Measure R … the most direct way to assure our roads will finally be fixed
Guest Editorial by Mayor Steve Young, October 7, 2022
Measure R is the Benicia Local Road Repair & Infrastructure Measure! This measure is a local initiative that will provide the necessary funding to fix, and then maintain, our roads. The Benicia City Council has placed this measure on the ballot in the hopes that voters will approve of the most direct way to assure our roads will finally be fixed.
Measure R would increase the sales tax on certain purchases made in Benicia by 3/4 of 1 cent. This means if you spend $100, Measure R would cost you an additional 75 cents. Sales taxes apply to certain retail purchases, but does not include food and medicine purchased in grocery stores. Additionally, the use of a sales tax is a way to lesson the burden on Benicia residents since a significant portion of the proceeds of the sales tax is paid by tourists and others coming from out of town to enjoy our great restaurants, charm and ambience.
If Measure R passes, our sales tax rate will be 9.125%. That would still be less than several of our neighboring cities including Concord, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Richmond, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Berkeley, Oakland and more. No one wants to pay more taxes, but if we are ever going to get ahead of our deteriorating road conditions, this is the most direct way to do so. If we fail to pass this measure, our roads will continue to get worse.
So why do we need Measure R? Its clear to most that our roads conditions are poor, to put it kindly. Independent engineering studies have noted that our roads conditions have a score (PCI) of 57 which is deemed “at risk”. Further, 42% of our roads are considered “poor or failed” and we have some of the worst roads in the region. The report also noted that in order to fix our roads to an acceptable standard (70 PCI) we need to invest nearly $6 million each year for the next ten years.
If passed, Measure R would generate approximately $5 million/year. Currently the City only receives about $1.1 million/yr from the State Gas Tax and other sources to invest in our roads. If Measure R passes, it would generate over $50 million over the next ten years, which is what we need to bring our PCI to a score of 70. Additionally, it would generate all the money we would need to continue to maintain our roads going forward.
While this measure is titled The Benicia Local Road Repair and Infrastructure Measure, it is a general tax which, theoretically, could be redirected by a future Council to non-road and storm drain repairs. For those who distrust this Council to keep our word on the use of these funds, voters should consider how the City has kept its word on the use of Measure C funds. Measure C, “The Benicia Quality of Life Measure”, was passed by voters in 2014 . As the title of the measure suggests, the purpose of Measure C was to support existing City services. The City has used Measure C Funds to invest in a variety of projects including public safety, City facilities, parks, the library, and roads. In fact, 33% of all Measure C funds ($15 million) has been invested in roads and infrastructure. Yet that amount is not nearly enough to fix our roads.
Bottom line is that the City needs to find a way to address the long standing priority of repairing our roads, and it is not realistic to think we can cut our $50 million budget by 10% every year for the next ten years without stripping away some programs that the community has come to rely upon.
To help ensure that this Council and future City Councils stays on course with investing in our roads, spending from Measure R would have strict oversight provided by our Economic Development Board, including our City Treasurer.
In the end, voters should realize this is the best opportunity to deal with our old and failing roads, and for which no other reasonable way exists to fix them.
On behalf of the City Council, I thank you for your trust in supporting this critical investment in our infrastructure. Please join me in voting YES on Measure R.
To learn more about Measure R, please visit BeniciaMeasureR.org.