The Eno Center for Transportation published an exhaustive list of ballot measures up for voting so far this year and this week on Election Day 2018. Many organizations provide issue guides at the state level, but Eno’s database includes county- and municipal-level provisions. Ballots in Maryland and Virginia feature transportation measures on November 6.
Prince George’s County Looking for $148 Million With Question A
On the bottom of their ballot, Prince George’s County voters will have to approve or disapprove of Question A. It reads:
“AN ACT enabling the County to borrow money and issue bonds in an amount not exceeding $148,287,000 to finance the design, construction, reconstruction, extension, acquisition, improvement, enlargement, alteration, renovation, relocation, rehabilitation or repair of Public Works and Transportation Facilities (including roads and bridges, parking lots, and maintenance facilities), as defined therein.”
“Unlike in Montgomery County, the Prince George’s County Charter requires that voters approve any new construction project that would require borrowing money.” That’s according to WAMU. Lots of projects and efforts get funded in PG County if they’re allowed by voters to raise this capital. In addition to that $148.3 million ask, PG County has four other Questions approving spending for development and facilities improvements.
Arlington County Seeks $75 Million in Transit Improvements
Arlington County voters will vote up or down on a $74.6 million County Bond Referendum Question:
“Shall Arlington County contract a debt and issue its general obligation bonds in the maximum principal amount of $74,570,000 to finance, together with other available funds, the cost of various capital projects for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and other transit, pedestrian, road or transportation projects?”
An explanation of the ballot measure comes from the Arlington County Board of Elections:
“This proposal will fund a variety of transportation, road, pedestrian enhancement and transit projects across the County.
1. ...$44 million for Arlington County’s share of WMATA/Metro’s capital improvement program and
2. $21 million to fund a portion of the costs for paving local streets and roadways.
3. Proceeds of this proposal are expected to fund the Boundary Channel Drive Interchange, bridge maintenance and renovation, street lights, East Falls Church Streets, Neighborhood Complete Streets, parking meters, transportation asset management, transportation systems & traffic signals, traffic calming device replacement, WALKArlington, BikeArlington, intelligent transportation system device replacement, Curb & Gutter Missing Links, and other similar projects.”
Loudoun County Needs Green Light on $153 Million for Road Projects
Ballots in Loudoun County include this “Transportation Projects” Question:
“Shall the County of Loudoun, Virginia contract a debt and issue its general obligation capital improvement bonds in the maximum principal amount of $152,585,000 to finance, in whole or in part the costs to design and construct…
1. Braddock Road (Route 659 to Royal Hunter)
2. segments of Crosstrail Boulevard
3. improvements to Evergreen Mills Road (Northstar to Stone Springs)
4. improvements to Farmwell Road (Smith Switch to Ashburn Road)
5. the costs to design and construct Intersection Improvements throughout the County
6. Prentice Drive
7. A Route 9/Route 287 Roundabout
8. Route 50 Corridor Improvements;
9. And the costs of other public road and transportation projects approved in the County’s Capital Improvement Program?”
Michigan and Ohio Have Lots of Transportation Election Questions
According to Eno,
“There are at least 314 measures on the ballot this November to go along with the 197 that have already appeared before voters earlier this year.7 Exactly two-thirds of the states (33) have had some form of a transportation measure, the vast majority of which are on the local and county level but there are also been 13 statewide measures and five regional ones.”
My home state of Michigan contributes to this glut of bond questions and ballot referenda:
“...in terms of the overall count, about two-thirds of transportation-related measures are in just two places: Michigan and Ohio. These states require certain tax questions to go before voters, therefore routine property tax measures to generate revenue for local street maintenance are numerous in Michigan in August and in Ohio in November.”
However, when you look at the amount of money sought after in these ballot questions, the Mitten and Buckeye States are small tomatoes: “those represent only three percent of the total amount of possible funding (and four percent of what was approved) prior to November 2018.”
Most of November’s Transportation Questions Raise Money for Roads
“Overall, voters considered $13 billion in transportation funding so far in 2018 and approved a little over half of that total,” Eno writes. They analyzed the share of transportation modes in 2018 ballots and, once they threw out MI and OH’s local road millages, got a decent mix of each mode. Though, roads are still primary.
So far this year, road uses made up 25 of the 44—57 percent of the transport ballot measures. Three Transit and three multimodal measures went before voters so far. 12 bike/pedestrian questions have been voted on so far in 2018.
On November 6th, 139 transportation questions go to voters. 96 are for roads—69 percent—and 15 are for rail transportation. 13 measures would deliver bike/pedestrian improvements and 9 would serve multimodal facilities.
Transportation Bonds and Tax Changes Feature Prominently on 2018 Ballots
Of the 183 non-millage measures to fund transportation, Eno finds that the “most popular in 2018 are property taxes (49), sales taxes (51), and bonds (51).” Of course, a bond is a debt that has to be paid back later, not new tax revenue for government use. Calling it revenue is imprecise, but Eno includes it because “that is the way it is presented to voters” in ballot questions. That’s true. Much of transportation infrastructure involves money-now, pay-over-decades debt. That’s a topic for another day.
“Transportation-specific user fees like tolls and vehicle registration fees are surprisingly scarce, with only one measure for each of those sources. There is one major question before voters in Missouri to raise the state’s gasoline tax and one in California to repeal a recent fuel tax increase. Voters in DuPage County, Illinois will decide whether they want to oppose the state’s decision to create a Vehicle Mileage Travelled (VMT) charge.”
“In 2018, voters will also consider other mechanisms for transportation revenue like a hotel tax in Sausalito, California, a carbon tax in Washington State, and an excise tax on recreational marijuana in Michigan.” Michigan is a garbage inferno of transportation policy and funding roads there with pot taxes is entirely in line with past and present ridiculousness.
Shoutout to Barrington, Illinois, which “wants to know if residents want it to restrict commuter parking.” In an area where parking is free and/or very cheap, charging for parking or limiting its supply is a good way to get people into most sustainable and cheaper commuting modes.