Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Time for Tax
Measure H is Iportant to Solano's Tansit Fture

The long, unfinished road to fixing our freeways, repairing our roads, improving the safety of how we get from here to there, has led us to a familiar crossing - the ballot box.

Measure H, before voters on June 6, asks for a modest, acceptable increase in the sales tax of a half penny. During the next 30 years it will generate about $1.6 billion that we can leverage to get additional funding to unclog the arterial confluence of Interstate 80, I-680 and Highway 12, plus fix the freeway potholes, repair city streets, improve the transit system for seniors and effect some safety measures on dangerous stretches of local roadways.

We've been here before. Twice. The third time is the right time.

Measure H has so many elements there are some every one of us will find unimportant or irrelevant. But it is a plan that must encompass the myriad challenges that our transportation system - from Rio Vista to Benicia, from Vallejo to Dixon - faces in the next 30 years.

No one likes, or wants, new taxes. But this one will generate additional money guaranteed to be spent on projects here at home. Without a local source of road funds, our legislative representatives are powerless to argue for matching federal and state dollars. Every county in the greater Bay Area contributes to road fixes. And that's why there are hundreds of millions being spent in nearby counties, but very little here.

Complain all you want about how unfair the system is. Gripe about the taxes, as we certainly will. Get angry about the high price of gasoline. But that will not invoke a solution to the problem here.

We have growing gridlock on our freeways that will:

• Increase the time motorists spend on freeways, which translates into more pollution and a loss of productivity for workers who are in their cars more and on the job less;

• Restrict the ability of businesses to ship their goods and services to other regions, which translates into an anti-business black eye for Solano County; and

• Corrode the quality of life that we enjoy here, a place we moved to get away from the crowded roads of other areas.

In addition, our rural roads and state highways are not getting any better. They are, in fact, getting worse. The commute between Solano and Napa counties is one of the most dangerous around, especially at night and in bad weather. Improvements to Highway 12 are imperative.

While Vacaville and Fairfield have done well to keep their city streets in good condition, they face other issues: improving ridership on buses, increasing parking in downtown locations, providing seniors a way to get to and from appointments, and fixing troublesome intersections. Other cities need more street repairs as well. Measure H provides them funds to spend on projects that local residents deem a priority.

The righteous indignation of "no new taxes" is understandable, but misdirected at Measure H. This is a proposition that will provide money for local projects that cannot be siphoned to other uses. It provides a citizens watchdog panel to keep an eye on where funds are spent. It mandates annual audits by independent sources.

Is it the perfect solution? Of course not. Can we find fault in bits and pieces of it? Of course we can. But a flawless funding plan for such a huge undertaking as highways and transportation is probably unachievable.

The last two measures with similar goals garnered overwhelming support from voters, but did not attain the two-thirds supermajority approval that taxes require. This time is the right time to put it over the threshold.

On June 6, vote yes on Measure H. Fix the freeways and the roads for us, for our children and for our grandchildren.

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