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O.C. Voters Would Favor Renewing Transit Tax

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Times Staff Writer

More than two-thirds of Orange County voters would support renewing a half-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax that has raised billions for transportation projects, according to a survey.

The findings, released by the Orange County Transportation Authority on Monday, contradicts two earlier polls that indicated that support for Measure M falls well short of the two-thirds majority required for passage under state law.

The sales tax, approved by voters in 1990 on its third try, is expected to generate $4.2 billion for transportation projects by the time it expires in 2011.

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The survey found that 69% of those polled would support renewing Measure M if the proposed transportation projects were specified on the ballot. The support for the measure fell to 58% if the projects were not listed. County voters could be asked as early as November 2006 to extend Measure M for another 20 years.

Respondents preferred spending money on projects to help relieve traffic in the heart of the county rather than help motorists commute in and out of the county, the survey indicated.

Pollster J. Moore Methods of Sacramento surveyed 1,500 county voters by telephone in late July. The poll has a margin of sampling error of 2.6 percentage points.

“I think the public wants to know what it’s getting for its money,” said Supervisor Chris Norby, who is an OCTA board member. “It’s up to the board to put some good projects on the list.”

According to the survey, the most popular projects included improvements to the Santa Ana and Riverside freeways, untangling the “Orange Crush” interchange and coordinating traffic signals on local streets.

Projects that received low support included making Orange County toll roads free, extending the Orange Freeway along the Santa Ana River and building a new highway between Orange and Riverside counties.

OCTA Chairman Bill Campbell said the poll showed that voters would support a renewed tax if traffic improvements met local needs and “promises made in Measure M will be kept.”

The July survey contradicts two previous polls. According to one survey by Cal State Fullerton in November 2004, only 46% of the respondents would reauthorize the measure. University pollsters found that 70% were pleased with the highway, street and rail projects. A survey by San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California indicated that 56% of voters said they would approve a Measure M extension.

The transportation authority has begun a public outreach program asking residents to help identify the county’s worst traffic areas. Residents can take a survey at www.octa.net or by calling (714) 560-5900.


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