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Lawsuit Blocks VTA Measure B

VTA’s Measure B sales tax will pour almost $2 billion into boosting traffic volumes on state highways and county expressways.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is currently blocked by court order from distributing any funds generated by the agency’s 2016 Measure B half-cent sales tax. The new tax would spend more than twice as much on peak-hour highway traffic expansions than on bus, light rail, bicycling, and walking improvements combined. Measure B included a clause giving the VTA Board of Directors authority to modify these allocations, but they have so far made no moves to do so.

The court order stems from a lawsuit against VTA on the validity of Measure B, Cheriel Jensen v. Santa Clara Transportation Authority, et al., brought by Saratoga resident Cheriel Jensen and attorney Gary Wesley. The lawsuit was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on January 9 but dismissed by a judge on July 20. Jensen and Wesley are appealing the judgement to California’s Sixth District Court of Appeals.

“Time spent on this legal battle could extend into years, adding to the cost of implementing these needed projects,” lamented VTA Board Chair Jeannie Bruins.

Measure B was vigorously opposed by the Sierra Club, Silicon Valley Transit Users, TransForm, and I Walk I Bike I Vote on social and environmental grounds but was ultimately approved by 70 percent of voters on November 8, 2016. The VTA Board has yet to address the groups’ concerns that the tax measure will inflict permanent environmental damage by widening highways and interchanges and by failing to make major investments in sustainable transportation modes.

VTA Vice Chair and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo dismissed objections to the measure. “One person seeks to exploit the judicial process to reverse the decision of the overwhelming majority of Santa Clara County voters, and of the Superior Court,” he said.

The lawsuit blocks distributions of Measure B funds that was anticipated for Fall 2017. VTA says it will “begin delivering the voter approved projects and programs contained in 2016 Measure B as soon as the lawsuit is resolved.”