• Fast review of rulings against California high-speed rail ordered

    February 3, 2014

    State Supreme Court ordered appeals court to review two rulings.

    The California Supreme Court is ordering a quick review of adverse rulings against a proposed high-speed railway in the state. The LA Times reports on the court action, Dan Walters writes that the governor’s moves look desperate, and Neel Kashkari says the High-Speed Rail project is “the crazy train.” Ken Orski, in Fox & Hounds, reviewed the HSR issues and noted how unusual the governor’s latest move is.

  • Backers put brakes on proposed transportation funding initiative

    January 28, 2014

    The vehicle license fee initiative is now on hold. The “California Road Repairs Act of 2014” would have phased in an increase in the license fee to raise from $3 billion to $4 billion annually.

    Will Kempton, executive director of Transportation California, said his group and the California Alliance for Jobs decided to put the initiative on hold. “We’ll continue to work with stakeholders, the Legislature, the administration and the public to identify and implement a solution to our transportation infrastructure problems,” Kempton, a former Caltrans director, told the Sacramento Bee.

    Kempton and other supporters point to a huge backlog of road improvement projects in California, with little new money to pay for them. Yet supporters also were well aware of the difficulty in getting the public to back an increase in the license fee.

    Read more in the Sacramento Bee.

  • Transportation Fiscal Cliff: How did we get here?

    January 27, 2014

    Have 4.5 minutes? Watch a new video on California’s transportation fiscal cliff from the California Alliance for Jobs. It’s very well done and features the entertaining and informative Will Durst. Watch it here.

    There is a lot going on in California and nationally on
    High-Speed Rail. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing last week which stirred up a long-simmering debate on whether the state needs high-speed rail. It’s a question many people have been asking. Read what some people are saying:
    Battle of words in the Fresno Bee.
    The hazy future of the bullet train, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times.
    The governor asks the state supreme court to intervene. Sacramento Bee.
    Making the case for high-speed rail by Bruce Maiman.

  • Congress to face dilemma in funding long-term transportation bill

    January 20, 2014

    Finding the funds for next transportation bill is becoming urgent.

    With the Highway Trust Fund forecast to go bankrupt next year and the current two-year transportation bill set to expire Oct. 1, Congress faces a struggle to find funds for a new long-term transportation bill.

    Several solutions are on the table: increasing the federal gas tax, on which the trust fund has relied for decades; shifting the tax burden to wholesale fuel at the refinery; and allowing U.S. corporations that have stockpiled billions of dollars abroad to bring the money home at a reduced tax rate, with that revenue going to rebuilding U.S. infrastructure. None of the options will win consensus in the Congress or with the American public, and each faces a strong pushback from affected constituencies.

    Read more in the Washington Post.

  • Gov. Brown wants to tap cap-and-trade funds for bullet train

    January 13, 2014

    New proposal may trade one set of problems for another.

    Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to provide urgently needed new funding for California’s bullet train project from corporate fees on greenhouse gases melds two of his political passions: building the nation’s first, truly high-speed rail system and putting the state at the forefront of the battle against global warming.

    The bullet train system suffered a series of legal blows last year that blocked $9 billion in state funding, sending Brown and his allies on a search for a new source of funds. This week, Brown plans to announce a new strategy to keep the project moving: dipping into hundreds of millions of dollars in fees collected from businesses whose carbon dioxide emissions exceed state limits.

    But he may be trading one set of legal and political problems for another. The thought of tapping those so-called cap-and-trade funds to support the $68-billion rail line is generating opposition from powerful environmental groups that have in the past allied themselves with the governor, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Planning and Conservation League.

    Read more in the Los Angeles Times here.

  • Statewide, $300 billion is needed to fix roads

    January 6, 2014

    Some say California has already fallen off the fiscal cliff.

    The Marysville Appeal-Democrat takes a look at funding and other issues that exacerbate the problem of maintaining older roads.

    The article states: So, as the backlog increases and the condition of the roads decreases, there reaches a tipping point where, under the current funding formula, some roads will never be repaired, said Will Kempton, executive director of Transportation California, a nonprofit coalition for transportation advocacy, and a previous director of Caltrans. “We’ve gone over that cliff, in terms of lost revenues,” Kempton said. “It’s expensive for the public to continue to drive on broken roadways. It’s a cost that won’t get cheaper in the future.”

    Read more here.

  • New gas tax can help pay for roads and transportation

    December 30, 2013

    The current financing system is “decreasingly useful,” editorial says.

    The Washington Post details some issues with the Highway Trust Fund and a few proposals to address its impending collapse.

    Read the story here.

  • How best to fund road repairs

    December 23, 2013

    Columnist Gary Richards and readers have a “conversation” about neglect, wear, and tear on California highways, and options for creating revenue to fix and maintain the system.
    Read the Q&A here.

  • A new tax is coming

    December 16, 2013

    The question is which one and when. That’s the conclusion of a Sacramento Bee editorial.

    The Bee notes that “In the middle 1960s, Californians drove 100 billion vehicle miles per year. After dipping during the recession, the numbers are up again, from 326.9 billion in 2011 to 331 billion in 2012 to an estimated 331.9 billion this year. Gasoline consumption, however, is declining, a testament to fuel efficiency. After a high of 15.9 billion gallons in 2004, consumption will fall to 14.5 billion gallons this year. By 2020, consumption will be at levels from the late 1990s.

    “That’s good for the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks, but not for road maintenance. Caltrans relies on the excise tax on gasoline to fund road maintenance and rehabilitation. That source erodes as gas mileage increases, and falls far short of the need. Caltrans will spend about $3.3 billion on maintenance and rehabilitation this year. The department estimates it should be spending $7.9 billion just to keep up with needs of the current system.”

    The Bee says lawmakers need to confront the reality.
    Read more here.

  • House bill seeks to increase gas tax by 15 cents per gallon

    December 9, 2013

    A House proposal would boost gas tax 15 cents.

    With Congress facing a major shortfall in transportation funding next year, a House bill introduced Wednesday would raise the federal gasoline tax by 15 cents per gallon to close the gap. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) announced the proposal at a news conference. It would raise the federal tax on gas to 33.4 cents per gallon and on diesel to 42.8 cents. The tax has not been increased since 1993, and the Highway Trust Fund, into which the revenue flows, has suffered because the tax has not kept pace with inflation. Plus, improvements in vehicle fuel economy have reduced consumption.

    “Congress hasn’t dealt seriously with the funding issue for 20 years,” Blumenauer said. “With inflation and increased fuel efficiency, especially for some types of vehicles, there is no longer a good relationship between what road users pay and how much they benefit. The average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993.”

    He said that phasing in a 15-cent-per-gallon tax over three years would raise about $170 billion in the next decade.
    Read more in the Washington Post.