Transportation funding ballot measures prevail coast to coast

Voters in 18 states approved a record 94 percent of state and local ballot initiatives on Election Day 2020, providing an additional $14 billion in one-time or recurring revenue for transportation improvements throughout the country. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Investment Advocacy Center finds that voters approved 303 of 322 initiatives before them on November 3—the highest rate in the 20 years the organization has tracked such ballot item outcomes.

“More than ever before, these results prove that improving transportation infrastructure is something Americans voters strongly support,” affirms ARTBA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Alison Black, citing among notable Advocacy Center findings:

  • Arkansas voters approved the renewal of a half-cent sales tax increase by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin. Originally approved in 2012, the measure is projected to raise approximately $205 million annually for state highways and $44 million annually for localities.
  • In Austin, Texas, more than two-thirds of voters endorsed a $7.1 billion transportation bond, approving it by a 67 percent to 33 percent margin. Revenue raised by the bond offering will help fund Project Connect, a transit plan anchored by two high-capacity light rail lines serving the city’s densest neighborhoods.
  • Voters in Portland, Ore., rejected a 0.75 percent payroll tax on employers that would have funded a $7 billion transportation plan comprised of safety and transit projects.

Historically, most transportation measures are placed on the ballot in even-numbered years when congressional or presidential elections drive higher turnout. This year, the impacts of Covid-19 caused several notable measures to be dropped. They included ones in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, plus Sacramento and Riverside counties, that were projected to raise over $100 billion over the next 40 years. Proponents are expected to try again in the next election cycle. California voter-approved 2020 measures will equate to $12.7 billion in new transportation investment revenue and $1.3 billion in continued funding through tax extensions, renewals or protections.

Anthony Foxx, who was approved in a 100-0 U.S. Senate vote to serve as Department of Transportation Secretary throughout President Obama’s second term (2013-2017), has joined the 11-member Martin Marietta Materials Board and its Finance Committee. A single term (2009-2013) as Charlotte, N.C. mayor propelled Foxx to national public and private sector roles. He is presently chief policy officer of vehicles for hire service provider Lyft Inc., which he joined in 2018, and advisor to CEO Logan Green. He also advises AutoTech Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that focuses on surface transportation technology, and Hyperloop One, a new transportation concept inspired by Tesla founder Elon Musk. Foxx holds undergraduate and law degrees from Davidson College and New York University.

West Virginia and six local governments have closed a case of alleged trade restraint, monopolization and attempts to monopolize markets involving 11 defendants tied to state Department of Transportation and city or county asphalt supply and paving contracts. Denying wrongdoing and avoiding protracted litigation, lead and co-defendants agreed to a $30.35 million payment to the state and local governments, plus $71 million in credits that can be applied to current payables or road work through 2027.

“The West Virginia Division of Highways is responsible for roughly 36,000 miles of roadway. Every dollar we can get will help us continue to repair and pave all of our hills and hollers,” notes WVDOT Secretary Byrd White.