It's no secret that San Francisco leaders plan to ask voters in November to make a big investment in improving the city's transportation system. On Tuesday, they'll announce the specifics: a general obligation bond measure and an increase in the vehicle license fee designed to produce $1.5 billion over the next 15 years.
Since the mayor's transportation task force issued a report last fall placing the city's transportation infrastructure needs at $10 billion and called for a series of ballot measures to raise $3 billion, Mayor Ed Lee and a passel of other city leaders have talked openly -- and repeatedly -- about the need for the measures.
Now they're ready to start the push to get them on the ballot -- and passed.
"We've been letting our transportation infrastructure deteriorate for three decades," said Ed Reiskin, transportation director for the Municipal Transportation Agency. "It's time for us to invest."
The measures will be presented to the Board of Supervisors soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday. A website -- www.sftransportation2030.com -- has gone live, and a series of meetings in each supervisorial district will start next week and continue through June.
The city is recommending three ballot measures to create two transportation funding sources and raise about $1.5 billion. That includes a $500 million bond to fund transportation infrastructure projects, a San Francisco-only increase in the state vehicle license fee - from 0.65 percent to 2 percent - that would go into the general fund, and a companion advisory measure that would commit the license fee proceeds to transportation projects.
The bond measure, which requires eight votes from the Board of Supervisors to make the ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. The vehicle license fee also needs eight supervisorial votes to make the ballot but requires only a majority to pass in November. The advisory measure, which is not binding, needs only six votes to qualify and a majority to pass.
To qualify for the November ballot, the $500 million general obligation bond must be introduced by the Board of Supervisors by next Tuesday, with the vehicle license fee increase and the advisory measure following in the weeks to come. All of the measures face a July 22 deadline to make the ballot.
Proceeds from the ballot measures - if they pass - will be split between projects to improve Muni ($635 million), repave and maintain city streets ($625 million), and make pedestrian and bike improvements to increase safety on city thoroughfares ($296 million).
Muni plans to invest its share of the proceeds in implementing its Transit Effectiveness Project, a plan to overhaul the transit system, including improvements to make service more reliable on the 8X-Bayshore Express, 38/38L-Geary and 14/14L-Mission lines. The agency would also expand its fleet to try to increase service and reduce crowding. Money would also be spent on more transit-only lanes, better stops and updated Muni maintenance centers.
Street paving and curb ramps would be big beneficiaries of the transit tax proceeds. A 2011 bond measure that expires this year provided funds to repave thousands of city blocks. A total of 854 blocks were redone in 2013, and more than 900 are scheduled this year and next. Proceeds from the ballot measures would cover the cost of resurfacing 500 blocks a year.
"This would allow us to maintain the progress we've made with streets," Reiskin said.
Street improvements intended to increase pedestrian safety as well as provide up to 65 miles of safer bike lanes would also be funded. The bike and pedestrian improvements, which include more pedestrian signals, better lighting, wider crosswalks and efforts to slow traffic, would also be funded as part of the city's commitment to the Vision Zero project that seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.
Counting on passage
While the proposals aren't on the ballot yet, city officials are banking on passage. The MTA budget, recently approved by the agency's Board of Directors, tentatively includes funds from ballot measures. Mohammed Nuru, public works director, and Reiskin said the city has projects from street modifications and paving jobs to new bus purchases and transit improvements lined up and ready to build if voters give the go-ahead.
"As soon as the dollars are available," Reiskin said, "we can start putting the projects on the ground."
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