#ShowUsYourMailers: How Much Money In Measure A Would Repair Roads?
Supporters of Measure A have a long list of benefits the half-cent sales tax increase would bring to San Diego County. The funded campaign in favor of the measure has produced cutesy videos with talking potholes and developed a smartphone app to show where infrastructure improvements could occur.
The central issue the campaign emphasizes is road repair. A glossy three-page mailer sent out recently says: "Measure A provides $4.3 billion in the region to repair roads and fill potholes for every community."
The claim is somewhat misleading. The $4.3 billion refers to a portion of Measure A's expenditure plan that would go to local governments to repair infrastructure. The money would be collected over 40 years, and would be spread out across each city and the county's unincorporated areas according to population size.
Given the poor condition of roads in San Diego County and the immense popularity of repairing them, it's highly likely cities would use a significant portion of their local dollars for road repair. But they could also use the money for a number of other things, including watershed management, beach sand replenishment, habitat conservation, public transit operations and projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Local infrastructure makes up 24 percent of the overall revenue Measure A would generate. The city of San Diego would get $29.6 million in the tax's first year. Given that San Diego's infrastructure deficit is $1.4 billion over the next five years, Measure A could pay for roughly a tenth of that backlog.
The mailer also says Measure A "provides state-of-the-art treatment of freeway runoff and storm drains to protect our streams, waterways and beaches."
Charles "Muggs" Stoll, SANDAG's director of land use and transportation planning, said the measure's legal framework requires all transportation projects to include measures to improve the area's water quality. These could include more modern storm drainage systems connected to roads and freeways.
There are, however, two caveats to this requirement. These "state-of-the-art" water quality improvements could be skipped if SANDAG deems them infeasible, or if their benefit is excessively outweighed by their cost. Anyone who disagrees would likely have to sue SANDAG to enforce this section of the measure.
The most questionable claim the mailer makes is that Measure A would "reduce freeway traffic and curb auto emissions." Measure A would expand several freeways across the county. It also attempts to make public transit more competitive with cars by increasing the frequency of existing bus and trolley routes and adding several more rapid bus routes and a new trolley line.
But the extent to which these measures will actually reduce freeway congestion is debatable. Research shows freeway expansions do not relieve congestion in the long term. Rather, the temporary congestion relief encourages more people to drive on the freeways in a phenomenon called "induced demand."
It's unclear how much the improvements to public transit would actually convince people to ditch their cars. But SANDAG's own analysis of its regional transportation plan, which laid the foundation for Measure A, expects the share of car-less commuters to grow 3.6 percentage points over the next 20 years.