Los Angeles County voters have thrown their support behind another half-cent sales tax increase to fund transit and transportation projects, with the ballot measure narrowly earning the two-thirds majority vote needed for approval.
Barring a major swing in still-uncounted provisional and questioned ballots, Measure M will add another half-cent transportation sales tax for county residents, on top of the existing half-cent Measure R sales tax already in place. When the Measure R tax expires on July 1, 2039, the Measure M tax
will increase to one cent, and remain in place permanently.
The measure is expected to generate $120 billion over the first 40 years.
Measure M required a two-thirds majority vote, and it earned about 70 percent on Tuesday.
When ballots were still being tallied Tuesday night and the measure appeared to be heading toward victory, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed optimism.
“The trend looks good,” he said. “When we wake up tomorrow, we might feel somewhat depressed about some things, some of you might feel happy about something,” but Angelenos can feel “proud” that this local measure appeared
to be headed toward passage.
“We’re getting a job done in L.A.,” he said.
Some of the dozens of upgrades proposed under Measure M, dubbed the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, include:
— the Airport Metro Connector at Los Angeles International Airport;
— extending light rail lines throughout the county;
— adding rapid transit bus lines, including along the Vermont Corridor
and Lincoln Boulevard;
— widening the Golden State (5), Santa Ana (5) and San Diego (405)
freeways and widening or adding HOV lanes to many others;
— street repairs;
— a downtown streetcar project; and
— new bike paths and lanes.
Opponents of the measure — including the mayors of Norwalk, Beverly Hills and El Segundo, claimed the tax would amount to a “blank check” for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with no accountability.
“Measure M postpones transportation projects for the blue-collar neighborhoods, but projects for affluent communities move to the front of the line,” according to a ballot argument submitted by opponents of the proposal.
“MTA has a poor record of safety and a history of prioritizing wealthy communities, violating civil rights and disenfranchising the poor and the people of color who need effective transit the most.”
But the supporters, including Garcetti, insisted the measure will result in improvements in communities throughout the county, reducing traffic delay by 15 percent a day while creating 465,000 jobs and funding street repaving and pothole repair throughout the region.
“In 2015, the average driver on L.A. freeways spent 81 hours stuck in traffic,” proponents argue. “We can stop wasting time away from our families and jobs by making smart investments in both transit and roads.”