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Supervisor Michael Antonovich is to be commended for ensuring that L.A. County Measure M, as proposed, includes a fair return on investment for Santa Clarita Valley communities.

About two years ago the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce was invited by the supervisor to coordinate an effort to identify the priority transportation needs of Santa Clarita and surrounding communities.

The SCV business community was represented by the Chamber with the participation of the SCV Economic Development Corporation and the Golden State Gateway Coalition.

With the help and participation of the supervisor’s office, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and representatives of unincorporated communities, a consensus was reached.

A letter was sent to then-Metro Board Chairman Eric Garcetti describing the primary and secondary transportation priorities of the Santa Clarita Valley.

The result? Metro listened. It came up with a ballot proposal that offers most of what we asked for: funding for toll-free I-5 capacity improvements (a $784 million project with 30+ miles of new roadway) with a construction start accelerated by 20 years; an additional minimum of $3 million a year to the city of Santa Clarita for local roads; $2.6 million a year for bus operations; $1.2 billion available for Metrolink improvements over 40 years; $170 million toward right-of-way purchases for the High Desert Corridor/SR138 project; and much, much more in future program commitments and available grant opportunities.

Metro has not only made it a point to ask what the SCV wants and needs; it also addresses the obvious concern: how can we be sure that Metro will do what it says it will do?

Measure M is proposed as an ordinance. Every major project has a projected start date and a funding allotment spelled out. The plan for distribution of funds is in writing.

The investment? An additional half cent in sales tax on the dollar. The city of Santa Clarita has conservatively estimated that the Measure M plan will return more than 94 percent of the additional tax revenue it contributes – and that revenue includes sales tax contributions by visitors to Santa Clarita.

So Santa Clarita residents will see more than 100 percent of their Measure M sales tax revenue returned in the form of transportation improvements.

To quote Metro CEO Phil Washington: “No community gets everything it wants, but every community gets something it needs.”

And, to quote Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “If you like the way transportation goes now in L.A. County, don’t vote for Measure M.”

Why vote yes on Measure M? First, as noted above, it fundamentally gives us what we asked for and creates a sustainable funding source that allows us to plan, design, build, operate and maintain transportation infrastructure and amenities in our valley and the county for the foreseeable future.

And regarding the location of infrastructure investment returns, we need to think beyond our valley and our city limits: our residents’ transportation needs transcend municipal boundaries. Half our work force travels out of town to jobs.

Second, as Supervisor Antonovich pointed out in his Oct. 1 column in The Signal “Measure M is fair,” it is fair. I would go further and say that Measure M is a good deal for Santa Clarita based on an objective assessment of what we put in and what we get back.

Finally, there is no alternative on the horizon. Neither Congress nor the California Legislature has been able to develop sufficient and sustainable funding sources for the current and future transportation needs of the nation and the state, let alone the Santa Clarita Valley.

As a Signal columnist recently pointed out, sure, we want the best roads and the best schools and lower taxes. Good luck with that.

Again, transportation infrastructure costs money to design, build, operate and maintain. Our transportation infrastructure is aging – and maintaining safety and functionality have become urgent considerations.

So if traffic is your displeasure … then support the measure. Vote yes on Measure M.

Victor Lindenheim serves as co-chairman of the Government Affairs/Transportation Committee of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and is executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition.

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  • tech

    “I would go further and say that Measure M is a good deal for Santa Clarita…”

    “Finally, there is no alternative on the horizon.”

    Such a deal!

  • James de Bree

    In November 2008, the voters of Los Angeles County approved Measure R, which raised the sales tax in LA County by a half cent for a thirty year period commencing on January 1, 2009. The purpose of the sales tax increase was to raise money for transportation infrastructure. Locally, a carpool lane was supposed to be added to Interstate 5 in each direction from the Highway 14 interchange to Castaic.

    Like most government construction projects, once construction started, it was determined that the actual cost of construction was significantly greater than budgeted. There was only sufficient money to construct the carpool lanes through the Calgrove exit. So in 2013, the County entered into a public private partnership wherein a private company would be able to operate toll lanes in the carpool lane in exchange for providing the funds to finish the remainder of the carpool lanes from Calgrove to Castaic. Based on the prevailing rates in 2013, it was expected that tolls ranging from twenty five cents to $1.40 per mile would be charged.

    At the time, there was considerable local opposition to this plan—particularly since the principal bottleneck was slow traffic between the Calgrove exit and the Highway 14 interchange. The remainder of the carpool lanes will likely only be economically feasible when the Newhall Ranch project is built. The principal counter arguments to the opposition were two-fold: “Metro also believes the project will be considerably less expensive to build now while construction costs remain low due to the Great Recession. The project will also help retain or create jobs in the area.” For a further discussion of these talking points, see the link at: http://thesource.metro.net/2013/02/15/to-accelerate-the-building-of-13-5-miles-of-hov-lanes-on-i-5-in-santa-clarita-area-metro-proposes-charging-tolls-for-vehicles-with-one-or-two-occupants-to-use-the-lanes/

    So eight years after the passage of Measure R passed, the freeway has been widened in both directions from Highway 14 through the Calgrove exit. However, the space reserved for the carpool lanes is not being used. There are no carpool lanes and there are exactly the same number of lanes in both directions as there were when Measure R passed in November 2008. Because of the way the southbound lanes were restriped, there actually is one fewer lane that goes through the interchange.

    We are already paying the sales tax that was supposed to fund the construction through completion, but are receiving none of the benefits of such construction. Now they want to add additional sales tax that ostensibly will provide the funds necessary to complete construction. I have read conflicting accounts about whether the public/private toll road deal is still part of the project. I am highly skeptical that we will get our money’s worth if Measure M passes.