Road and transit projects backed by voters

Gerald Marineau
(Gerald Marineau/The Washington Post)

Let’s add a note to that old saw about all politics being local. Let’s make it “all transportation politics is local.”

That was proved again in Tuesday’s election

When the pollsters head out across America, they are met with little enthusiasm when they ask people abstract questions about how they’d like to pay for transportation. Yes, some people actually know that the gasoline tax has been the main source of money for state and federal transportation, and more than a few know that gas taxes are pulling in fewer bucks in this high-mileage era. But in most polls, the number of people who would be willing to pay more taxes at the pump generally is below 50 percent. (A Washington Post poll this summer found that 48 percent of people opposed higher gas taxes.) Other options, like paying more tolls, get even less support.

But put the pothole or transportation project in a voter’s home town, and they’re willing to spend money.

On Tuesday, voters approved 91 percent of the ballot measures for highways, bridges and transit, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, which has good reason for keeping track of such things.

The association said there were 21 state and local ballot initiatives, the largest number in a decade for a year that did not include congressional races or a presidential election. The total value of the approved measures was nearly $240 million. The measures didn’t just win approval, they won it by the kind of margins that any candidate for office would envy: On average, they were approved by 67 percent of voters.

The 91 percent approval rate was than in previous years — voters approved 68 percent of similar measures in 2012, 55 percent in 2011, 61 percent in 2010, 78 percent in 2008, 77 percent in 2007, 77 percent in 2006, 83 per cent in 2005 and 76 percent in 2004.

Four of five bond initiatives were approved. Twelve ballot measures were for increasing, extending or renewing a sales tax for transportation purposes, and other measures addressed property taxes, a card room tax, and a transaction and use tax.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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Lori Aratani | November 7, 2013