Alameda County voters will decide Nov. 2 whether to pay an extra $10 in their vehicle registration fee to fix potholes and fight traffic gridlock.
The Alameda County Congestion Management Agency board — a panel of elected city, county and transit district officials — has decided to ask voters whether they would pay the fee to fund road maintenance, countywide measures to unsnarl traffic congestion, and improve public transit and pedestrian and bicycling routes.
The ballot measure, which needs a simple majority vote to pass, would raise about $11 million per year from the 1.1 million vehicles in Alameda County.
Transportation officials said they need a new stable money source to help improve the poor condition of city and county roads hurt by declining state assistance and shrinking tax revenues during the recession.
"The bulk of the money from this measure is going to go into local roads," said Mark Green, Union City mayor and chairman of the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency board, which voted last month to go the ballot. "This will be a local source of revenue that cannot be raided by the state."
Despite the political risk in seeking voter approval for higher fees in economic hard times, many Bay Area counties are considering similar ballot measures. Santa Clara and San Mateo counties already have approved ballot measures. The Contra Costa Transportation Authority will decide Wednesday night whether to
Polls in the various counties suggest that voters are so fed up with potholes and damaged streets that they are willing to consider paying a local fee for local roads in a state where roads persistently rank in poor or barely average condition.
In Alameda County, 60 percent of the fee would be spent on city and county roads.
Twenty-five percent would be spent on congestion relief measures such as express buses, transit passes for students and workers, and park and ride lots or rail station improvements.
Another 10 percent would go toward technology improvements such as traffic signal connection and commuter information systems, said Dennis Fay, the congestion agency's executive director.
Five percent would be spent on crosswalks, sidewalk, lighting and other improvements to make bicycle and pedestrian travel faster and safer.
A state law signed by the governor in October empowers county congestion agencies to sponsor the ballot measures.
Transit officials said leaders of anti-tax groups have hinted they might challenge the fees as a disguised form of tax requiring a two-thirds voter approval.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Read the Capricious Commuter blog at www.ibabuzz.com/transportation.
For information about the vehicle registration fee ballot measure in Alameda County, go to www.alamedacountyvrf.org.