Essay: The pandemic doesn’t end the need for better transportation
By Glenda Marsh
As we deal with the setbacks from COVID-19 and search the horizon for opportunities to recover both socially and economically, there is one opportunity that lies directly in front of us: The half-cent sales tax measure proposed by the Sacramento Transportation Authority to generate revenue for fixing our roads, making our streets safer for all, and modernizing our mass transit and rail system.
In fact, the projects in the proposed measure’s $8.4 billion expenditure plan over 40 years are well suited to support jobs recovery, space for physical distancing and affordable transportation.
The COVID-19 pandemic should not dissuade local elected officials from acting on transportation improvements because the long-term challenges we face—protecting our climate and cleaning our air, expanding good-paying jobs and affordable housing, fixing and modernizing our transportation, helping our neighbors in need—did not go away and must still be addressed.
These challenges affect every person and business in Sacramento County. Our region’s population and transportation demands will continue to grow; the need will increase to move people and goods safely and efficiently. The measure would position Sacramento County to take advantage of federal and state dollars that could provide up to two-thirds of the cost of some of the transportation projects included in the expenditure plan.
A hallmark of the COVID-19 recovery in Sacramento County will be intense engagement with businesses and residents about how to use public funds to come back stronger, fairer and more resilient. In fact, the expenditure plan has already undergone more than a year of rigorous public engagement that included a broad range of community stakeholders, producing a plan that aims to improve every aspect of our transportation system’s performance, usefulness and state of repair.
“The COVID-19 pandemic should not dissuade local elected officials from acting on transportation improvements because the long-term challenges we face…did not go away and must still be addressed.”
Americans are “can-do”’ people, and we want to heal and close the health, aging, safety, infrastructure and family security gaps that have been so starkly revealed by COVID-19. This measure gives us an “in it for the long haul” way to make those gap-closing investments.
Once the Sacramento Transportation Authority board votes on Thursday, it will be up to the county Board of Supervisors to decide whether to put the measure on the November ballot.
All seven city councils in the county have already voted to advance the measure and give all county voters the opportunity to weigh in on our transportation system coming out better and stronger in the future. I hope the majority of the five county supervisors will do likewise.
Unfortunately, Supervisor Sue Frost is doing everything in her power to whip folks in her district into an anti-recovery, anti-tax frenzy. Her group’s aim is to intimidate the other four supervisors from even putting the measure on the ballot, thus depriving every voter in Sacramento County from weighing in on how fixing our transportation infrastructure can speed and support our economic and social recovery.
We urge the rest of the supervisors to reject this anti-democratic approach and instead let voters decide if this measure is the right approach to building a brighter future. That opportunity has not disappeared, and neither should our confidence to seek it. I’m sure no one in the county wants to be left by the side of the road, given the choice.