Similar measures failed in 2006 and 2008 but this time residents of Stanislaus County decided a half-cent increase in the local sales tax was worth the price of having smoother roads and more money for new transportation projects.
The preliminary vote tally shows Measure L passing 70.58 percent, or 76,751 votes to 29.42 percent, or 31,985 votes. The measure needs a 66 percent plus one vote majority for successful passage.
As of Thursday, Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters & Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan said 51,650 vote-by-mail ballots remained to be counted. In addition to the mail ballots, over 12,700 provisional ballots and 900 miscellaneous ballots require examination. The office was closed Friday but started counting again on Monday.
Aside from the obvious fact that many local roads are crumbling and need help, Measure L's success may be owing to the detailed list of projects made public which would be funded by the new tax money. Measure L - Local Roads First Transportation Funding - was introduced by the Stanislaus Council of Government as an Expenditure Plan on how funds based on a 25-year, half-cent sales tax measure will be used to pay for countywide local street and road improvements, arterial street widening, signalization, pedestrian, bicyclist and driver safety. The plan was heavily influenced by a comprehensive public outreach program that asked residents to identify their priorities for future transportation programs and projects.
City officials have said Ceres and the eighth other cities cannot keep up with road maintenance without the infusion of new local money. Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra said the tax means "tremendous benefits for the Ceres residents as well as Stanislaus County."
Passage of the tax makes Stanislaus County a "self help" county and allows for the receipt of more state and federal highway monies.
The tax would generate an estimated $38 million per year to be shared in the county, or $960 million over the 25-year life. Half of the funds would go to cities and the county to spend on a list of road repairs. In the case of Ceres, $30.5 million would be available for local street and road repairs. It includes repairs for 135 separate roadway projects in the first five years. A list of exact streets to be fixed is detailed on the website, www.stanislaus-localroadsfirst.com under the local investments tab.
The 25-year countywide half-cent sales tax is expected to generate $480.2 million for local streets and roads, $48 million for bike and pedestrian paths, $96 million for traffic management, $269 million for regional projects and $67.2 million for transit services.
The Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) has outlined the following overall formula for the spending of the tax monies:
• 50 percent on street repairs;
• 28 percent on regional construction projects;
• 10 percent on traffic management, such as traffic signalization to improving local intersections to reduce vehicle wait time;
• 7 percent for point-to-point services, better transit connections between unincorporated areas and services in Modesto, transit and some money for van connections to the Altamont Corridor Express train station;
• 5 percent spent on pedestrian and bike path programs;
Ceres city officials are happy that the tax would steer $30.74 million for the Mitchell/Service/Highway 99 interchange and $17 million toward the county's $71.7 million Faith Home-Garner expressway connection which would ultimately divert truck traffic away from Mitchell Road.
"Both of those projects are very high on the city's priority list," said City Manager Toby Wells. "Both of them would make significant impact to our transportation corridors and improvements to Mitchell by removing truck traffic off Mitchell Road."
The tax will not entirely pay for the $123 million Mitchell-Service interchange. The rest of the funds would be derived from public facility fees, redevelopment bond proceeds and the pursuit of federal and state grants. Wells is optimistic that the tax would enable the Mitchell/Service/99 interchange to break ground in four years and be completed in 2023.
Hughson will receive $6 million over the 25-year tax life for road maintenance and fund roundabout.
It also provides $600,000 for the Safe Routes to Schools and Hatch Road multi-use trail improvements.
Modesto gets the lion's share of regional projects that would benefit all who shop and travel there. About $25 million will go toward the upgrade of the Briggsmore-Carpenter interchange; $2.6 million to widen McHenry Avenue to five lanes between Ladd and Hogue roads; $7.9 million towards construction of a new eight-lane interchange at Standiford and Highway 99 near the Vintage Faire Mall; and $74.2 million to complete the State Route 132 by constructing a four-lane expressway from Highway 99 to Gates Road. Modesto's share of local street fix money would total $171.8 million.
Oakdale would receive $18.5 million for local streets and road repair and maintenance. Funds are also allocated for immediate repairs for roads surrounding schools, hospital and downtown Oakdale and $1.85 for Safe Routes to Schools and other bike and pedestrian improvements. Oakdale would receive $1 million for intersection improvements for 108/120 at Rodeo. It also will contribute $59.7 million towards completion of the Oakdale Bypass.
The tax will help Turlock by fixing poor roads, constructing a new intersection at West Main Street and 18 new traffic signals. Turlock officials are pleased that $2.53 million would go toward the $12.7 million reconstruction of the Highway 99 interchange at Fulkerth Road.