New Light Rail Extension to Sacramento Airport Proposed, Comes at a Cost

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SACRAMENTO-

Imagine getting to and from Sacramento International Airport, by Light Rail. That proposed project could be funded by taking a half-cent more from consumers' pocketbook every time a purchase is made in Sacramento County.

"I think it's a good idea," Benjamin Alexander said, as he waited for his ride home from Sacramento International.

The county transit authority's initial discussion about putting a third version of 'Measure A' before voters which would sunset in 2046. It would be a half cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements - one of which could be a light rail extension from Richards boulevard all the way to Sac International, or at least significantly closer.

"If the train could get you out there quickly enough and frequently enough I think people would use it," Light Rail rider John Mohammed said.

"That would be really great, not just for me but I have people who visit from out of town, so it would be nice to have them get here really easy," Jennifer Teykaerts, who commutes on Light Rail every day said.

But getting from here to there, money wise, when it comes to any transit need in the county right now - not easy at all.

Existing funding is maxed out with current needs.

"Correct. We as a community need to generate some more resources for transportation," Brian Williams, executive director of the Sacramento Transit Authority, said.

The 'Measure A' that first passed by voters in 1988 has brought in $1.5 billion, and almost $800 million through its second incarnation in 2004.

But fighting to keep up with maintenance and needed construction, there's now a $600 million backlog of county public works projects.

Reecession-era borrowing of transit funds and reduced federal grants have also caused problems for the existing revenue streams.

"We feel we have a responsibility to let people know that we see a fiscal cliff as far as transportation's concerned. We don't think we can pay for the things this community needs," Williams said.

And if those needs aren't met?

"We're not going to get the businesses to move here for one thing. If they can't get their people and their goods...people to work & goods to market...they don't want to be in Sacramento," he warned.

Galt, Sacramento and Rancho Cordova are already taxing themselves at a higher rate than the rest of the county, 8.5%.

So despite concerns for the county's overall economic health, Williams' worries voters in those areas might be the speed bumps to the 2/3 support this tax plan would need at the polls.

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