 years.

"The effective buying power of the gas tax is about one-third of what is was in the early 90s," said Celia McAdam, PCTPA executive director, at the board of supervisors meeting June 21. "At the same time, you have vehicles that are far more efficient and you have alternative fuels vehicles that pay no gas tax whatsoever. So it becomes a declining revenue source."

The board of supervisors action is one needed step of several before the proposed sales tax increase can be put before voters. The cities of Auburn, Colfax, Lincoln, Rocklin and Roseville and the Town of Loomis have all approved the spending plan for the sales tax increase proposal that would fund transportation improvements throughout the county. With the PCTPA board's approval this week, the plan will come back to the county board of supervisors to be placed on the November ballot for voter approval.

"We have to address our transportation problems locally," said Susan Rohan, Roseville vice-mayor and current chair of PCTPA board. "I don't think we can wait for the state and federal governments to fix them for us. We can sit and complain, or we can solve the problem locally."

Over the next 30 years, PCTPA projects 70,000 new homes, 180,000 additional residents and 32 million additional square feet of commercial and office space in Placer County. The proposal would include highway and interstate improvements, with a significant amount of revenue going to local road improvements in unincorporated areas of the county. A full 3% of the tax revenues would be earmarked for improvements in the Tahoe area. Funding for improvements to bicycle and pedestrian trails would also be included.

"I believe this plan is well thought out and maximizes the use of potential funding," said District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes. "It truly includes something for everyone in Placer County, from the western suburbs to North Tahoe, and even the most rural communities that are desperately in need of help with everything from potholes to Dial-a-Ride."

An independent citizen oversight committee would also conduct annual audits and report to the public on expenditures, ensuring compliance with the voter-approved expenditure plan.

Some of the high priority projects include:

  • Interstate 80/Highway 65 interchange improvements;
  • State Route 65 widening;
  • Construction of the new Placer Parkway expressway between SR 65 and SR 70 through Placer Parkway;
  • Improvements to SR 49 through Auburn, including sidewalks;
  • Widening Baseline Road, a common alternative to Interstate 80;
  • Additional lanes on both eastbound and westbound Interstate 80;
  • Interchange upgrades along Interstate 80; and
  • Roadway repair maintenance, with funding dedicated specifically to rural county roads.

Additional projects identified for funding with the tax revenues include improvements to Capitol Corridor rail and bus transit, expanding pedestrian and bicycle trails and public transit service in the North Lake Tahoe area, as well as expanding Dial-a-Ride service for Placer's growing senior citizen population. For more on the plan and its proposed projects visit the Keep Placer Moving website.