Measure seeks to raise revenue for Alameda County transportation improvements

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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In November, voters will decide the outcome of Measure BB, which would increase the county sales tax by 0.5 percent in order to raise revenue for Alameda County transportation improvements.

If approved, Measure BB would secure the sales tax for 30 years with revenue allocated to transportation groups such as BART and AC Transit in order to modernize and improve transportation options within the county.

The earlier version of the current iteration of Measure BB was authorized in 1986 as Measure B. The measure was passed and introduced a 0.5-percent sales-tax increase to improve highways and fund public transportation, among other things. In 2000, the measure was renewed and updated with no major changes and will expire in 2022.

The 2014 measure extends the 0.5-percent increase until 2045 and adds another 0.5-percent increase, totaling to a 1-percent increase. The proposed increase would result in a reported $7.8 billion, according to the 2014 Transportation Expenditure Plan for the county.

The plan outlines where the tax revenue would be funneled, with 48 percent allocated for improving public transportation, including planning for a controversial BART extension to Livermore. 30 percent of the revenue would be dedicated to local street maintenance and safety, 9 percent to highway-traffic relief, 8 percent to bicycle and pedestrian safety and paths, 4 percent to community development investments and 1 percent to technology.

Jerry Cauthen, a transportation engineering consultant and volunteer for the Bay Area Transportation Working Group, said he does not support the measure because the plan fails to set concrete, reliable goals.

Community groups supporting the measure, however, emphasize the importance of improving and expanding access to public transportation in Alameda County.

According to BART spokesperson Jim Allison, nine BART board members support the measure because the revenue would be a source dedicated to transportation projects, such as extending the BART route to Livermore.

“As the county continues to grow — as traffic gets worse — it is only natural to look to public transportation to alleviate transportation problems,” Allison said. “Supporters feel that it is important to have a 30-year plan for funding.”

But Chris Pareja, candidate for Livermore City Council, views the measure as a regressive tax that would give each city in the county specific but meaningless investments.

If passed, Measure BB would also continue to invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

“Berkeley used Measure B money for bicycle boulevards which provide a safe crossing to a busy street,” said Dave Campbell, program director of Bike East Bay. “Even a parent with a kid feels comfortable. If cyclists think it is safer, they are more likely to ride.”

Measure BB is set to be decided Nov. 4.

Contact Sierra Stalcup at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SierraStalcup.