Marin Independent Journal Opinion Editorial: SB 1 Is A Solid Plan For Marin’s Transportation Needs

April 5, 2017
By Damon Connolly and Stephanie Moulton-Peters

Traffic and transportation needs are at the front of many of our minds in Marin. Municipalities and agencies across the county are constantly examining how they can make the worthy investments needed in our roads and transportation infrastructure.

At the state level, California is overdue in addressing our local roads, highways and bridges, and state funding reductions have drastically impacted local road maintenance programs.

That’s why we are thanking state Sen. Mike McGuire for coauthoring Senate Bill 1.

Our local needs in Marin County are well-known and well-documented. The condition of our overall road network in the unincorporated county territory rates as 65 out of 100, based on the “Pavement Condition Index.” It is estimated that it would take $91.9 million — our deferred maintenance backlog — to bring our roads up to a rating of 85 out of 100.

To further illustrate our unique local need, unincorporated Marin County has 55 bridges with spans longer than 20 feet, many of which were built in the 1920s or 1930s, and are in need of retrofit or replacement. These figures address the county roads system, but our cities and towns find themselves in a similar scenario with local infrastructure.

How did we get here? The state gasoline tax is the main source of funding for maintaining our streets and roads. The rate of the state gasoline tax has been unchanged since 1994, and between inflation and advancements in fuel efficiency, the result is that this measure yields about 50 percent of the revenue it once did.

We depend upon our highways and roads every day to get to work, to get our kids to school, and to live our daily lives. There is no way to keep our local road systems in good repair without investing in maintenance, repairs and upgrades.

The plan announced recently by the governor and several key legislators, including McGuire, offers the means to make the investments needed to maintain a safe and reliable local transportation network.

SB 1 makes substantial investments that are specifically dedicated to our cities and towns. Between the county itself and our 11 municipalities, the plan will generate close to $100 million of new revenue over 10 years dedicated to local needs: repairing streets, overpasses and bridges, improving road safety and filling potholes. Our cities and towns would receive $4.4 million per year, and an additional $5.4 million would go to the county for road repair.

The plan also provides $1.5 billion in statewide funding for highway repairs, and Marin will receive its fair share.

SB 1 will also provide meaningful support for Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit bus services, along with our local “Active Transportation Program” that aims to increase the use of active modes of transportation — all of which serves to further our goals around reducing carbon emissions.

In addition to new revenues, SB 1 contains mandatory accountability requirements, including regular audits and oversight by the new Office of the Transportation Inspector General. It also mandates strict constitutional protections to guarantee the money is spent only on transportation projects.

The cost of SB 1 to the average driver is projected to be about $10 per month. This is a reasonable and needed level of investment towards repairing our damaged roads, highways and bridges, and taking a more sustainable approach to improving the local transportation network that we rely on daily.

While we’re confident that the governor and legislators will improve the bill to address important environmental concerns, these investments in our roads and transportation infrastructure are vitally needed — and long overdue.

We hope all of our local legislators will take this to heart and work with the governor and the bill’s authors to support smart and sustainable public investment in our future.

Damon Connolly of Terra Linda is a Marin County supervisor. He also represents Marin on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Mill Valley Councilwoman Stephanie Moulton-Peters is chair of the Transportation Authority of Marin.