Monterey Herald: Guest Commentary-“Measure X a Critical Investment”

Californians register nearly 32 million vehicles per year and drive 324 billion miles throughout the state. This puts a tremendous strain on our transportation system, which was not built to accommodate the sheer number of vehicles currently on the road. The California Department of Transportation estimates that it will need approximately $80 billion over the next ten years to address current and future needs of the state highway systems. Because California primarily relies upon the gas tax as the leading source of revenue for maintenance and repair of the state’s transportation system, there is significant funding shortfalls between what is needed and what the gas tax can supply in an era of cheap gas and more fuel efficient cars.

With escalating pressure on our roads, highways and bridges due to California’s resurging economy, securing short-and long-term funding streams to repair and expand transportation funding is badly needed. That’s why Measure X is a strategic and sensible investment in the upkeep and maintenance of Monterey County’s regional transportation needs.

Like many other regional transportation revenue efforts, Measure X will seek a modest sales tax increase-3/8-cent to yield hundreds of millions in revenue to fix roadways, improve bike lanes, fill potholes and dedicate funding to larger regional projects like improvements to the Monterey-Salinas Highway 68. Further, should Measure X pass, Monterey County will earn a “self-help” designation.

Why is this important? Because the county would be empowered to have more control over how local transportation funds are raised and expended for local priority projects. Currently, Sacrament is dead-locked in its debate about how to adequately fund transportation maintenance and repair projects. Therefore, counties that are recognizing the need for local investments and are focusing on improving their own transportation systems are taking a strong step in the right direction to keep their transit systems in good working order.

Measure X will have a local oversight board and gives residents the opportunity to hold local elected officials accountable for the transparency of how funds are spent and how projects are prioritized. Over the next 30 years, 60 percent of the revenues will be spent on local transportation projects with the remaining 40 percent earmarked for regional improvements such as road improvements to Highway 1, 101 and 156. Measure X has garnered broad and diverse support, because there appears to be a collective, recognized need to invest in transportation corridors that keep people and goods safely moving throughout the Central Coast and a reluctance to continue to rely on Sacramento. Support for the measure hails from such organizations as the Sierra Club, the Monterey County Farm Bureau and the Salinas Taxpayers Association.

Measure X will be a responsible and intelligent investment in the region’s transportation corridors upon which Monterey County residents depend every day. vote yes on Measure X, and make sure the Central Coast’s transportation system remains reliable, efficient and safe.

Assemblyman Mark Stone (D) represents Monterey Bay in the state Assembly.

Keith Higgins is President of the California Monterey Bay Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies.