OAKLAND -- A measure to boost Alameda County's transportation sales tax to the highest in Northern California -- to a full one cent -- is trailing so narrowly that its fate may not be decided for days.
Measure B1, which would double the current half-cent transportation sales tax, would provide nearly $8 billion over three decades to boost spending on roads, freeways and public transit.
The measure garnered 65.5 percent of Tuesday's vote -- just below the 66.67 percent needed to pass -- in initial results from all precincts.
The measure picked up an extra tenth of a percent on Wednesday -- taking the yes votes to 65.6 percent -- after about 14,000 additional ballots were counted.However, the outcome remained in limbo, with an estsmated 125,000 ballots still uncounted in Alameda County -- mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be tallied, voter registration officials said Wednesday.
"There is hope," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty of Dublin, a member of the county transportation commission that crafted the measure as relief for traffic congestion. "I think it will win."
The measure would provide money for fixing potholes, improving freeway intersections, restoring public transit service cuts and funding public transit improvements such as $400 million on a down payment for a BART rail extension to Livermore.
County and city leaders and many business and environmental groups backed the measure as a way to fight traffic congestion and boost public transit and ways to travel on foot and bicycle.
Opponents said Measure B1 was asking for too much and opposed locking the sales tax in place by making it permanent.
The close margin in the Measure B1 initial tally reminded some transportation advocates how Santa Clara County's one-eighth-cent sales tax to fund BART operations was losing on election night in November 2008, but was pronounced a winner weeks later.
If the Alameda County tax increase passes, the first dose of extra money would be available in June 2013.
If the measure fails, then supporters should go to voters again with a similar increase, said Mark Green, the Union City mayor and chairman of the Alameda County Transportation Commission.
"I say 'Damn the torpedoes and full speed again,'" Green said. "The measure has so many positives to improve transportation."
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.