Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hayward Approves Potential County Transportation Measure For November Ballot

HAYWARD | Feb. 22, 2012 | Hayward became the latest city to bless a plan that ultimately will ask voters this November to reinstate the popular Measure B sales tax used to fund some of the Bay Area's largest and most visible transportation projects.

The Hayward City Council praised the plan put forth by the Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC) that would extend and augment the existing Measure B2, approved in 2000, with an addition half-cent increase to the local sales tax, itself a rollover from the original 1986 referendum. The council approved the proposal, 6-0, with Councilman Bill Quirk absent.

Voters in 2000 easily approved the extension, which runs through 2022, but the efficiency of approving and constructing its menu of projects proved a bit too successful. Only a few unfinished projects remain, according to the Alameda CTC, facilitating a new plan and direction along with additional tax revenue.

A potential Measure B3 would constitute the region's largest source of transportation funding, but before it can be offered for voter approval in November, a majority of Alameda County cities, along with Board of Supervisors must individually approve the plan. Some details of the proposal have come under fire by conservative groups in Eastern Alameda County who oppose the inclusion of $400 million for the initial phase of extending BART to Livermore.

The Alameda CTC says the downturn in the economy over the past four years as dried up federal and state funding and severely limits public improvement and maintenance projects for East Bay roads and bridges.

Hayward Councilman Olden Henson, a member of the Alameda CTC steering committee on the issue said, "There's nothing but positives for Hayward." Henson said some of Hayward's unsuitable roads and freeway interchanges are in dire need of repair or replacement. Being located at the center of the East Bay and a notable hub for several large trucking firms also makes sense for the city to back the proposal, he said.

Most Alameda County cities currently pay a 8.75 percent sales tax, except for San Leandro and Union City, which approved sales tax increases to 10 percent in 2010. The transportation commission's plan would increase the sales tax by a half-cent in perpetuity to 9.25 percent for most county residents.

Arthur Dao, executive director of the Alameda CTC said Tuesday night the agencies plan will mainly create needed jobs for the area. He told the council he does not have figures to back the claim and said a poll of 800 residents last year said 79 percent of respondents indicated they could support a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects. Dao said the plan also has local union support.

Part of Hayward's wish list includes improvements at the Whipple Road/Industrial Parkway interchange at Interstate 880 ($60 million) and Interstate 880 at Winton Avenue ($25 million), along with construction of a northbound off-ramp at Interstate 880 at the Industrial Parkway interchange ($14 million) and grade separation at Tennyson Road ($25 million).

The plan also includes the second phase of streetscape improvements to Dixon Road ($6 million) and a pedestrian bike bridge to the South Hayward BART station ($2 million).


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