Transportation in Sacramento County comes from a number of sources: federal, state, regional and local. The federal government is the big player in our national and regional transportation system, but has little role in local streets and roads. The state has a large role in national and regional transportation, partly with it own money and partly as a conduit for federal money. The regional Metropolitan Planning Agency, Sacramento Area Council of Governments in our case, does not contribute any funds, but does have a say in how a portion of the federal and state funds are allocated. Sacramento County has a role in the transportation system at all levels, national, regional, and local, and contributes through the Measure A sales tax. Some cities within the county contribute to projects, and much of what little maintenance is done is funding by the cities.

Some readers are saying whoa! There is a lot more detail to the story than this. Yes, there is. What I am doing at the moment is painting with a broad brush for common citizens who might have input on the proposed Measure B sales tax for transportation.

So, where does it go?

  • Federal funds reserve 10% for transit, and almost all the rest goes to highway construction projects. Though the federal government has said it wants to see a more multi-modal transportation system, they are giving money to the states with almost no strings attached and the states are spending it on highway construction. A recent effort to hold states more accountable is toothless.
  • State funds from Proposition 1B and other sources go to construction, transit, a little maintenance, and tiny amounts to the Active Transportation Program. 75% of the money is passed through to the MPOs and regional transportation agencies, but in such a way that most of the decisions are at the regional level are for the same, mostly construction and some other. Again, the state has said it wants to see a more multi-modal system, but funding decisions still strongly favor highways.
  • Regional funds are allocated largely based on requests from the counties and cities for projects, and most of the projects requested are highway construction and arterial expansion. Again, the MPOs have said they want a more multi-modal system, but the funds continue to go largely to cars.
  • County funds are primarily from the transportation sales tax Measure A. Most of these funds were allocated to new construction, with 1/3 for transit and almost none to maintenance and walking and bicycling. The nature of the sales tax measure, approved in 1988 and updated in 2004, is a 30-year term and a list of projects that can only be significantly changed by a new ballot measure.

Here are some links on transportation funding in California:

  • Transportation Funding, Institute for Local Government, undated but may be somewhat out of date
  • Transportation Funding in California, Caltrans, 2014
  • If you search for “transportation funding California” you will find a lot more information. Please realize that some of these web sites and documents are from road building industry groups, so put just as skeptical an eye on those as you do my posts!

About Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

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