Changes to TransNet tax under review, funds may be repurposed

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Given the change in urban geography that San Diego has witnessed in the last decade, funds designated from the TransNet sales tax are being reevaluated.

The extension of the half-cent TransNet sales tax took effect in 2008, continuing the TransNet tax which has been collected since 1988. 

The current TransNet tax will run through 2048, although the tax can be extended beyond that with voter approval. 

Given the change in urban geography that San Diego has witnessed in the last decade, funds designated from the TransNet sales tax are being reevaluated.

The extension of the half-cent TransNet sales tax took effect in 2008, continuing the TransNet tax which has been collected since 1988. 

The current TransNet tax will run through 2048, although the tax can be extended beyond that with voter approval. 

The TransNet ordinance also requires that the San Diego Association of Governments conduct a ten-year comprehensive program review, which was approved by a 17-0 vote at the July 27 SANDAG board meeting with representatives from El Cajon and Imperial Beach absent.

The review had both a “look back” component and a “look ahead” element with the latter using the results from the former as a basis to consider potential revisions to the expenditure plan and other provisions of the ordinance. 

The potential revisions include modifying the local streets and roads ratio between congestion relief and maintenance, modifying the local streets and roads project eligibility requirements and evaluating whether the current list of uncompleted projects constitutes the best mix to achieve congestion relief and other TransNet goals.

“The needs of our local population are different than they were ten years ago,” said SANDAG senior TransNet program manager Ariana zur Nieden.

The TransNet sales tax is divided between highways, transit and local streets and roads. Currently, at least 70 percent of funding for local streets and roads must be used for congestion relief while up to 30 percent may be used for maintenance. In addition to a potential modification of that ratio, potential revisions include modifying the categorical definitions of the typical types of eligible facilities under each category.

The report suggests that SANDAG staff utilize a coordinated approach to re-evaluate the list of unfinished projects based on the overall transportation network scenario development process being used for the Regional Transportation Plan whose next update is slated for 2019.

“Technology has changed over the last decade,” zur Nieden said.  “Changes to the project mix may be warranted.”

The costs, resources, benefits, and challenges associated with implementing such changes will likely be brought to a SANDAG committee for further review.