Transportation investment wins big in November elections

News ARTBA November 11, 2005
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Voters across the country sent a clear message of support for transportation investment during Tuesday’s elections, despite high gasoline prices. Ballot initiatives that will provide new funds for transportation improvements were approved in several states.

In one of the most closely watched transportation-related decisions, Washington voters rejected 53% to 47% a proposal to repeal that state’s recently enacted 9.5-cents per gallon gasoline tax. The Washington state legislature enacted the increase, which will be phased in over four years, earlier this year to help finance an $8.5 billion 16-year transportation improvement plan.

In other state-wide transportation initiatives:

Maine voters approved 67% to 33% a $33.1 million bond proposal to improve highways, bridges, airports, transit and waterway facilities.

Fifty-five percent of those voting in New York approved a $2.9 billion bond initiative to finance transportation improvements.

Fifty-four percent of those who went to the polls in Ohio approved a bond initiative that will provide $1.35 billion for roads, bridges and other infrastructure improvements.

Texas voters by a margin of 54% to 46% approved creating a rail relocation and improvement fund to rehabilitate and expand the state’s passenger and freight rail infrastructure.

In Colorado, 51% of those going to the polls rejected a $2.1 billion bond initiative to fund roadway improvements. Colorado voters, however, approved a separate measure 52% to 48% that will suspend the state’s spending limits to allow the state to keep $3.7 billion over the next five years. Under the spending limits, those funds would have been required to be returned to taxpayers. Transportation improvements are expected to receive a significant portion of the revenues. (The Colorado election was held November 1.)

Virginia voters elected Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine (D) to be the state’s next governor despite a high profile ad campaign by his opponent that, among other things, claimed Kaine would increase the state’s gas tax. Transportation played a significant role in the race on both sides. Following his election, Kaine announced he would hold a series of town hall meetings that will focus on addressing the state’s transportation challenges.

This marks the second straight election that voters have signaled their support for boosting transportation investment. Of the 55 measures on the ballot in 2004, 46—more than 80%—asked voters to initiate, extend or increase taxes to fund transportation improvements. Thirty-six—78% of the bond and tax measures—were approved.

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