Voters reject federal match for transportation projects

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - In a vote of 46 percent "yes" to 54 percent "no," Anchorage voters rejected Proposition 2, on Tuesday.

Photo of Anchorage people mover bus

It would have allowed the municipality to borrow $1.6 million to buy two new ambulances, improve school zones and bus stops and provide new vehicles for AnchorRIDES and People Mover.

"It’s a real impact to those who use public transportation," said Abul Hassan, director of public transportation.

In the days leading up to the April 4 election, Proposition 2 was mostly known as the ambulance bond.

But Proposition 2 also covered additional funding for school zones, People Mover and AnchorRIDES.

"Ridership on the People Mover side is roughly 4 million, and our daily trip usage on AnchorRIDES generally exceeds 700 trips. So a lot of people utilize these services," Hassan said.

The bond would have allowed the department to get additional grant money, which is typically an 80-20 split. With Alaskans seeing an 80 percent match in federal funds, according to Hassan.

Day-to-day operations for public transportation in the city shouldn't be impacted too much, because the bond wasn't for operating money, Hassan said.

The more than $700,000 debt would have been used to replace the roof at the bus garage, as well as service the vehicles in AnchorRIDES fleet.

"Unlike buses, their life span is a lot lower. It’s generally 100,000 miles, or 5 years, so the cycle replacement comes up quite frequently," Hassan said.

Some voters say the proposition was the only bond to fail in this election, because not every line item was seen as an essential.

Proposition 2 opponent and former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom says historically Alaskans have supported public safety bills, but this one was different.

"This one wasn’t, I don’t think, very candid and forth right," Mystrom said.

Voters were asked to approve a $2.3 million increase in the tax cap to pay for two new ambulances, maintenance and to staff them with 14 new EMT's.

"I think I’ve learned over the past few years that the people of Anchorage don’t buy into solutions, until they first buy into a problem," Mystrom said. "There hasn’t clearly been a problem with ambulances being able to reach people who need help or to respond quickly, so the problem hadn’t been defined."

Mystrom said if in the future, voters feel they need more ambulances a similar proposition could find its way on ballots in other elections.

Anchorage fire chief Denis Leblanc says the department has several "plan b" options in place, since the additional ambulances will not be added for first responders.

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