Voters in the Bay Area’s nine counties appeared to show support for a proposal to use bridge toll hikes to raise $4.45 billion and fund infrastructure projects across the region.
Regional Measure 3 was favored with 54 percent of the vote throughout the region, according to election results posted Wednesday. The ballot measure required a majority of votes across the nine counties to be approved.
“It seems like we should pull through and get RM3 passed, the way it looks,” said Jake Mackenzie, chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “As far as we’re concerned at MTC, that’s a very good thing based on ... the broad array of projects across the whole nine Bay Area counties, with clearly some real benefits for the North Bay.”
Regional Measure 3 would institute three $1 increases on all state-run bridges in the Bay Area over the next seven years, with the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge. The first hike would take effect Jan. 1, 2019, with subsequent increases in 2022 and 2025 toward the estimated $4.45 billion mark over the next 25 years.
Passage seemed assured early Wednesday morning with 4,483 of 4,816 precincts across the nine counties reporting.
With all of Sonoma County's 405 precincts reporting, voters backed the measure by a margin of 53-to-47 percent, with 35,064 votes for and 31,348 against. Included among the local traffic relief projects for the county was $120 million toward completion of the long-awaited Marin-Sonoma Narrows Highway 101 lane-widening project.
Regional transportation officials believe the influx of cash for the three-lane roadway expansion from Petaluma to north of Novato will allow it to be completed by the end of 2023. Because of other transportation funding being used toward Sonoma County’s portion of the remaining work, most of the $120 million from RM3 will likely go to Marin County for its section.
Passage of Regional Measure 3 means $100 million toward the North Bay’s Highway 37 improvement project. The SMART train commuter line will also see $40 million for its planned Santa Rosa Airport Station-to-Windsor line, possibly with some money left over for the beginning of a proposed extension to Healdsburg.
“It’s good to see people didn’t make a rash decision by voting with their pocketbook versus what’s going to be better for how to get around the Bay Area and how our quality of life is affected long term,” said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, who plays a lead role in regional transportation. “Overall, it’s inevitable I believe — perhaps contrary to some people’s beliefs — things like tolls on bridges will go up over the course of time. It’s a matter of taking care of individual structures ... and making sure the entire system works cohesively together.”
Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, is the largest beneficiary. The public transportation system will see $500 million of the toll revenues for new cars to reduce crowding and provide more reliable service. It will get another $375 million toward its multibillion dollar, four-station expansion from San Jose to Santa Clara.
Other big-dollar projects receiving funding through RM3 include $325 million for extending the Caltrain to Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, and $300 million each for expanded ferry service and toward express lanes in several Bay Area counties. The San Francisco Bay Trail for pedestrians and cyclists will also receive $150 million.