Easing highway congestion—what can be done?

Updated November 15, 2019
Nobody likes being stuck in traffic, especially during the holidays. Key projects like future phases of the Interstate 80/Highway 65 Interchange Improvements Project and the Highway 65 Widening Project are vital to relieving congestion and improving safety. What’s missing is local funding. 

Decades ago the state and federal governments used to pay for about 90 percent of all major transportation projects. As money grew scarce and political priorities shifted, they started funding less and putting the responsibility on local governments to fund transportation projects.

Now, local governments must provide a large local transportation funding “match” in order to receive any state or federal project funding. A funding match through a local transportation sales tax is the primary means of local funding authorized in state law. 

As one of the largest counties in California without a local transportation sales tax, Placer County is ineligible to receive many transportation funds from the state and federal government. 

Developer Fees and Gas Taxes:

Residential, commercial and industrial developments pay fees for the transportation impact of new projects. The state constitution dictates that developer impact fees can only pay for the affects created by their new development. Fees can’t be used to pay for existing needs. Developer impact fees in the region are currently set at the highest amount allowed. Any increases would be considered an illegal tax.

While gas taxes can pay for potholes and road repairs, only a portion can be used for projects that add capacity to our roads. Also, neither property taxes nor Measure B revenues contribute to regional transportation projects like freeway widening.

Together, state and federal gas and excise taxes, and developer fees are projected to generate around $1.9 billion over the next 30 years in the Placer County region. This is far short of the $3 billion needed to improve local south Placer freeways to meet current and future demands. 

If a local transportation sales tax were generated to fill the shortfall for south Placer County projects, it would stay in the county and be managed locally. The state and federal governments could not divert these funds for other uses. 

With the recent passage of Assembly Bill 1413, south Placer cities could create a special tax district. Previously only individual cities or entire counties could pursue a transportation sales tax. An attempt to pass a county-wide transportation sales tax in 2016 failed by a small margin. However, support for the measure in south Placer was well above the needed two-thirds majority for passage.

See the plan to keep south Placer freeways moving, and other regional transportation improvements, by visiting keepplacermoving.com

Read what local leaders have to say in this Gold Country Media story. 

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