• 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.

  • California high-speed rail plans stopped in tracks

    December 2, 2013

    HSR must re-do its financing plan; can’t sell bonds yet

    A Sacramento judge put the brakes on California’s plans to build a bullet train after dual rulings last Monday blocked the sale of $8 billion in bonds and ordered the rail authority to rewrite its funding plans for the huge project.

    Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that there was “no evidence in the record” to support the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s request in March to sell the bonds from Proposition 1A, a $10 billion measure approved by voters in 2008 that allowed the bullet train project to move ahead.

    In a separate but related case, the judge sided with the Kings County Board of Supervisors and two homeowners who sued the rail agency, saying it had failed to detail how the project will be financed, as legally required, before seeking bond money to begin construction. The judge’s rulings leave the future of the $68 billion project in question. … Kenny’s decision found that the rail authority “abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of law.”

    The rail authority has already signed a construction contract to build the first 29 miles of track from Madera to Fresno. The judge rejected opponents’ calls for that contract to be rescinded.

    Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • Orange County, long a toll-road supporter, makes U-turn over 405 plan

    November 25, 2013

    Why are drivers putting their collective feet down? The cost.

    The “Lexus lane” was born in Orange County nearly two decades ago: Pay a toll and avoid the crushing rush hour traffic. The first of the toll lanes offered commuters an easier ride between Orange and Riverside counties. From there, Orange County added a network of toll roads around its booming southern end, 51 miles in all. The idea has caught on across the nation, including in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, which recently placed toll lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways. But in Orange County, the concept may be losing its luster.

    A $1.47-billion proposal to add toll lanes to a traffic-clogged 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway from Long Beach to Costa Mesa has met with wide opposition from officials and residents in the six cities along the route. Civic leaders said they fear the plan could be a harbinger of more toll roads to come. “Who can afford thirty bucks a day to commute? Very few people,” said Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey, who represents one of the six cities. “We have an expression: We feel like we’re not being railroaded. We’re being toll-roaded.”

    Read more in the Los Angeles Times here.

  • Decision to Request Title and Summary for New California Road Repairs Act

    November 19, 2013

    Click to view November 19, 2013 joint memo from Transportation California and California Alliance for Jobs.

    From: Will Kempton and James Earp
    To: All Interested Public and Private Transportation Entities and Colleagues
    cc: Chair and Members, Transportation California Board of Directors, Transportation Secretary
    Brian Kelly, Transportation Director Malcolm Dougherty, Chair and All Members, California
    Transportation Commission
    Subject: Decision to Request the Attorney General of California draft “Title and Summary”
    for a new “California Road Repairs Act”

    Yesterday, on behalf of Transportation California and the California Alliance for Jobs, we jointly submitted a request for title and summary for a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide a new source of transportation funding to address the state’s critical roadway and transit preservation fiscal crisis.

    On November 5th the Transportation California Board of Directors authorized a collaboration to join with the California Alliance for Jobs to take this first serious step towards placing a new transportation funding measure on the November 2014 General Election ballot. Together, Transportation California and the Alliance for Jobs have worked diligently over the past 2 years on this effort, including substantial political survey research that has led us to this point of submitting initiative measure language.

    We want to make it perfectly clear to everyone receiving this notification that Transportation California and the Alliance for Jobs, along with our coalition of interested parties, has NOT made a final decision to pursue such a measure in 2014. We are simply keeping our options open.

    We intend to jointly take the necessary steps to make a final determination on whether our measure will have sufficient voter support to move forward in 2014. We anticipate that the official ballot label language will be available by the first week of January. Polling results on that language should be available to us by the end of the second week in January, and this, along with consultation with other interested parties, will determine whether we will move forward on this effort in 2014.

    For your background, we have provided an overview summary of the language we have submitted along with a brief overview of the worsening transportation funding crisis we are confronting here in California.

    Sincerely,

    Will Kempton, Executive Director
    Transportation California
    1111 L Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    (916) 446-1280
    wkempton@transportationca.com

    James Earp, Executive Director
    California Alliance for Jobs
    1415 L Street, Suite 1080
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    916-446-2259
    jearp@rebuildca.org

    Our Transportation Funding Challenge

    California has a critical need to implement a new revenue measure that would support maintenance and rehabilitation of its state and local road and transit systems. This new revenue source should be independent of fossil fuel consumption, increase over time at a rate that is equal to or greater than inflation, and produce enough revenue to significantly reduce the huge backlog of unmet road, bridge and transit maintenance and rehabilitation costs.

