Placer, Sacramento Counties Look at Tax Hike to Fund Traffic Projects

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Traffic problems plague every city. Sacramento and Placer counties are trying to tackle congestion issues by proposing transportation taxes to pay for projects that can get drivers where they need to go faster.

The Interstate 80-Highway 65 interchange is a major focus for Placer County officials.

“It’s actually really horrible 4:30, 5 o’clock you can see everyone is stopped,” said driver Stacey Beeler.

In the last 10 years, the number of cars on the I-80-65 Interchange has seen a major boost thanks to the improving economy. According to Caltrans, in 2000, 109,000 cars per day were in that area. That number jumped to 166,000 in 2014.

The Placer County Transportation Planning Agency understands the struggle.

“There’s a lot of safety issues there as well as traffic congestion. We’ve had 13 fatalities there in the last six years,” said Celia McAdam with the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.

That’s why they’re proposing a half-percent, 30 year sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The money will not only fix the interchange but also help maintenance and expansion projects that the current state gas tax can’t pay for.

“The money we get through the gas tax pays for less than half of what it costs to maintain, let alone do improvements,” said McAdam.

Placer County isn’t alone. Sacramento County is also looking into an additional half-percent transportation tax increase on top of the one that’s already in place.

While there’s no proposal yet, the Sacramento Transportation Authority plans to funnel that money toward road maintenance and regional transit.

The agency said the money will also help alleviate congestion specifically in the Capital City Freeway area between J Street and Cal Expo.

According to Bryan Williams, executive director of STA, they’re working to put together an expenditure plan that will highlight priority projects and how much they will cost. The STA will ask for public comment before the draft plan is complete in late spring or early summer.

The Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, however, is already taking their plans to the public to get feedback on whether to put the increased sales tax on the November 2016 ballot.

The final meeting to gauge public opinion is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Lincoln City Hall.

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