A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will allow Los Angeles County transportation officials to seek a sales tax increase in 2016 that could raise as much as $120 billion for local roads, freeways and mass transit.

If the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decides to pursue a ballot measure, voters would probably be asked to raise the county’s overall sales tax rate to 9.5%. The measure would need a two-thirds majority to pass.

The electorate has approved raising taxes three times to pay for transportation projects. The most recent levy, known as Measure R, provided much of the funding for new rail lines to Santa Monica and Azusa and a subway beneath Wilshire Boulevard. Extending Measure R for nearly two more decades, and adding a new sales tax with a lifespan of at least 40 years, could raise $120 billion in new revenue, according to agency projections.

A recent poll funded by Metro suggests that more than two-thirds of county residents would support such a measure. Nearly two-thirds of poll respondents said improvements to streets or freeways were their top priority. About one-fourth preferred light-rail and bus projects. Among the projects studied by Metro that could be included in such a ballot measure are: a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass; a subway extension to Santa Monica; rail connections to LAX and Mid-City; and a San Fernando Valley rail line. The project list will be finalized in six to nine months.

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