Measure J, a countywide half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements in San Luis Obispo County, failed by just 500 votes. It needed 66.67% votes 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 (SLOCOG) is having to look into other options.
According to Ron DeCarli, SLOCOG executive director, there is 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.
DeCarli describes the failure of Measure J as a “belt tightening exercise” as SLOCOG will have to prioritize which projects they fund. “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,” he said.
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. 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 own budgets. “All of the local interchanges being proposed in every single city will largely have to be, I anticipate, funded by themselves,” said DeCarli.
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 Bike Trail in Avila Beach, often require supplement funding, like Measure J. Flynn says there was enough interest in Measure J from SLO County residents to pursue it again in the future.