Measure J, a county-wide, half-percent sales tax to fund transportation improvements in San Luis Obispo County, failed by nearly 500 votes. It needed 66.67% vote to pass, but received 66.31%. The measure would have provided $225 million in funding over the course of nine years, but now the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments is having to look into other options.
According to Ron DeCarli, SLOCOG executive director, there's a $260 million need for funding for transportation projects, but the SLOCOG is currently producing $50 million in revenue. Since Measure J didn't pass, DeCarli says SLOCOG will be looking to federal and state funding, especially at AB1 and SB1.
"We still have our resources," DeCarli said. "The state will be giving us an estimate in August. We will then look at the variety of funding we have, and we have about 25 big projects that are being developed in every city, in the county and on Caltrans."
Some of those big projects include alleviating congestion along Highway 101 in Shell Beach and Highway 227, as well as repairing freeway on-ramps, off-ramps and bridge structures, like Brisco Road in Arroyo Grande. DeCarli says these projects will potentially be completed in phases due to the lack of funding. Now that an increase in funding isn't in the cards, DeCarli says the local cities will have to make decisions on what projects can be funded based on their budgets.
"All of the local interchanges being proposed in every single city will largely have to be, I anticipate, funded by themselves," says DeCarli.
DeCarli describes the failure of Measure J as a "belt tightening exercise" as SLOCOG will have to prioritize which projects they fund.
San Luis Obispo County Public Works Deputy Director Dave Flynn says the county contributes about $5 million annually to road maintenance.
"However, our need is about $9.8 million every year to be able to keep up with the maintenance of our thousand mile road system," Flynn said.
Flynn says projects, like extending the Bob Jones Trail often require supplement funding, like Measure J. Neighboring counties, like Santa Cruz and Monterey, recently passed a similar measure after more than two attempts in the past. Flynn says there was enough interest in Measure J from SLO County residents to pursue it again in the future.