Los Angeles will vote whether to self-finance its infrastructure future

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Los Angeles voters will decide in November on a landmark plan to boost transportation investment in Los Angeles county. The measure would effectively create a permanent 1 cent sales tax solely for transportation projects by continuing a half-cent tax approved in 2008 and adding an additional half-cent next year. If it passes, the county will boast one of the largest local transportation funding streams in the country, raising an estimated $3.4 billion annually and putting Los Angeles in control of the future of its transportation system.

It may seem out of character that L.A. is on the verge of making such a large commitment to transit, but its image as a city of freeways is outdated. L.A. is one of the densest metropolitan areas in the country and has some of the worst congestion in the nation; during peak traffic, travel times were 41 percent longer than average. It results from a developmental irony: to promote is extraordinary growth, it made a sustained commitment to automobile infrastructure, effectively designing itself to produce congestion.

When L.A.’s leaders set out to design their next generation of transportation investment, they made a choice to self-fund their efforts. Los Angeles recognized it could no longer wait for massive federal investment to build the region it imagined. It saw that metropolitan areas can’t afford to delay critical investments while waiting in line for relatively small federal grants, watching while the vast majority of funding still goes directly to states.

Establishing one of the largest dedicated local funding streams for transportation would put Los Angeles in prime position to build the infrastructure of the future.

Since the passage of Measure R in 2008, Los Angeles has proven how local infrastructure financing is the best modern lever to deliver a more efficient, equitable, and sustainable economy. This year, city executives added to Measure R’s impact by launching one of the most innovative transportation and land use plans in the country. On the ballot for November, the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, would add another 38 major investments split between highway expansions and transit projects, further future-proofing the region’s transportation infrastructure.

The decision Los Angeles voters make will be an important signal for how regions intend to control their economic future, says nonprofit public policy organization the Brookings Institution.

Source: The Brookings Institution

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