STANISLAUS COUNTY — Leaders throughout Stanislaus County could ask voters for a transportation tax next year despite losing a chance at a lower bar, plus the possibility of fatigue from other tax proposals in its two largest cities.
Transportation officials will continue mulling the question at a meeting Wednesday of the Stanislaus Council of Governments.
Also Wednesday, another transportation agency will review hiring a new consultant to oversee the future North County Corridor expressway north of Modesto. A contract has not been finalized, however.
StanCOG leaders had hoped a push in Sacramento would relax the requirement for local tax bumps, from 66.67 percent to 55 percent voter approval. But that effort appears to have stalled in a Senate committee and is not likely to confront California voters before 2016.
Previous countywide road tax campaigns in 2006 and 2008 exceeded 55 percent support but failed to capture the required two-thirds approval. The latter fell short by a mere 0.25 percent out of 155,535 votes.
Also, Modesto voters will be asked Nov. 5 for a general tax increase, and Turlock may seek its own road tax.
Winter polling suggested only lukewarm support for a countywide transportation tax, yet StanCOG's policy board is scheduled to discuss the idea again.
Business leaders have lobbied heavily, saying improved roads would boost the economy. Officials have lamented their inability to leverage state and federal dollars flowing to so-called self-help counties with voters who have have embraced surtaxes for roads, trains and buses.
Varied ideas from panels
Advisory committees have batted around the tax idea. Suggestions include finding an acceptable balance for proceeds, between fixing old roads, building new ones and extending Bay Area commuter rail to Modesto.
The policy board previously asked that its principal advisory committee, composed of city managers and a county administrator, create an "expenditure plan" to pitch to voters, detailing how money could be spent. A special Aug. 28 session has been scheduled and could be continued Sept. 4. Both meetings to start at 3 p.m. in StanCOG's third-floor chamber at 1111 I St., Modesto.
Wednesday's meeting of the policy board, composed of elected representatives from the county and its nine cities, starts at 6 p.m. in the same chamber.
The agenda will feature a presentation on extending an Altamont Corridor Express line from Lathrop to Modesto and an update on plans for a new Highway 132 freeway segment west of downtown Modesto.
At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the North County Corridor Expressway Authority will review replacing Jacobs Engineering, which guided the freeway plan for five years, because a half-dozen key employees have left the firm. A search produced six offers; a selection committee wants to hire Drake Haglan and Associates of Sacramento, but the California Department of Transportation has yet to give its approval, a report says.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.