VTA to start spending Measure B money

State court rejects lawsuit filed by local attorney on behalf of county resident

After more than two years of fending off legal challenges, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority can finally start spending money from the 2016 Measure B sales tax.

Last week, the California Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch effort to appeal the tax measure, which means that VTA is now free to start putting its collected revenues toward a slate of transportation improvements. The agency has accumulated about $360 million from the tax surcharge, which until now has been sitting in an escrow account.

The Measure B tax passed with about 71.2 percent approval from voters, but soon after the election the sales tax was challenged in court. In the lawsuit filed on behalf of Saratoga resident Cheriel Jensen, Mountain View attorney Gary Wesley alleged the measure was a "bait-and-switch" that promised voters it would adhere to a broad spending plan, but actually allowed the money to be shifted however VTA desired. As written, the measure needed to be rescinded because it fell short of state election code requirements, Wesley said.

In October, a state appellate court dismissed the suit, and Wesley unsuccessfully tried to take the case one step higher to the state Supreme Court. With that appeal now rejected, Wesley is unable to press the case any further, and VTA is free to start spending the money.

VTA officials say their initial focus will be to distribute about $80 million to cities for a variety of local street and roads improvements. The tax revenues will be extremely important in the coming years for Mountain View and Palo Alto, as both cities expect to use it to help finance a series of expensive grade separation projects along the Caltrain corridor. The tax measure is also expected to immediately fund a series of pilot projects to reduce noise along Highway 85.

The Measure B sales tax puts a half-cent surcharge on most purchases in Santa Clara County. Over its 30-year lifespan, the tax is expected to raise about $6.5 billion. More information on the Measure B spending plan can be found on the VTA website.

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4 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 1, 2019 at 6:53 am

SRB is a registered user.

Glad this got resolved but... hard to understand how reducing noise ever became a transportation priority. Was it even in Measure B's language?

"The tax measure is also expected to immediately fund a series of pilot projects to reduce noise along Highway 85."

6 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 5:03 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

Highway noise at night is a huge problem in the Waverly Park neighborhood West of 85 from El Camino Real to Oak Avenue. When Hwy 85 was "improved" from 2 to 3 lanes, sound walls were installed along the East side of 85, but not the West side, so Waverly Park got GREATLY increased 85 traffic noise reflected from the East sound wall into our previously quietly neighborhoods --- I'd say by about 10 dB min noise level. We demand that MV and Santa Clara County correct their gross "deliberate mistake" and install sound walls on the West side of 85 from Oak Ave to the El Camino Real underpass so we once again can live in peace and quiet at night.

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Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 1, 2019 at 6:30 pm

I hope that the road projects include complete repair of El Camino Real in Mountain View, as the ruts and the potholes are too numerous to count. While repairing El Camino, also include Shoreline Blvd between El Camino Real and Montecito. This roadway is a horrible mess as well.

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Posted by frisbee
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 7:26 pm

frisbee is a registered user.

The main use of this money is to follow through on the commitment to close Castro before the train tracks and build/improve roads to reroute traffic. The Castro rail crossing must be eliminated to improve Central Expressway, Caltrain/high speed rail, and make life more pedestrian friendly in the Castro area.

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Posted by Diablo
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 2, 2019 at 10:12 am

OK, time to tunnel under Caltrain and Central at Rengstorff, and fix one of the worst intersections in Mtn View. That was the carrot that got my vote.

6 people like this
Posted by Dream on
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 3, 2019 at 2:26 am

@Diablo: Didn't you read that the VTA somehow is broke and cutting bus service? Story just ran. Why would the VTA spend any big money on North County projects? It won't. $6.3 billion. Money will be borrowed now and repaid over the 30 years. That is $6,300 million. Where will it go? For what? Will you ever know? Dream on.

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