Nearly 35 million Americans were estimated to have traveled at least 50 miles from home over Labor Day weekend, and for Alameda County residents, the trip home will get worse each year if we don't continue to invest in our transportation systems.
Alameda County voters are facing an important decision: Will we lose good job opportunities, worsen traffic conditions and increase the cost of transit services, or will we commit as a community to make critical repairs and improvements to our transportation system that will benefit Alameda County residents over the next 30 years and beyond?
While this should be an easy decision, it's far from certain and every vote will be critical. At least two-thirds of voters in Alameda County must approve Measure B on the Nov. 4 general election ballot to continue moving our transportation systems forward.
I have been deeply involved in Bay Area transportation for the past 30 years and have seen firsthand the opportunities and challenges with funding transportation improvements. In 2012, we fell short of passing a similar measure in Alameda County by just over 700 votes, and we may not have another chance to get this right.
Your vote can make the difference this time.
Measure BB, if approved, will provide nearly $8 billion over 30 years for essential transportation improvements in every city throughout Alameda County. According to the Bay Area Council, the measure would generate $20 billion in total economic activity in the Bay Area and 150,000 full-time equivalent jobs by extending and augmenting the existing half-cent transportation sales tax.
Measure BB funds will be used to implement the 2014 Transportation Expenditure Plan, which is supported by every city in Alameda County, the Alameda County Taxpayers Association, California Alliance for Jobs, and United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County. If authorized, the measure will support BART, bus, highway improvements, commuter rail and increased options for bicycles and pedestrians.
Overall, the sales tax dollars will increase reliability, improve safety; keep fares affordable for seniors, youth and people with disabilities; reduce traffic congestion; improve air quality; and create good jobs within Alameda County.
This would be welcome news, especially considering that Alameda County's population is projected to grow by more than 30 percent by 2040 and the senior population is expected to double.
Without new funding, the quality of life for residents will worsen -- whether traveling by car, bus, BART, bicycle or on foot. Measure BB will improve these conditions as well as support local street repairs and fixing potholes.
In 2000, voters approved a sales tax measure that has been crucial in improving our local transportation system. The Alameda County Transportation Commission has responsibly managed public funds and has an exceptional track record of successful project delivery.
Measure BB funds will be spent exclusively on essential projects and programs to fill in the gaps created by declining state and federal revenue, keep needed services in place and restore service cuts through 2045.
Our residents played a large part in developing this plan, but without support of voters at the polls, our transportation systems will fail to continue meeting the needs of our growing community. No more excuses. Let's support an environmentally sustainable future, transforming our transportation network over the next 30 years, while supporting jobs as our local economy continues to recover.
Darlene K. Gee is vice president/Northern California district leader of HNTB, based in Oakland.