Sepulveda Pass toll road or rail line possible under new tax plan

Motorists travel during morning rush hour on a section of the Sepulveda Pass. LA County voters could be asked in 2015 to fund a toll highway and rail line through the pass.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County voters could be asked in 2016 to fund a variety of transportation projects, including new rail lines and possibly a toll highway and rail line through the Sepulveda Pass.

The tax proposal, announced by the advocacy group Move L.A., could raise an estimated $90 billion over 45 years and cost the average resident 25 cents to 30 cents a day, proponents said. It would also boost the countywide sales tax rate by a half-cent to 9½ cents on each dollar spent, though shoppers in cities with their own sales tax would pay higher rates.

Responding to critics who complained that the city of Los Angeles received the lion’s share of transit projects from the half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters six years ago, elected officials — including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — emphasized that revenue from the new tax proposal would benefit all areas of the county.


“It will not simply be Mother Metro saying, ‘This is what you get,’ ” Metro Board Chairwoman Diane DuBois, a councilwoman from Lakewood, told attendees Friday at Move L.A.’s annual conference in downtown L.A..

Metro has not yet decided to put a measure on the ballot. But with as much as $27 billion in added tax money to spend on rail projects, advocates said, the agency could build a light-rail link to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, convert the San Fernando Valley Orange Line busway to rail and extend the Green Line near LAX to sweep through South Bay cities and connect with the Blue Line in Long Beach.

“What we’re doing here is trying to figure out what wins,” Move L.A. Executive Director Denny Zane said.

The tax increase would need a supermajority of 67% voting in favor to pass. Metro’s preliminary polling says that 58% of residents would support such a tax increase.

Any tax increase that goes on the ballot must appeal to voters in Beverly Hills, the San Gabriel Valley and South Los Angeles, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. The proposal “has to be regional, it has to be rational, it has to equitable — all three, all the time, all day long,” he told conference attendees. “If we neglect any one of those three elements, it will put the very proposition at risk.”

Two years ago, a proposed extension of the county transit sales tax approved in 2008 fell six-tenths of a percentage point shy of garnering the required two-thirds supermajority. The loss came as a result of weak support in suburban, relatively well-off communities of the South Bay and the Westside, a Times analysis found. The analysis found support for the sales tax had eroded significantly from four years earlier, when voters approved Measure R.


[Correction: Becuase of an editing error, this story originally said the bond measure was planned for 2015, not 2016.]