Over the past year San Luis Obispo County has learned that $106.5 million from the California Transportation Commission, earmarked for countywide transportation funding, would be pulled, or delayed, creating a $225 million funding gap through 2025, according to San Luis Obispo Council of Governments staff.
With that in mind, SLOCOG started work to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot that would specifically fund local transportation projects and effectively make San Luis Obispo County a Self-Help County.
What does it mean to be a Self-Help County:
- All the monies raised by the sales tax will stay in the county to be used only for local projects, prohibiting the state from commandeering any of the funds raised; it will also allow the county to compete for State and Federal grants and other funding avenues.
- To date there are 20 Self-Help Counties in California, serving 84 percent of the population, or 33 million of the 39 million residents, that raise an estimated $4.5 billion in annual revenue.
- If approved by a two-thirds super majority countywide, the sales tax would support a Transportation Investment Plan to fund local and regional transportation priorities and be overseen by specific accountability measures that include an independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee that would provide guidance for how and where the monies are being spent.
- Annual audits and the creation of a Transportation Trust Fund are also required.
- The tax will sunset after nine years and would generate an estimated $25 million annually, with more than half contributed by non-residents.
- $225 million would be generated over the nine years and would be put towards funding transit, highway, freight, bicycle, pedestrian and other transportation infrastructure projects.
A specific investment plan has been in the works for months and has included public and stakeholder input and agreements. The planned use of the $225 million projected so far includes:
$123.8 million, 55 percent of the total, is planned to be distributed amongst local cities and towns in the county and are scheduled to mainly be used for street maintenance, repair and projects, bike and pedestrian improvements and Safe Routes to School.
- $22.5 million, 10 percent of the total, is planned to be used for public transportation improvements, including increased investment in senior and veteran transportation options, preserving and increasing routes and frequency of bus service, etc.
- $22.5 million, 10 percent of the total, for bike and pedestrian connectors and improvement programs, including Highway 1 bike and pedestrian improvements between Pismo Beach and Oceano, Bob Jones trail connector between SLO and Avila Beach, bikeway connector between Atascadero and Templeton, Morro Bay to Cayucos pathway, etc.
- $56 million to go towards major regional highway and roadway projects including: Highway 101 congestion relief in Shell Beach/Pismo Beach, as well as improvements to Highway 227 south of San Luis Obispo and Highways 101 and 46 in North County.
The SLO Chamber will continue to be part of this process and will work to keep our members updated throughout.
SLOCOG is the regional agency in charge of planning and program funding for San Luis Obispo County’s transportation needs. For more information, visit www.selfhelpslo.org