Officials: Without Measure M, transit remains priority for North Tahoe
December 1, 2016
Visit http://nltra.org/documents to read the 2015 North Tahoe Tourism Master Plan online, among other documents.
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Transit, trails and roads on the California side of North Lake Tahoe stood to benefit from the recently defeated Measure M.
Placer was one of many Golden State counties that had a sales tax on the November ballot to pay for infrastructure improvements, but that measure failed, according to unofficial election results, and it remains unclear how the county will pay for those improvements in the future.
"Placer County is still highly committed to prioritizing transportation in the North Lake Tahoe Basin," Jennifer Merchant, Placer County Deputy County Executive Officer of Lake Tahoe, told the Sierra Sun this week.
The ballot measure, if it had passed, would have increased the county sales tax over the next 30 years by half a cent. It also would have provided roughly $1.6 million directly to the Lake Tahoe region each year for infrastructure improvements — which covers things like bike and pedestrian trails, local roads, crosswalks and signs — as well as more frequent bus trips so people can drive less.
But the measure needed 66.7 percent, a two-thirds majority, and it only received 63.76 percent of the vote, according to the county elections office website as of Dec. 1.
While a number of provisional votes remain uncounted, California's election canvas period ends next week, and it's highly unlikely final totals will change Measure M's fate.
"That money would've been spent on transit, trails and roads," said Merchant. "We're looking for ways, currently now, to allocate Placer County revenues to fill in that gap."
Part of that, she said, includes looking at the Transient Occupancy Tax, otherwise known as the county's lodging tax, to see if some of that revenue can be allocated toward transit projects.
Some revenue from the TOT already goes toward transit projects, according to a previous report from the Sierra Sun.
But, as the Sun has also reported, Placer County's TOT revenue has been increasing. It is currently unclear whether future TOT revenue will be enough to cover all necessary transit improvements, and Merchant said a rate increase is being considered — but at this time, nothing has been proposed.
"Another thing that I know has been discussed is considering other revenue growth opportunities such as increased TOT, and that's been discussed before — it's actually in the tourism master plan," she said. "We're going to continue to work with the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to identify revenue sources."
The North Lake Tahoe Tourism Plan, approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors in late 2015, serves as a roadmap for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association on how to spend TOT, with the intention of improving the tourism experience at North Lake Tahoe over the next eight years, according to previous Sun reports.
Merchant said this week that there would also be a community outreach effort to help determine what the community wants and how they'd like to see it funded.
"The community deserves a high quality transportation system," she said. "I guess we know what they want, what we don't know is how they want to fund it."
Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association Executive Director Jaime Wright also said that TOT funds would be considered as well as federal funding opportunities.
"Measure M was going to fund road maintenance, local, multi-used paved trail networks, as well as maintenance and public transit…" Wright told the Sun this week. "Now that it didn't pass, we're going back and looking at TOT dollars and some additional federal dollars through the FAST Act."
The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, was signed in December 2015 by President Obama to help provide state and local governments with grant money for transportation projects.
And while everyone is still recovering from the election, and research is still being done to determine what is next, both Wright and Merchant have said that they'll continue to look for funding for transportation improvements in North Lake Tahoe.