• Alameda, Contra Costa counties considering transportation sales tax increase

    April 22, 2013

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

    State lawmakers will soon consider legislation to clear the way for ballot measures in Alameda and Contra Costa counties to increase sales taxes for transportation. Alameda County leaders say they are anxious to ask voters again to double the county transportation sales tax from a half-cent to 1 cent — the highest rate in Northern California. The increase lost at the polls in November by fewer than 700 votes.

    Contra Costa leaders haven’t proposed an increase but say they may opt to do so and want to keep their options open. The current tax is a half-cent, and it was last renewed by voters in 2004’s Measure J. Without an act of state lawmakers, however, neither county can seek a sales tax increase because doing so would push some cities above a sales tax cap set by the state.

    Read more here.

  • Obama wants $50B for roads, $40B for rail, MAP-21 extension in 2014 budget

    April 15, 2013

    President says “fix it first.” Show me the money: GOP.

    President Obama released his transportation budget last week. According to commentators, it looks a bit familiar. The president is calling for $50 billion upfront: $40 billion for a “fix-it-first” program and $10 billion “for competitive programs to encourage innovation in completing high value infrastructure projects.” He called for a national infrastructure bank, $4 billion in TIFIA and TIGER expansions and a $7 billion America Fast Forward program. The president also called for money dedicated to high-speed rail and NextGen, as well as a big increase in annual federal transportation spending and halving big infrastructure project delivery timelines.

    How the $50 billion would be divvied up: $27 billion for highway repair and construction, including $2 billion for border crossing infrastructure; $2 billion for airport capital grants; $1billion for FAA’s NextGen program; $3 billion for rail capital projects; $2 billion for Amtrak; $2.5 billion for transit formula capital grants, including several set-asides for rural areas; $6 billion for modernize existing fixed-guideway systems and replace and rehab buses and bus facilities; $4 billion for competitive credit assistance and grants for intermodal projects that span regions; $2 billion for a competitive grant program to incentivize state DOTs and MPOs to institutionalize “best practices in transportation policy.”

    Read more about the proposal here.

    Read about funding questions here.

    Read some of the reactions from the transportation industry here.


  • Bullet train draws more fire

    April 8, 2013

    Everyone has an opinion on California’s High-Speed Rail this week.  The High-Speed Rail Authority met in Fresno last week to discuss recommended routes. The authority also approved a proposal for an EIR of four proposed routes in the Chowchilla area.

    The Bakersfield Californian says of the controversial downtown stop: “We asked for it.”  Read more.

    The San Jose Mercury News calls out Gov. Brown:  “Here is a legacy to try on for size.”  Read more.

    The Sacramento Bee wonders if rail cynics would have nixed federal highways or intercontinental rail.  Read more.


  • GAO report: California high-speed rail estimates 'reasonable'

    April 1, 2013

    Ridership and revenue estimates sound reasonable to the federal GAO. Republicans in Congress have questioned estimates for the proposed railway, which has received more than $3 billion in funding from the Obama administration. They are gearing up to try to derail the project. Again. You can read more here and here.

    Meanwhile, in California, the HSR Authority filed a civil case against everyone on the planet. That’s not an April Fool’s joke. Read about that here.

  • U.S. infrastructure gets a D+ on annual report card

    March 25, 2013

    The nation’s roads get a D; bridges show some improvement.

    The state of American infrastructure has improved ever so slightly over the past four years – but it’s still failing, according to the new report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. U.S. infrastructure got a D+ overall grade, up from a D when the last report card came out four years ago. The estimated investment needed by 2020: $3.6 trillion. But that’s for all infrastructure. America’s roads did even worse scored a D. Bridges got a C+ though.  And – surprise, California’s overall score is a C. We’re average!  You can read the report and California assessments here.

  • Ryan budget targets DOT, high-speed rail funding

    March 18, 2013

    Paul Ryan’s budget proposal slashes transportation funding and high-speed rail. Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, presented the budget as part of an effort to cut federal spending by $5.7 trillipn and balance the federal budget by the year 2023. “The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending,” Ryan said. “Further . . . their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.”  Read more here.

  • Former Caltrans Director Will Kempton Named Executive Director of Transportation California

    March 15, 2013

    Transportation innovator and manager Will Kempton has been named executive director of the state’s leading transportation education and advocacy group, Transportation California. Kempton joins the nonprofit coalition March 18.

    Kempton, 2009-13 executive director of Orange County Transportation Authority and 2004-2009 director of Caltrans, has 40 years’ experience in transportation, public service and government affairs.

    “Will’s experience in infrastructure financing and project delivery is critical right now for transportation planning in the state,” said John Franich, chairman of Transportation California. “California’s aging infrastructure requires greater amounts of costly maintenance, and our recovering economy urgently needs more efficient, modern transportation infrastructure. We believe Will Kempton’s vision and collaborative style will help forge solutions to long-term funding and other transportation challenges.”

    Kempton has been credited with rebuilding Caltrans’ reputation through rapid project delivery, moving stimulus dollars into needed transportation projects and instilling a more businesslike approach at the state transportation planning agency.

    Kempton has moved between public and private posts throughout his varied career, which began at Caltrans in 1976. As chief of the Office of Revenue Management, Kempton oversaw California’s capital highway budget and later, as Assistant Director in charge of Legislative and Congressional Affairs, he secured passage of numerous pieces of legislation that benefited the state.

    In 1985 Kempton became executive director of the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority, managing its billion-dollar highway construction program, the first of its kind in the state. In 1992, Kempton became a partner of Smith, Kempton & Watts, a Sacramento advocacy firm, where he consulted in programs and policies to enhance effectiveness of public and private resources. In 2002, he became Assistant City Manager of the City of Folsom, and was recruited to head Caltrans in 2004.

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed Kempton to head Caltrans, credited him with being an “incredible driving force” in the state’s efforts to rebuild its transportation infrastructure.

    “Throughout his career, Will has focused on meeting the public’s need for reliable transportation services and systems by emphasizing efficiency and best management practices,” Franich said. “We look forward to Will applying his energy and passion to create new transportation solutions that will benefit all Californians.”


  • California's crumbling streets will need billions to fix

    March 11, 2013

    Without repair, 25% of roads will fail in 10 years.  This is according to the League of California Cities, which says California roads are in “rapid decline” and that unless we come up with the cash to fix our streets, one out of four of the roads across California will be in “failed” condition within 10 years.  The assessment says it we’re under-funding our street maintenance and repair by more than $82 billion but that such an investment would protect $189 billion worth of taxpayer dollars underlying our roadway infrastructure. Read more in the LA Weekly here.

  • High-speed rail project will be under way this summer

    March 5, 2013

    Staffed up, HSR Authority expects to contract out by summer.  Questions remain about its legitimacy.  Read more about the preparations here, and more about the legal issue here.

  • Is Obama's warning about 'crumbling roads' overblown?

    February 25, 2013

    The Reason Foundation says conditions on state roads have improved. This contradicts the president’s state of the union comments that 70,000 bridges are structurally deficient and needing urgent upgrades. Read more here.