I am awaking from my slumber to talk a little about the upcoming vote on Fresno County Measure C, a 30-year extension of the half-cent tax for “road and transportation improvements.”
I like transportation, clearly, and I believe it’s important to fund transportation. So this should be a sure thing right? Well, one of the reasons I started this blog was because I was upset about how Measure C money was being spent. Highway expansion, roadway expansion, and a side of more roadway expansion, like the sprawl-inducing extension of 180 deep into rural areas.
Theoretically, Measure C had a bike/ped/transit component. But in reality, it meant, at best, throwing a wider sidewalk on one side of a widening, like the new path along Veteran’s Boulevard – another roadway designed to facilitate sprawl.
Measure C didn’t improve transportation for Fresno County, it simply cemented auto-oriented sprawl. That’s a big problem, because it’s incredibly difficult to fix that.
What about the Measure C on the ballot. It’s 2022 – surely things will be different right?
You can see the spending plan here (PDF).
Or to put it simply:
The GIANT bit is “road repair,” a whole 51% of the plan. Everyone likes smooth roads, including bicyclists. However:
“Installation of new sidewalks, bike lanes, or curbs and gutters are not eligible under this Program.”
Hm. If a roadway doesn’t have sidewalks, then surely adding them is a form of repair – but not under this tax. Sidewalk repairs CAN be done, but limited to 20% of a project budget.
The second bit is “local control” which says everyone’s needs are different, and locals know best. Sounds great. But then we get to the performance indicators.
- Number of bottlenecks eliminated.
- Additional lane miles.
- Signals and other stop control devices or signage installed
Ok, not a great start…but it does go on to include
- Safety improvements including vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians.
- Miles of sidewalks built or repaired.
- Miles of high speed internet underground conduit installed. (???)
So while this section CAN include bike/ped/transit….the fact that they’re leading with more roadway widening makes me thinks that’s just what we will keep getting. Later in the report, it does say “All streets and roads constructed or improved in whole or in part with Measure C Renewal funds shall include “Complete Street” features” which is good, but it just means the new sprawl roads must have a 5-foot sidewalk. That’s a low standard.
The third section is urban and rural public transit, which would be 12%.
12% isn’t bad, and the Fresno transit agencies DO depend on this. But there’s no transit addition, just the status quo – which as we all know, isn’t great. Any of the improvements in Fresno area transit you’ve seen over the last couple of decades, like Q, came from federal funds. Incidentally, the word “rail” doesn’t appear once in the plan. The last plan did include a rail component (rail consolidation) but that was just an attempt to help cars by removing grade crossings.
Section 4 in the report is peds and bikes, or “Active Transportation”, which as the pie-chart shows, is very little – less than Administration. Also, smaller towns (under 25,000) wouldn’t get this pot. That’s a problem – small towns are inherently walkable! You can walk across Mendota in under 45 minutes!
Section 5 is “Safety Improvement and Congestion Relief,” for a nice cool billion. What does that mean? Highway expansion!
“auxiliary lanes, freeway interchange improvements, metering projects, demand management, and Smart Corridor concepts that maximize capacity of existing facilities”
You could say, most people drive, so shouldn’t most of the funding go to driving? Well, that’s a bit of chicken and egg isn’t it. If we keep building highways and such, that’s all people will do. People will never switch to transit or active transportation if it continues to be a sideshow. Transit and active transportation will never work in a sprawl environment because the distances are too far and densities too low.
Who is supporting Measure C? The California Alliance for Jobs, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, and organizations like the California Association of Realtors, which thrive on sprawl. It’s also funded by construction folks which is whatever – they want to keep their members employed.
What happens if you vote no?
The good news is – nothing!
The current version of Measure C doesn’t expire until 2027. Voting no means sending them back to the drawing board to give us a better mix of projects. The 2024 election will probably have a higher D turnout (as all presidential elections do), which is probably why they tried to sneak it in this year.
So vote no!