This blog post was in large part researched and written by our Advocacy intern, Clay Volino.
SVBC urges you to vote NO on Proposition 6 on the November ballot. Proposition 6 would repeal the increase of the gas tax passed through Senate Bill 1 (SB1) in 2017 and require voter approval of all new gas and car taxes in the future. SVBC sees the importance of SB1 funding for supporting local projects and programs that align with all six of the SVBC advocacy initiatives. We join California Bicycle Coalition and other groups with similar missions to SVBC in opposing Prop. 6.
The repeal of SB1 would not only harm funding for bike projects, as we’ll discuss below, but also funding for transit and other important projects around the state. Significantly, SB1 is funding in part Caltrain electrification, the BART extention to San Jose, new BART cars and increased frequency, and express buses on Highway 101. All of these projects have an impact on the daily travels of a person biking in Silicon Valley. For a full accounting of SB1 projects in the Bay Area, check this out.
SB1 Funding Allocations that Benefit Bicycling
The most direct funding for bicycle-related projects in SB1 is an additional $100 million annually (or an 83% increase) for the Active Transportation Program (ATP), a program that specifically supports bike and pedestrian infrastructure and programs. However, other allocations of money in SB1 can also support bicycling, such as the state-local partnership program, funding distributed directly to counties and cities, and funding for public transportation. Even SB1-supported projects such as road resurfacing offer an opportunity to install bike lanes or otherwise improve conditions for people walking and biking.
Local Bike Projects Would Suffer Without SB1 Funding
Perhaps the best way to understand the wide impact that SB1 funding makes on bicycling is to examine the diverse set of projects and programs that have received the new funds.
City of San Carlos began attempting to make improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities at the currently-dangerous interchange of Holly and 101 in San Carlos almost a decade ago. In 2015, San Carlos applied for an ATP grant, but the application was unsuccessful. Thanks to the increased funding available as a result of SB1, the state has now approved an ATP grant which will cover $4.2 million of the $6.25 million bicycle and pedestrian component of the project. This funding has allowed San Carlos to move forward with this project, which will construct a high-quality pedestrian and bicycle bridge fully separate from the interchange. There will now be a safe and comfortable freeway crossing over Highway 101 where currently there is no such facility within four miles.
In Sunnyvale, the city hopes to spend over $2 million on improvements to streets as part of their Safe Routes to School program. SB1 would provide about 80% of the funding for these improvements through the ATP. Most of that funding will not be allocated until 2019 and 2020, meaning Sunnyvale’s whole project could be in jeopardy if Proposition 6 passes.
The entirety of the $500,000 cost of the Caltrain Bike Parking Program is receiving funding through the State Rail Assistance Program (another component of SB1), leaving the potential for safer and easier bicycle access to Caltrain at risk.
SB1 supports numerous other important local projects as well, including many that use dollars funneled directly to local cities and counties. Bike lanes will be added on streets in South San Francisco, Colma, Brisbane, and Menlo Park with SB1 dollars, while Woodside Elementary will complete their student pathway and Santa Clara County will make bicycle safety improvements on four rural county roads. Notably, South San Francisco will begin constructing bikeways on El Camino Real as part of the Grand Boulevard Initiative with SB1 funds.
Vote No on Prop. 6
All of these improvements to bicycle access, safety, and comfort represent only the beginning if Proposition 6 does not pass. Caltrans has already begun workshops for the next round of grants for 2019 and beyond. If Proposition 6 does pass, all of this funding will immediately disappear, and any replacement taxes would have to go through the arduous process of passing as a ballot measure. Furthermore, other sources of funding for bicycle projects might have to be redirected to maintenance and repair work that SB1 chiefly supports, further imperiling progress on improvements for bicycling. Don’t slow the progress that has been made by the state legislature and endanger important transportation projects into the future, vote no on Prop. 6.