Credit: Von Balanon

This November, Fresno County voters will decide whether to approve the most important spending plan in local history: Measure C’s road-focused, $7 billion transportation sales tax. 

The main features of the spending plan – $3.5 billion for road repairs, a 40% reduction in public transit’s share of Measure C revenues, and a 1% share for pedestrian and bike trails – will lock in the future of Fresno’s County’s transportation infrastructure for decades to come if it can garner support from more than 66% of voters this fall. 

Local leaders are split on whether to approve the spending plan. On the one hand, the Dyer administration, the building trades, the farm bureau and the county chamber of commerce support the spending plan. 

On the other side, in a rare bipartisan consensus, both the local Democratic and Republican parties oppose the Measure C renewal this fall. The city’s leading community-based organizations, the Fresno Teachers Association, former Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin and a section of the local building trades unions also oppose the spending plan.

Here’s everything you need to know about this fall’s Measure C.

Will Measure C add to my taxes?

No. Fresno County residents have been paying into Measure C’s half-cent sales tax since January 1987. County residents have voted on a new Measure C plan twice: 2002 (failed) and 2006 (successful).

What will happen to local transit and road funding if we don’t renew Measure C this year? 

Your local transit programs will not lose funding if the Measure C renewal fails this year. Neither will any road or trail programs funded through Measure C, even if the renewal fails.

The current version of Measure C does not expire until 2027.

Local leaders have two more election cycles – 2024 and 2026 – to write up a plan and renew Measure C before the current version expires.

What’s in the spending plan?

The biggest chunk of money is being set aside to fix local roads.

Source: Fresno County Transportation Authority

Over half (51%) of the revenues will go to a program called Local & Neighborhood Street Repair & Maintenance ($3.5 billion), according to the proposed spending plan. The program’s main priority is asphalt and concrete repaving projects. The share of funds that can go to existing local sidewalks, streetlights, and gutters is capped at 20% of the program revenues. 

If you want this program to add a sidewalk, curb, gutter, or bike lane to your neighborhood, you’re out of luck. This $3.5 billion program will only help build these amenities in neighborhoods that already have them

The $3.5 billion will mainly fund the plan’s biggest initiative: improving Fresno County’s average road smoothness over the next 20 years. Today, the county’s average pavement condition index (a road quality score) is around 60, and the plan would spend billions to raise that score to 70 by 2042. 

The second-largest category, Local Control, ($1.3 billion, 19%) will be used at the discretion of your local city agency, such as the City of Fresno or the City of Fowler. There is no formal public procedure yet for local residents to collaborate with city officials about how these Measure C funds are spent, but highway development, street repair, and public transit all qualify. How funds from this category are eventually spent will be negotiated implicitly, along with many other funding sources, during the annual city budget approval process. 

The third-largest category, Major Roads & Highways ($998 million, 15%), will go towards new highway interchanges and projects.

In the Fresno urban area, the two largest highway projects involve upgrading the intersection of Shaw and Highway 99 ($95 million) and the freeway connectors between Highways 41, 168, and 180 ($119 million).

In rural Fresno County, the two largest highway projects are building the first phase of a new road from Mendota to Interstate 5 ($95 million) and a four-lane divided road from Friant Road to Table Mountain Casino ($40 million). 

Public transit’s category, Urban and Rural Public Transit ($812 million, 12%), suffers a 40% cut from its current share of Measure C revenues. Local officials have pledged to use Local Control dollars to make up for this shortfall, but there is no guarantee, nor a public process, to ensure this happens over the proposed plan’s 30-year lifespan. This spending plan will also eliminate dedicated funding for senior mobility and farmworker carpool programs, which are part of the current version of Measure C. 

Environmental Sustainability ($144 million, 2%) will fund Transit Oriented development projects ($41 million over 30 years, ~ $1.4 million annually) and new technology projects ($40 million over 30 years, ~ $1.4 million annually).

The plan’s smallest program, Safe Bikes and Pedestrians ($75 million, 1%), will fund pedestrian trails and safe routes to schools. The proposed plan cuts the bike and pedestrians’ current share of Measure C revenues by 66%. 

So, will the plan improve Fresno County’s road quality?

Yes. Since the current version of Measure C was approved in 2006, the average daily traffic in the Fresno region has almost doubled, and the county’s road network has amassed a maintenance funding shortfall of $1.7 billion. In recent years, heavy duty truck traffic from the logistics and agricultural industry has taken an especially heavy toll on local roads.

Local planners want taxpayers to foot this maintenance bill. To repair the roads worn down by the agricultural and logistics industry, the proposed Measure C plan increases the share of local sales tax revenue that goes to road maintenance by $1.5 – $2 billion. In total, the proposed plan directly allocates $3.5 billion in sales tax revenue for road maintenance, which local planners say is enough to improve the average pavement condition over the next 20 years.

