No on N--Let's look at whether Measure N's dollars are really needed.
Thursday, October 22, 1998
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, we will go to the polls to decide if we want to raise the sales tax in Monterey County. Before you cast your vote, consider this:
Caltrans, in agreement with the Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC), has allocated funding and scheduled road construction for the following projects, in order of priority: 1) Hatton Canyon Freeway: $61 million. 2) Upgrade Prunedale Highway 101 to "freeway status:" $190 million (Four major interchanges, six-lane road bed). 3) Widen Highway 156 between Prunedale and Castroville: $31.5 million (Four-lane expressway).
The total costs for all three projects is $282.5 million. Why hasn''t the public been apprised of Caltrans'' plans? Because the bureaucrats and politicians don''t want the taxpayers to know that there is plenty of money available for the Prunedale Bypass, if it were the top priority.
From the $200 million pork barrel raised by the Measure N sales tax initiative, $50 to 80 million would be used to close the arbitrary "funding gap" of the Prunedale Bypass. The wording of the tax initiative stipulates that Caltrans can always ask for and get more money from this sales tax slush fund.
What''s left over will be used for projects like the road infrastructure for the Fort Ord reuse development. This is a matter of public record. No funds from Measure N sales taxes are allocated for improvements to Highway 68, Carmel Valley Road or Highway 1 by Moss Landing!
Why are Monterey County taxpayers being asked to subsidize major state freeway construction? How is it that $282.5 million has already been allocated from existing transportation funds for projects not considered by the public as our top priorities?
The answer is because developers of new housing projects in North Salinas and Fort Ord are unwilling to provided financing for road infrastructure. In order for local governments to satisfy their needs and keep the build-out of Monterey County moving forward, politicians are proposing this sales tax.
This tax increase is promoted under the pretense that extra funding is needed to contribute our "fair share" to the Prunedale Bypass construction costs. What they neglect to tell the public is the existing Highway 101 corridor in Prunedale is being upgraded to freeway status starting in July 1999! Four major interchanges and a six-lane roadbed are NOT Band-aid solutions.
Immediately following this five- to seven-year "your tax dollars at work" nightmare of gridlock and congestion on the main artery that feeds agriculture and tourism to Monterey County, Caltrans will widen Highway 156 between Prunedale and Castroville to a four-lane expressway. That project will mean another two to three years of road construction chaos and inconvenience.
You may be thinking, "Boy, we really do need the Prunedale Bypass." Yes, but not if we have to pay for it with this half-cent sales tax initiative. What we don''t need are both the upgrade to freeway status for the existing Highway 101 and the Bypass.
If the sales tax increase passes, North Monterey County will be wedged between two major freeways. With so many frontage roads needed to provide access, the entire community will be decimated. The build-out will be unbelievable. As unsuspecting taxpayers, we will be providing the funds to developers to finance their road infrastructure costs.
Everyone wants a solution to the Prunedale problem, but we are being held hostage to this tax initiative. The message is, "Pay up or more people will die in car accidents!" Don''t let the Board of Supervisors, Caltrans and the Transportation Agency of Monterey County extort money from the local community because they are poor planners and are squandering tax dollars shamelessly.
Think twice before you decide to supply Caltrans and local government with another big fix of taxpayer dollars. The bureaucrats'' addictive need for public money is insatiable. Just say no. Send a message to elected officials on Nov.3.
Madeleine Clark is a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Transportation Agency of Monterey County.