Last November, American voters signaled the importance of transportation by approving 68 percent of the ballot measures to increase or extend funding for, bridges and transit, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), based in Washington. The association tracked 31 measures — five statewide and 26 local initiatives.
Seven bond initiatives were approved as well as 18 measures for increasing, extending or renewing a sales tax for transportation purposes, including two for property tax extensions and one for a local gas tax. The total value approved was $2.4 billion.
The results were consistent with previous elections, according to ARTBA. In 2010, voters approved 61 percent of similar measures, 78 percent in 2008, 77 percent in 2006 and 76 percent in 2004. "The results show the American people are looking for solutions to address their transportation challenges and are willing to pay more if they know the revenue generated will be used for its intended purpose," says ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black, who compiled the list.
Three of the four statewide measures to raise additional transportation funds passed with an average approval rate of 63 percent. Arkansas voters approved a one-half cent increase in the state sales tax to cover a $1.3 billion bond issue for roads and bridges. The temporary sales and use tax will help fund improvements for state highways and bridges, county roads, city streets and other surface transportation. Alaska voters approved a bond issue of $453.5 million for transportation.
Although a majority of voters (65 percent) in Los Angeles, Calif., supported Measure J, which would have extended the 30-year one-half sales tax passed in 2008 for an additional 30 years, the ballot initiative needed a 66 percent super majority for approval. The current sales tax measure is set to expire in 2039.
Three ballot initiatives did not specifically ask voters to increase funding for roads, bridges or transit, but they did address transportation issues. Voters in Michigan opened a path to one of the largest bridge projects in the nation by rejecting an initiative that would have required a statewide referendum before building an international crossing to Canada. The cost of the project is estimated to be $1 billion.
A copy of ARTBA's ballot initiative reports from the past elections can be found in "current issues" of the "government affairs" section of www.artba.org.
- Read the main story, "2013 Market outlook: Roads and transportation," to learn why, even with MAP-21 funds, only modest construction growth is expected.
Alison Premo Black is ARTBA's Chief Economist. The forecast uses an ARTBA econometric model that takes into account a number of economic variables at the federal, state and local level. It is measuring the public and private value of construction put in place, published by the U.S. Census Bureau. The ARTBA estimate of the private driveway and parking lot construction market is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's "Economic Business Census." For more information, visit www.artba.org.