The last version of Measure C did include some funding for fixing roads, but not enough to match the pace of building new roads and widening the ones that are already there.

Will the plan improve air quality?

Most of the programs in the plan take no steps to reduce tailpipe pollution from cars or trucks, and the proposed plan backslides on public transit gains achieved by environmental groups fifteen years ago. 

In 2002, a coalition of air quality and anti-tax groups joined together to defeat a proposed Measure C plan which granted public transit 13% of future Measure C revenues. Four year later, after a more engaged renewal process, a new plan which doubled transit’s share from the failed plan, to 24%, was supported by the environmental groups and won 78% of the Fresno County vote. 

In this fall’s proposed plan, public transit’s emphasis is more like 2002 and less like 2006. In the new plan, public transit’s share is back down to 12%, and the 2006 plan’s ambition to expand rapid public transit or increase ridership are gone. Instead, the 30-year plan, which goes into 2057, envisions the region’s public transit system as a last resort for the “transit dependent,” or for people who already prefer riding the bus.     

Dr. Alex Sherriffs, a clinical professor at UCSF Fresno and a Valley Air district board board member, does not support the proposed Measure C plan. He says the spending plan “is too much of the same, or a step backwards,” for Fresno County. “We have the chance to do so much more with public transit and bike trails,” he told Fresnoland.

However, on average, EV charging stations qualify for up to $750,000 annually between 2027 and 2057.

Is the plan aligned with the region’s transportation goals? 

This year, the county’s official transportation planner created a $6 billion transportation plan that aligned with the region’s sustainability goals, economic growth and housing affordability.

According to that document, the Measure C spending plan funds road maintenance at 173% of the region’s goals, while funding the region’s bike and pedestrian trails at 27%.

The planner assessed that the region would have to spend $2.3 billion on road maintenance, $1.6 billion for Roads and Highway expansions, $1 billion for public transit and $1 billion for bicycle and pedestrians to meet all these goals. 

Assuming the flex programs are spent according to this split, Fresnoland estimates the proposed Measure C plan will spend $4 billion on road maintenance, $1.3 billion for road expansions, $1 billion for public transit, and $272 million for bike and pedestrians. 

ProgramEst. Measure C funding% need funded
Road Maintenance$4 billion173%
Road Expansions$1.3 billion81%
Public Transit$1 billion100%
Bike and Pedestrians$272 million27%
Who supports the Measure C spending plan?

Some key endorsements include:

Jerry Dyer, Fresno mayor

Fresno Chamber of Commerce

California Association of Realtors

Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Building Trades Council

Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff

Dora Westerland, Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation CEO

Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO

Henry R. Perea, former Fresno County Supervisor 

Susan Anderson, former Fresno County Supervisor

Dr. Cassandra Little, Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce

Who opposes the Measure C spending plan? 

Fresno County Democratic Party

Fresno County Republican Party

Carpenters Union Local 701

Ironworkers Union Local 155

Fresno Teachers Association

Miguel Arias, Fresno City Council member 

Ashley Swearengin, former Fresno mayor

Dr. Alex Sherriffs, UCSF Fresno Clinical Professor and Valley Air District board member

Juan Arambula, former state assemblyman

Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

Fresno Building Healthy Communities

Central California Environmental Justice Network

Youth Leadership Institute

Veva Islas, Fresno Unified Trustee 

Andy Levine, Fresno Unified Trustee

Who is funding the support and opposition of Measure C?

Yes on Measure C

This fall, financial support for the Measure C campaign – for voters’ approval of its proposed $6.8 billion spending plan – includes engineering and building unions, Fresno’s Chamber of Commerce, and Vulcan Materials company, which sells asphalt and concrete.

Total funds raised so far: as of Oct.20: $270,000 

Top donors:

Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 Issues Advocacy/Ballot Initiative PAC:  $75,000

Building and Construction trades: $50,000

California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC: $50,000

California Alliance for Jobs – Rebuild California Committee:  $25,000

Fresno Chamber PAC: $20,000

No on Measure C

The No on Measure C campaign has received most of their funds from the local carpenter’s union, progressive community-based organizations and Joaquin Arambula’s campaign.

Total funds raised so far, as of Oct. 20: $240,000

Top donors: 

Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Issues PAC: $100,000

Dr. Joaquin Arambula for Assembly 2022: $50,000

Leadership Counsel for for Justice and Accountability: $25,000

Fresno Fresno Building Healthy Communities: $25,000

Click on the interactive chart below to explore the donors:

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Gregory Weaver is a staff writer for Fresnoland who covers the environment, air quality, and development.