    After a great deal of technical, financial and voter opinion research over the last three years, Transportation California believes a 1% annual fee on the value of all motor vehicles to fund a new “California Road Repair Fund”, best meets the current and future funding needs of California’s road and transit systems as described in the previous paragraph.

    California Road Repair Act:
    Program Summary

    • Assess an annual California Road Repair Fee on all vehicles, excluding heavy duty trucks (over
      10,000 lbs.), equal to 1% of each vehicles’ value in ¼% increments phased in over four years. The
      annual total estimate of revenue raised is estimated to be $2.9 billion per year when the rate
      reaches 1% in 2018 or nearly $25 billion over the first ten years. Heavy trucks will pay a fair share
      equivalent increase in the diesel tax, which they prefer to a vehicle fee based on “value”.
    • All new revenue raised must be used exclusively for road, bridge and transit system maintenance,
      rehabilitation and transit vehicle replacement only.
    • The revenue would be allocated as follows:
      • 25% of all new revenue to all cities in California distributed on a formula allocation
        based on population.
      • 25% of all new revenue to all counties in California based on a formula allocation
        equal to 75% of fee-paying vehicle and 25% road miles.
      • 40% of all new revenue to the State Highway System based on a formula allocation
        of ½ allocated 60% to Southern California, 40% to Northern California, and ½
        allocated on a “highest need” basis statewide.
      • 10% of all new revenue to public transit system maintenance, rehabilitation and
        vehicle replacement based on the current State Transit Assistance Program formula.
      • This is a “pay as you go” proposition, with 100% of the new revenue going to the purposes
        enumerated above, not bondholders.
    • All new funds raised in the Act would be constitutionally dedicated only for the purposes
      enumerated above and not available for reallocation or loan for any other purpose, without a new
      authorization by the voters.
    • The Act will also incorporate several Taxpayer Safeguards to ensure that the funds are effectively
      managed and utilized in conformity with the voters understanding. These include a cap on
      administrative costs and a requirement for forthright progress reports and audits.
  • Link to Attorney General website: California Road Repairs Act of 2014 (13-0045 & 13-0046)

    November 19, 2013

    You can download a document by selecting the proposed initiative’s tracking number. Submitted proposed initiatives may appear below with an unofficial title submitted by the proponent(s) or developed by the Attorney General’s Initiative Coordinator. These unofficial titles are for identification purposes only.

  • Initiative proposed to raise funds for road, bridge fixes

    November 19, 2013

    Proposal could bring in $3 billion annually for transportation.

    California’s leading transportation advocates announced plans Monday for a tax measure that, if approved by voters, would raise $3 billion annually to fix the Golden State’s deteriorating roads, highways and bridges.

    Will Kempton, former head of Caltrans who leads the nonprofit advocacy group Transportation California, said the initiative would ask voters as early as November 2014 to gradually increase vehicle registration fees over four years. Car owners currently pay 0.65 percent of their vehicle’s value annually, and that rate would rise to 1.65 percent during the targeted period, he said.

    Kempton noted that many of California’s roads, highways and bridges were built in the 1950s and 1960s and are wearing out. The California Transportation Commission found that 58 percent of the state’s roads require rehabilitation or pavement maintenance; 20 percent of bridges need major or preventive maintenance; and 6 percent of bridges require complete replacement.
    Read more of this article in The San Diego Union Tribune here.

    Transportation California and the California Alliance for jobs jointly submitted a request Monday with the California Attorney General for “Title and Summary,” language for the initiative, the California Road Repairs Act. The measure may appear on the November 2014 General Election ballot.

  • Another major transportation project completed in California

    November 18, 2013

    The fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel has opened. The long-awaited project brings four dedicated lanes through the two tunnels. Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The route opened with two tunnels in 1937. A third was finished in 1964. This fourth bore cost nearly $420 million — $180 from the federal stimulus program of 2009, $125 million from local sales taxes, and the remainder from bridge tolls and state and regional allocations.

    The San Mose Mercury-News has a collection of photos from the original opening here.

  • Marin voters embrace city sales tax plans

    November 11, 2013

    Voters in four Marin County cities approved local sales taxes. The Nov. 5 ballot measures were structured to require a simple majority, but passed with at least 65% of the vote. A California analysis indicates that measures structured to pass with a simple majority succeeded and most requiring two-thirds of the ballots failed. Across the country, transportation measures were very successful and voters also elected two transportation advocates for governor in Virginia and New Jersey.

    Read more about these stories:

    Marin measures: Read here.

    Simple majority measures win: Read here.

    Transportation across the US: Read here.