Bond Proposal Would Put Sales Tax to Work Sooner

Times Staff Writer

A regional commission charged with spending $2.25 billion in sales tax revenue to upgrade the county’s transportation system on Friday proposed a financing plan that would accelerate construction of the improvements and save more than $282 million.

The plan could speed up construction of the regionwide transportation network improvements by three years, and could accelerate some major projects by as many as six years, said San Diego City Councilman Ed Struiksma, a member of the San Diego County Regional Transportation Commission.

A financial analysis conducted for the commission recommends that it sell bonds to raise money for early construction of some large, expensive projects. Revenue from the half-cent sales tax increase authorized by voters in November, 1987, would be used to pay off the debt.


Interest Would Increase Cost

In research conducted for the sales tax hike referendum, “the overwhelming consensus of cities and towns was that, in those instances where we could provide capital improvements--freeways, roads--ahead of time, we should bond,” Struiksma said.

Interest on the borrowed money would increase the cost of the projects by $116 million, from $1.612 billion to $1.728 billion, the report states.

But freeway users would save $298.8 million from reduced congestion delays, $45.3 million by traveling on more direct routes and $54.3 million from the lower accident rate that would result by shifting motorists off local roads and onto freeways, according to the analysis. Total savings after the $116-million cost is subtracted would be $282.4 million.

The commission also would save money under the plan by building projects earlier, before prices for construction and materials rose, Struiksma said.

Overall, 64% of the projects would be built on a pay-as-you-go basis, while 36% would be constructed with borrowed money.

Known as Proposition A, the referendum authorized a half-cent sales tax increase for 20 years, raising the county sales tax to 6.5%. A subsequent half-cent tax hike approved in June to finance jail construction raised the sales tax to 7% on Jan. 1.

The Proposition A revenue is to be split three ways to pay for local street, freeway and public transit improvements. Some major projects it will finance include the construction of 8.6 miles of California 52 from Tierrasanta to Santee, and a six-mile Mission Valley trolley line from San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium to La Mesa.

The commission, which is composed of each city’s representative to the San Diego Assn. of Governments, will meet Friday to decide whether to distribute the financing plan for review by governmental agencies countywide.