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San Mateo County voters barely pass transit tax

A few hundred votes push sales tax over the required two-thirds margin

Traffic in Redwood City Photo by drserg

More than three weeks after the 2018 national election, officials are still counting ballots in nail-biter contests across the country.

Here in the Bay Area most election questions resolved within a few days after the polls closed, but there is one that came down to the wire, with tens of millions of taxpayer dollars at stake: Measure W, a San Mateo County Transit District proposition that now looks as if it’s barely passed muster.

Measure W sought a sales tax bump in hopes of funding transit in the Peninsula, asking voters:

To reduce highway traffic congestion (including 101, 280, interchanges); repair potholes, maintain streets, reduce local traffic, improve pedestrian safety in every San Mateo County city; maintain affordable transit services for seniors/people with disabilities; increase Caltrain/SamTrans capacity; reduce travel times/car trips; implement the San Mateo County Congestion Relief Plan, shall San Mateo County Transit District’s Ordinance levying a 30-year, half-cent sales tax with independent citizen oversight, providing approximately $80 million annual that the State cannot take away, be adopted.

Groups like the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition endorsed Measure W, arguing that “we need every tool at our disposal, including every source of funding locally, regionally, and statewide to put toward critical transportation projects.”

But critics like the No Measure W campaign alleged that the plan wouldn’t work, warning voters, “Forty years of taxing San Mateo County to ‘relieve congestion’ has instead built unimaginable levels of gridlock.”

Photo by Uladzik Kryhin

When it came time to cast ballots, county voters favored Measure W heavily, as the most recent tabulation (released Tuesday) show it ahead by more than 90,000 votes.

Because the measure required a two-thirds supermajority to pass, so the contest was extremely close. According to the county’s “semi-official results,” Measure W squeaked over the line with 66.87 percent.

With a turnout of 270,529, the tax needed at least 180,353 yes votes to pass. The not-quite final count is 180,895.

Voters have fairly receptive to new tax proposals in Bay Area elections lately, passing Regional Measure 3 (raising tolls on almost all Bay Area Bridges) in June and declining to nix a state gas tax in this most recent election.

Note that Measure W has not officially passed until the county releases its final vote count, possibly later this week.