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Marin voters to decide transit tax renewal

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Marin County voters will consider renewing – for 30 years – a half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements in the county known as Measure AA, which requires two-thirds approval.

Transportation Authority of Marin Executive Director Dianne Steinhauser said Measure AA would provide funding for projects that were not included in Measure A approved by voters in 2004.

Steinhauser said:

“There was no money for the (U.S. Highway 101 widening) Sonoma-Marin Narrows project.”

Construction on the 5-mile southbound gap and 3.5-mile northbound gap in the highway project is expected to start in 2020 and be completed in 2022. The cost to widen the remaining work on the highway in Sonoma County is estimated at $100 million and $120 million in Marin County, Steinhauser said.

Measure AA money also is targeted for a direct connection between Highway 101 and Interstate Highway 580 in San Rafael, according to Steinhauser.

Steinhauser said:

“We opened a third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, but there is a stop light (for northbound drivers). We need a direct connector.”

Measure AA money also will upgrade 11 interchange projects, some of them 50 years old, Steinhauser said.

Under the Safe Routes to School Program, which serves 24,000 students in 64 schools, students depend on crossing guards, but 24 of them may lose their jobs in January. Measure AA will help keep the crossing guards employed, Steinhauser said.

Supporters say Measure AA will relieve traffic congestion on Highway 101, fix potholes and repair streets. Approval also will enable the county to get state matching funds for county projects, according to the measure’s proponents.

Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber, Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke and Congressman Jared Huffman support the measure that will provide an estimated $27 million annually.

Opponents of Measure AA include Mimi Willard, who is president of the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers. The COST Marin organization also opposes the measure. They argue the current tax does not expire until 2025, and the Transportation Authority of Marin wants to extend the tax until 2049 to avoid future voter scrutiny.

Steinhauser said the Transportation Authority of Marin’s Board of Directors will review and amend if necessary Measure AA’s expenditures and projects in the sixth year of the renewed tax with approval from county supervisors, city and town council members.

But after paying the half-cent tax since it passed 2004, opponents contend that voters have little to applaud. They call for a 10-year tax measure with a detailed expenditure plan instead.

The nonprofit Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund opposes Measure AA, president David Schonbrunn said. TRANSDEF officials said on their website that traffic congestion keeps getting worse, greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles keep rising and Measure AA does not even acknowledge there is a crisis.

According to TRANSDEF, the highway projects proposed by TAM may have an effect on localized congestion, but Measure AA will not change the increasing number of cars on the roads and traffic will get worse.

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