The Avenue

Infrastructure a Key Ballot Issue in Many States and Metros

Joseph Kane and Robert Puentes

On November 4, voters in several states and metro areas will have a big say over the future of their region’s infrastructure. With federal transportation funding running on empty and many areas continuing to tighten their purse strings, ballot measures are filling this void in investment.

Significantly, the measures cut across multiple sectors of infrastructure:

Intra-Metro Transportation

Investments in local roads and public transit appear on the ballot in several places, notably in Clayton County, Ga. Voters there will consider a one-cent sales tax increase to join Atlanta’s transit system, providing bus service and greater job access. Similarly, Rhode Island is proposing to issue $35 million in general obligation bonds to develop a statewide network of transit.

Inter-Metro Transportation

Among highways and the related infrastructure systems that help link together different metro areas, states such as Wisconsin and Maryland are seeking to “firewall” the revenue generated from sources like motor vehicle taxes to transportation uses only.

Trade and Logistics

Given the importance of freight infrastructure to its economy and job market, it should come as no surprise that Louisiana is putting forward an amendment that would authorize the capitalization of a state infrastructure bank. If approved, the measure would mark a significant first step toward providing greater financial certainty and supporting ongoing infrastructure investment.   


With oil profits soaring and environmental concerns on the rise following the shale gas boom, a measure in North Dakota would redirect five percent of the state’s oil extraction tax revenue to support a host of clean water, wildlife, and parks projects. Despite stirring considerable debate, the measure has the potential to support widespread conservation efforts over time.


Facing one of the most severe droughts in its history and a backlog of repairs in its pipelines and treatment facilities, a measure in California would pump nearly $7.5 billion into the state’s water infrastructure. In particular, it would allow the state to sell $7.1 billion in general obligation bonds and redirect $425 million in unsold bonds to pay for a range of projects, including groundwater storage and watershed protection.


Broadband access has emerged as a central infrastructure issue, and the city of Boulder, Colo. is calling for greater investment – and autonomy – in its local services. While Boulder has not committed to creating a public utility if the measure passes, it hopes to overcome restrictions in place under state law and engage in more extensive planning efforts in years to come.

Public Works

Many states and metro areas are confronting land preservation and environmental quality challenges. New Jersey voters will decide whether to dedicate 6 percent of corporate business tax revenues to protect open space, farmland, and other resources in order to improve water quality and clean up polluted sites.

Whether issuing new bonds to pay for transit upgrades or infusing more money to accelerate road repairs, ballot measures have the potential to guide additional resources – and attention – to our pressing infrastructure needs. It’s now up to voters to decide whether to take action.