The Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA) Board of Directors on March 18 voted, 13-3, to support a tentative, 40-year, $8.4-billion Measure A expenditure plan.

This plan aims to create thousands of miles of new bicycle and pedestrian trails, fix potholes, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gases, and decrease traffic congestion across Sacramento County, including Elk Grove.

To gain full approval, the plan would need the approval of cities representing a majority of the county’s population, the county Board of Supervisors and local voters.

With those approvals, a Measure A half-cent sales tax proposal would be placed on the November ballot.

STA Board Chairman Darren Suen, who also serves as an Elk Grove City Council member, commended this plan.

“It is a truly balanced plan that reflects a lot of hard work and valuable input from the community, the cities and the STA staff,” he said.

Through the Measure A transportation expenditure plan, nearly $4 billion would be spent on local streets and roads.

About $1 billion would be dedicated to highway congestion improvements, including bus/carpool lanes on major freeways, freeway-to-freeway interchange improvements, and the connector road between Interstate 5 and Highway 50.

The plan also calls for $1.4 billion to be spent on transformative system improvements, including complete streets for safe and convenient traveling for all users, sidewalk, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, safe routes to schools, street lighting and signalization, trail upgrades and major arterial improvements.  

The Sacramento Regional Transit District would also benefit from this plan through about $3.2 billion for such assistance as maintenance, operation and the security of its bus and light rail systems.

Another benefactor of the plan would be the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, which would be supported through an augmentation of $177 million.

Suen told the Citizen that the city of Elk Grove would receive direct allocations of $472 million.

Those funds would support street maintenance, bicycle/pedestrian trails throughout the city, traffic relief on Elk Grove and Bond Road/Laguna Boulevard, the Kammerer Road buildout, and pedestrian overcrossings of the Union Pacific rail line at Elk Grove and Laguna boulevards.

Suen noted that during the life of the plan, it would provide about $1 billion in benefits to the city of Elk Grove, including direct allocations and benefits from freeway improvements on Business 80 and Interstate 5, the extension of light rail into Elk Grove, Altamont Corridor Express service into the Bay Area, and improved commuter bus and local transit service throughout the city.

The plan, if implemented, would be an economic “shot in the arm,” Suen said.

“Relieving traffic and providing an economic development tool for our community is greatly needed,” he said. “During these uncertain times, the local economy will require a stimulus, and if this measure is successful, it can provide an economic shot in the arm by accelerating program revenues through bonding or other methods, including the leverage of state and federal dollars.”

As for the timing of the STA’s vote, Suen mentioned that members of the board received criticism for taking action on this matter during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Everyone is mindful of the public health threat, the economic hardship and certainly the personal tragedy accompanying the spread of the coronavirus,” he said. “However, there is no doubt that we will survive this crisis and we will emerge even stronger than before.

“Until we defeat this outbreak that has all but halted ordinary life in our communities, we still have an obligation as elected officials to continue the important functions of government, and that includes taking the steps necessary to plan for our future.”

Suen mentioned that in the event that control is gained over COVID-19 in the next few months, communities would benefit from the timing of the board’s approval of the tentative plan.

“It could result in a public works program ready for implementation that will provide tens of millions of dollars in economic stimulus,” he said. “Offering good jobs and improved mobility to those who have borne the impacts of this affliction would be a positive outcome of our early engagement, and would help speed our county’s recovery.”

The chairman also addressed a scenario in which the pandemic continued beyond the next few months.

“If circumstances do not change in the months to come, we can forego a funding option,” he said. “While we hope this will not be the case, we lose nothing by attempting to be better prepared, and we will continue our joint efforts to overcome this unprecedented challenge to our health and well-being.”