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Seattle, San Francisco OK major transit plans; proposals in Detroit, Virginia Beach fail

Sound Transit's plan is expected to generate $54 billion for public transit.
Photo – Sound Transit


Sound Transit's $54 billion plan to expand light-rail in the Puget Sound, Wash., area has gained voter approval, local media reported.

Two of the three counties in Sound Transit's district voted in favor of the plan, while 56 percent of voters in the third county rejected the proposal. Across all three counties, however, 54 percent of residents approved, according to The Seattle Times.

Known as Sound Transit 3, the proposal will increase local taxes to provide funding for several transportation projects, including adding 62 miles of light rail in the region.

Sound Transit's measure was one of 48 public transit initiatives U.S. voters considered on Tuesday's ballot. Thirty-three of those measures have passed, including a $3.5 billion bond measure to fund infrastructure repair and replacement for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco.

The passage of the BART measure affirms the need to replace the agency's 44-year-old system's worn rail, train control equipment, leaking tunnels and power transmission infrastructure, BART Board President Tom Radulovich said yesterday in a prepared statement.

"The investments we make say a lot about the future we want to create. By reinvesting in BART, Bay Area voters said yes to a regional future that’s more equitable, sustainable, inclusive, connected, and prosperous," Radulovich said.

In Los Angeles County, voters approved a tax increase to fund $120 billion worth of transportation improvements.

Overall, 69 percent of local and statewide public transit measures passed in Tuesday's elections, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

"This remarkable passage rate for public transportation measures sends a strong message to President-elect Donald Trump and to Congress that Americans support moving forward with funding from all levels of government that connects infrastructure investment with job opportunities and our country's economic vitality," said APTA Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Richard White.

Although voters approved several big-ticket transit initiatives on Tuesday, some notable proposals failed, including one that would have authorized the city of Virginia Beach, Va., to spend money on a new light-rail extension.

Fifty-seven percent of voters rejected that proposal. Consequently, Virginia's Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne has directed state officials to halt all work on light-rail construction, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Also, the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority's proposal to increase property taxes to fund transit appears to have been rejected, The Detroit Free Press reported. The measure would have provided $4.6 billion for transit projects in the area, including a commuter-rail line connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Likewise, voters in Kansas City, Mo., rejected a plan to build a light-rail system in the city. The proposal called for building a system connecting Kansas City International Airport and southern portions of the city, according to The Kansas City Star.