Transportation Measures Defeated in Yesterday’s Balloting

August 9, 2017

While federal lawmakers in Washington continue to struggle to find new ways to invest in infrastructure, states and localities are going to their voters for help. In November 2016, Eno found that voters approved nearly $200 billion for transportation projects around the country. Of the 436 transportation-related ballot measures that Eno tracked, 70.4 percent of the measures were approved. Voters supported all modes, from roads to rails, to ports and bikes.

But something different happened yesterday when voters in Michigan and Missouri went to the polls to vote on a number of transportation-related measures.

Voters in Blendon, Michigan overwhelmingly rejected a new 2.5-mill tax levy to help improve the township’s 50 miles of unpaved roads. The township has previously rejected similar measures three times, most recently in 2014. (The state of Michigan was second only to Ohio during the November election for number of transportation-related ballot measures that voters decided on. State voters had 79 measures to examine on their November 8 ballots. The majority of these measures addressed an increase in local property taxes to fund road improvements and maintenance.)

Voters in Kansas City, Missouri were presented with two separate measures from either end of the contention regarding the city’s polarizing streetcar program.

Question 1, proposed a fine on city officials for working on or planning streetcar expansion until they sought citywide approval. That measure passed by a narrow margin. Question 2, proposed by longtime streetcar proponent Clay Chastain, would have imposed 3/8 cent sales tax citywide for 25 years in order to fund streetcar expansion. That measures was rejected by 58 percent of the voters.

(Both of the questions on Kansas City (pop. 481,420) made it to the ballot by way of petition. Petitioners only needed 1,289 signatures which was calculated by taking 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last mayoral election. Since only 25,773 people voted in the 2015 election, the barrier to the ballot was astoundingly low. For comparison, in Oakland, California (pop. 419,267) petitioners need signatures amounting to 10 percent (27,477) of registered voters regardless of any prior turnout.)

The Kansas City questions follow a vote just last week on August 1 where citizens (of a limited geographical area) agreed to create a Transportation Development District. The TDD would levy property taxes within its boundaries devoted to funding a streetcar expansion. This proposal came from local pro-transit group, the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance. The city’s own streetcar expansion initiative failed in 2014.

But all was not lost in Missouri. In Independence, voters overwhelmingly approved (82 percent to 18 percent) a half-cent tax for roads and sidewalks. The vast majority of small property tax renewals in Michigan to fund things like road maintenance, transit, and airports also passed.

Eno will continue to track and update our database of state and local ballot measures. For more information visit our ballot measures database or contact Alexander Laska at ahenebery[at]enotrans[dot]org.


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