Election brings new transit projects, transportation spending galore

It’s U.S. election season, and that can only mean one thing: multitudes of new things to spend taxpayer money on. Whether it be building a new school, closing budget gaps, or a new car for the mayor, everyone seems to want more public funding. Well, kids, transit and transportation projects are no different, and there were lots of them on ballots across the country. Funnily enough, with the sting of record-breaking gas prices still in the air, voters more often than not chose to bump up their taxes slightly to pay for more mass transit. Here’s a round-up of what our U.S. readers can expect in the coming months and years. Everyone who is not a U.S. reader… read my post anyway and leave an encouraging comment.

To start us off, I’ll go with the general prediction that an Obama administration may begin investing heavily in the federal transportation network in order to fight off a stagnant economy. Bloomberg reports that Obama has been pushing for an economic stimulus plan that plows money into roads, rail and airports. Earlier this year, he proposed a $60 billion “infrastructure bank” that would bring many needed jobs to areas around the country.

Meanwhile, the other big news is California’s approval of a $10 billion measure to issue bonds to start paying for a proposed high-speed rail line running at up to 220 mph linking San Francisco and Los Angeles. The measure passed by a close margin of 52-48 on what is ultimately expected to be a $45 billion project. The system would bring half a million jobs to the region, many of them permanent, and would provide an important and competitive alternative to air and road travel.

Trains magazine reports on other stories abound, as well. Seattle voters decided to increase their sales taxes by a half cent to pay for an extension of Sound Transit, boosting capacity and frequency of trains and buses. New Mexico voters approved a one-eighth-cent gross-receipts tax to fund more Rail Runner commuter rail service. Honolulu, meanwhile, finally approved a long-discussed measure (and half-percentage point increase in the general excise tax) to build a new light rail line. Construction of the $4.28 billion project will begin next year and will bring much-needed relief to overcrowded highways. Tax increases for public transit also passed in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco.

All in all, a pretty good day for mass transportation. Yes, it costs money, but it also brings many jobs, economic vitalization, and important transit alternatives to cities across the country.