The COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a severe recession and recent civil and political unrest related to social justice, has taken a heavy toll on people’s lives, on the economy and on the overall outlook of our citizenry.

Now, chalk up another setback from the virus: Measure A, a local transportation sales tax initiative that would have raised more than $8 billion over the next 40 years to help take care of our aging roadways, improve mobility in our county and stimulate the local economy.

Unfortunately, while a majority of voters surveyed in a recent poll favored the proposal, there is not enough support to meet the two-thirds approval required for a transportation sales tax proposition.

Based on the polling results, the Sacramento Transportation Authority recently withdrew a request for the board of supervisors to place the question on the November ballot. Certainly, any tax increase can be tough for voters to get behind, depending on its purpose and the mood of the public, but there is no question that Measure A was swamped by the current negative tides.

As a result, we have lost:

The ability to help address the billions of dollars in transportation needs across the county.

An additional $50 million a year for fixing local streets and roads.

The opportunity to enhance transit service and reduce congestion.

Additional funding for safe routes to school.

Increased transportation opportunities for seniors and the disabled.

More bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Freeway and interchange improvements, and money to complete the connector road between I-5 and Highway 50.

Improved air quality and associated environmental mitigations.

We have also lost the ability to leverage billions of additional dollars in state and federal funding, as well as the potential for economic stimulus and job creation at a time when these benefits are needed most.

What’s next?

The public’s focus today is understandably on other issues, but given the state of our transportation network here in Sacramento County, it is likely that another funding measure will be proposed within a few years. We cannot effectively move our residents to work, school or recreation without additional investment in our infrastructure.

We can’t compete economically with other regions in the state or the nation without improved mobility for people and goods. We can’t adequately maintain or rehabilitate a deteriorating transportation system without additional financial resources.

We can, however, work together in the interim to develop the best possible plan for investing in our future and to involve community leaders and elected officials in a united effort to make the case that taking this action is imperative for the county’s economy and quality of life.

Will Kempton is Executive Director of the Sacramento Transportation Authority.

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