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11/8/2012


Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
Pro-transit initiatives passed in a majority of local ballots on Tuesday



Voters on Tuesday passed a number of local transportation-funding ballot initiatives, some of which affected transit and rail-related projects and proposals.

The favorable results included a referendum in Virginia Beach, Va., which asked voters whether city officials should pursue financing and development options for extending Norfolk's The Tide light-rail service into Virginia Beach. About 62 percent of voters supported the measure.

In Arlington, Va., about 80 percent of voters approved a $31.9 million bond measure that would support capital projects for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and other transit, pedestrian, road or transportation projects.

However, in Los Angeles County, voters rejected a sales tax extension to Measure R, first approved in 2008, which would have extended the measure's expiration date from 2039 to 2069 in order to provide more guaranteed revenue to complete projects more quickly. The measure failed to garner more than two-thirds of the vote needed to pass.

Despite the rejection, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) "remains focused on delivering a dozen new transit projects and 15 new highway projects" that voters approved in 2008, said LACMTA Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy in a prepared statement.

"In fact, within two years, [LACMTA] should be overseeing simultaneous construction of five major rail projects," he said. Also, the Measure R transit sales tax for transit continues until 2039, so LACMTA directors have the option of asking voters in the future if they want to extend the program, Leahy added.

The five LACMTA projects are the Expo Line Phase 2 and Gold Line Foothill Extension, both of which are under construction, and the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Regional Connector and Westside Subway Extension that are preparing for construction, agency officials said.

Overall, voters approved pro-transit ballot measures in 13 of 19 local public-transit-related ballot initiatives on Tuesday, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Adding Tuesday's results to transit ballot initiatives passed earlier this year, 46 out of 58 pro-transit measures have passed in 2012 at a rate of 79 percent, APTA officials said in a prepared statement.

The numbers reflect a long-term trend: Since 2000, more than 70 percent of public transit ballot measures have passed, they said.

"This successful trend of passing transit measures demonstrates that public transportation is a vital and essential service that people want and need," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy. "Even with economic concerns still on everyone's minds, voters decided to pass taxes, create bonding or take other actions to improve public transportation."

Meanwhile, the results of a mayor's race in Honolulu held major consequences for the city's plan to build a $5 billion elevated rail line.

Former acting mayor and state representative Kirk Caldwell defeated former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano in a race that focused much attention on the rail project. Cayetano had said in media reports that he had come out of retirement to run for mayor in order to try to halt the line from being built.

Caldwell has pledged to build the line, but also evaluate planned station locations and the line's visual appearance, which had been concerns cited by the project's opponents, according to a report in TheGardenIsland.com website.

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