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Winning Together: Oh, What A Relief It Is

Leadership Group members meet with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren in 2013.

Traffic Relief, that is.

It’s 1984, and our traffic challenges are down-right Orwellian.

But an unusual partnership changes the Valley forever, and becomes a role model for the entire state.

While sitting on her porch, an expectant mother named Zoe Lofgren lamented the diminished quality of life caused by unbearable traffic that would be the fate of her future son.  With a view to shape the future, rather than bend to it, she reached out to “Santa Clara County Manufacturing Group” CEO Peter Giles.  Together, they created a bold and innovative plan for a half-cent sales tax to build Highway 85, improve Highway 101 and turn the two-lane road with a half-dozen traffic lights called Highway 237 into a full freeway.

It required enabling legislation out of Sacramento (check) in time for a November election across the County.  The Leadership Group and Supervisor Lofgren ran the campaign, raising $600,000 to get the message out, and won by 56 percent of the vote.  YES, that was before the state switched the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for local tax measures.

Epilogue – All three improvements – Highways 85, 101 and 237 – were completed within ten years as promised.  “On time and On budget” became a mantra for future successful transportation sales tax measures.  Santa Clara County became what is known as a “Self-Help County.”

That “Self-Help County” movement is stronger than ever.  Today, 24 of California’s 58 Counties are “Self-Help Counties,” and generate more than half of the transportation dollars currently invested in our State.

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