NORWALK — City officials here say they do not yet know the formal name of a one-half cent sales tax hike for transportation on the Nov. 8 ballot, but whatever it’s called, they are against it.
That’s because, according to the most recent spending plan by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, none of the money raised would be used in Norwalk and the southeast part of the county for 20 years.
“Area residents will be paying a higher sales tax but not directly benefitting from it,” Mayor Mike Mendez said. “We’ve got to get the word out.”
The City Council approved a resolution opposition the sales tax increase July 5, vowing to campaign against the plan as it now stands.
Mendez said he expects a similar response from the other 27 members of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments (COG), based in Paramount.
City Manager Mike Egan said city staff can’t tell people how to vote, but could provide information on the issue. Council members can legally oppose it.
In a report to the council, Administrative Services Manager Adriana Figueroa said a revised spending plan for county transportation would fund the widening of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway, from Valley View Street in La Mirada northwest through Santa Fe Springs, Norwalk and end at the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway in Downey.
That project is underway and expected to be finished in 2018.
But the original $1.8 billion plan would have continued the expansion of the freeway from three to five lanes in each direction, to the Long Beach (710) Freeway in Commerce.
That work has been delayed to 2036 under the current plan, approved by the MTA board June 23 on an 11-2 vote.
Dissenting were Fourth District County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes most of the southeast part of the county; and Lakewood City Councilwoman Diane DuBois.
Figueroa said that Commerce has two large rail yards which receive cargo from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which are then transported nationwide by rail and truck.
The Santa Ana Freeway, which links Los Angeles to Orange County, was built to carry about 175,000 vehicles a day, but actually carries about 275,000, of which about 25,000 are trucks, Figueroa said.
Although the freeway widening project would stop in Downey, other projects could take place locally and if so the MTA plan would charge cities 3 percent of the cost of the projects within their limits.
That could mean a $22 million charge to Norwalk should the MTA go ahead with a plan to connect the Green Line depot at Imperial Highway and Studebaker Road to the Norwalk-Santa Fe Springs MetroLink Station off Imperial Highway, east of Bloomfield Avenue.
That project, estimated to cost $750 million, is under consideration, Egan said.
Figueroa noted that Los Angeles County shoppers will be paying a two percent transportation sales tax if the new proposition is approved in November.
That’s from one-half cent sales tax hikes from Proposition A, approved by voters in 1980; Proposition C, approved by voters in 1990; and Measure R, approved by voters in 2008.
The November issue, if approved, would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.
The MTA would begin collecting the one-half cent sales tax hike along with funds from Propositions A and C and Measure R.
Measure R currently is slated to end in 2039, but the proposed ballot measure in November could extend it to 2057.
Proposition A and C are ongoing taxes with no ending date, Figueroa said.