San Jose Council debates transportation ballot measure

Last week Tuesday, the San Jose City Council reviewed several options regarding ballot measures for the coming November.   There was one option for a city ballot measure, and there were two different options for transportation ballot measures.

The city had been contemplating a sales tax ballot measure for November that would cover public safety, parks, libraries, and other local needs.

Meanwhile, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group has come forward with a proposal for a 1/4 percent transportation ballot sales tax that would raise about $3.5 billion over 30 years.  The ballot measure concept includes 50% for transit and 50% for roads.  The transit section includes about $1.3 billion for BART to Santa Clara, 500 million for Caltrain. Plus, the proposal includes ~700 million for expressways (with the highest priority being Lawrence), 300 million for expressway overpasses, ~600 million for local roads maintenance, and 100 million for bikes and pedestrian, and 50 million for transportation services for seniors and disabled people.

In response to the Silicon Valley Leadership group proposal, San Jose city staff presented an alternative proposal with less money for transit; more money for local pavement maintenance, expressways, and freeway interchanges; and a project for police and fire dispatch.  The “Santa Clara” piece of the BART project was pruned to make more room for roads and expressways; it’s not clear how much remained for Caltrain.  Sorry the chart is hard to read, it’s from the video.

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City Council members needed to weigh in on whether to continue to advance the local measure, and SJ priorities for the sales tax.   It sounded like most members were leaning toward supporting the transportation sales measure instead of the local measure proposal: Rocha was strongly in favor of the local measure and Nguyen asked questions about it.

As for priorities, two conservative members (Khamis and Constant) spoke up in favor of lower spending on transit. Other members including Liccardo, Herrera, Chu, and Kalra spoke up strongly in favor of transit investments, as did Rocha (speaking as a VTA board member) when not supporting the idea of a local measure.   Several members including Kalra, Chu, and Herrera supported both BART and Caltrain investments – which is good, because both will be needed to achieve the goals of the Diridon Plan to attract development based on the transit.

The Council will provide final comments in June; the VTA (or board of Supervisors) will need to put their stamp of approval on the content of a ballot measure in July for final submittal in August.