POMONA — A proposal to increase the sales tax in Los Angeles County by half a cent to raise money for roads, commuter rail and other transportation projects ran into opposition from the Pomona City Council this week.
The council spurned a request from the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission to endorse its transportation proposal. The commission needs the approval of 44 cities, representing more than half the county's population, before it can ask county supervisors to submit a half-cent tax increase to voters.
The tax would raise $350 million a year, with some of the money going to cities for improvement of local streets. Pomona would receive $1.7 million the first year.
A majority of the council objected to the tax increase.
"I like the idea of more money coming in (for transportation) but I don't know if I want to do that on the backs of the taxpayers," said Councilman Tomas Ursua.
Councilwoman Nell Soto, who works for the Southern California Rapid Transit District, pointed out that the county sales tax of 6 1/2 cents per dollar already includes half a cent for transportation, and said officials should spend this money more wisely before seeking an increase.
Mayor Donna Smith was the only council member to endorse the plan.
"The gridlock and traffic congestion are just unbearable right now," she said. "It's only fair that the voters should decide the fate of this measure."
She urged the council to delay action until Councilman Mark A. T. Nymeyer, who was absent from this week's meeting, could cast a vote.
But other council members voted to receive and file the request from the transportation commission, ending discussion.
Bryant said that if the proposal makes it to the ballot, he hopes voters in the county will reject it.
"There is little or no benefit to the city of Pomona," he said. "The only help is upgrading the Corona Expressway to a full freeway, and I'm not sure I'm for that."
The spending plan allocates 30% of the revenue from the proposed tax increase to local street improvements, with the money distributed to cities and the county based on population and the amount of paved street.
The plan allots 25% of the revenue to freeway improvements, supplementing federal, state and local funding.
Proposed projects in the San Gabriel Valley include the upgrading of the Corona Expressway, extension of the Foothill Freeway eastward through La Verne and Claremont, extension of the San Bernardino Freeway's busway east from El Monte to San Bernardino, new car-pool lanes on the Pomona, 605 and 57 freeways, closure of the gap in the 710 (Long Beach) Freeway, and improvement of Hacienda Boulevard.
Other revenue would be used for computerized traffic signals, towing service, ride-sharing programs and other measures designed to relieve traffic congestion.
Stephen H. Lantz, manager of community relations for the transportation commission, said 11 cities have endorsed the proposal, including Claremont, Duarte, South El Monte and West Covina. It has been rejected by Bellflower, Signal Hill and Temple City, he said.