Plan to ask voters for a car tax increase scuttled
November 20, 2012
Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu is dropping a push to ask voters to triple the state’s vehicle license fee rates. Sen. Lieu planned to introduce legislation to put a measure on the 2014 ballot asking voters to raise the state’s vehicle license fee. Raising the rate from .65 percent to 2 percent — the level it was before former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed the fee in 2004 — could generate up to $4 billion a year for roads, public transit and other projects. Read more here.
Nation’s Highways Remain an Issue for an Obama Second Term
November 20, 2012
From the Washington Post: The next U.S. transportation secretary — whether it’s Ray LaHood or someone else — will confront a highway system starved for cash and financed by a gasoline tax almost no one wants to raise. How President Obama and his transportation leader respond may set the course for decades. Besides shoring up highways and transit systems vital to the economy, the president’s second term may provide another chance for him to push his vision for high-speed passenger rail, which was stalled by Congress’ refusal to keep paying for it
Obama spent part of this year’s presidential campaign talking about the need to do “nation-building here at home” after spending years and billions of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, he proposed a six-year, $556 billion transportation plan. The president hasn’t specified ways to pay for the plan. Read more here.
Policy changes urged to update the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
August 20, 2012
In the 40 years since the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was enacted, Congress and the California legislature have adopted more than 120 laws to protect environmental quality, notably the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, greenhouse gas emissions reduction standards and SB 375. These laws affect many of the same areas required to be independently mitigated under CEQA.
“It is time to align CEQA with current environmental laws and eliminate the duplication, litigation and obstacles created or allowed under this important but outmoded Act,” said former Transportation California Executive Director Bert Sandman.
Transportation California has joined a broad coalition of business, labor, schools, affordable housing, clean tech and other leaders to develop ideas for policy changes to update CEQA. The coalition has been developing CEQA reform policies over the past year and presented their ideas at a media briefing Monday. Suggested reforms would preserve CEQA’s original intent – environmental protection – while preventing special interest abuses that jeopardize community renewal, job-creation and the environment.
The coalition’s position is that CEQA needs to conform to comprehensive state and federal environmental laws and regulations.
“Despite stringent environmental laws and local planning requirements, public and private projects throughout the state are commonly challenged under CEQA even when a project meets all other environmental standards of existing laws,” Sandman said.
CEQA gives rise to lawsuits brought for non-environmental reasons; these lawsuits can to halt environmentally desirable projects such as clean power, infill and transit. At times CEQA works at odds with, instead of in concert with, important environmental laws like SB 375 and AB 32.
“CEQA lawsuits should focus on compliance with CEQA’s procedural and substantive requirements and not to challenge adopted environmental standards or approved projects that comply with existing standards and plans.”
Modernization, he emphasized, is critical. “California is and can remain a leader in environmental stewardship, while at the same time promote responsible investments in schools, clean technology, roads, mass transit, hospitals, infill development, housing, business and new jobs,” he said.
State will have new California Transportation Agency next week
June 28, 2012
Governor’s Reorganization Plan will separate transportation from BTH
While the focus recently has been on the state budget, the governor’s proposed reorganization of state government agencies has been progressing somewhat under the radar screen.
The Little Hoover Commission completed its mandated review of the reorganization plan following three hearings in April on the specifics of the plan plus meetings in April and May to discuss their findings for inclusion in a report to the legislature.
The Little Hoover Commission found that “the reorganization of departments in the three new agencies is potentially valuable and should encourage more collaboration and innovation by improving communication and cooperation among departments. Importantly, it should set the stage for agency secretaries and department directors to better manage their operations.”
Strengthens Transportation’s Voice
“This is the most sensible reorganization the state could take with transportation,” said Bert Sandman, former Executive Director of Transportation California. “It groups transportation departments and commissions, and it gives transportation a focused voice in the governor’s cabinet.”
The plan establishes the California Transportation Agency (CTA) as a single-focus cabinet office emphasizing Transportation Policy and moves other BTH offices and departments to reorganized state cabinet agencies. BTH will be renamed Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.
The new California Transportation Agency will include the following departments and offices.
– Department of Transportation
– Department of Motor Vehicles
– California Highway Patrol
– Board of Pilot Commissioners
– Office of Traffic Safety
– High Speed Rail Authority
– California Transportation Commission (CTC)
The 60-day mandatory review period ends Monday, July 2. Unless the legislature acts to reject the plan, it will go into effect.
Moving forward: An issue of concern emerged during review by the Assembly Special Committee on Reorganization: Does the GRP proposal related to the CTC being placed under the new transportation agency affect the CTC independence?
This will be addressed in companion legislation which will provide so-called “firewall” language to clarify the role of the CTC within the new CTA structure.
Transportation California stakeholders invited to participate in Caltrans' CIB Summit May 23
May 14, 2012
Caltrans will conduct a statewide summit May 23 to present their California Interregional Blueprint. They have asked Transportation California to invite stakeholders to participate.
Two of Governor Brown’s most recent appointees will speak at the California Interregional Blueprint (CIB) Summit:
- Brian Kelly, Acting Secretary, Business, Housing and Transportation Agency, and
- Malcolm Dougherty, Director, Caltrans
If you have not yet registered for the Summit, please do so today. Join California’s Transportation Leadership in-person in Sacramento, or on the Web, and help shape California’s future transportation system.
California Interregional Blueprint (CIB) Summit
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
8:00 AM – 10:30 AM
CalPERS Auditorium, 400 P Street, Sacramento
Caltrans is sponsoring the CIB Summit to share critical information about the long-term future of California’s transportation system and receive valuable feedback from you. Take this opportunity to speak with representatives from state agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, regional transportation planning agencies, and the private sector.
BTH Acting Secretary Brian Kelly will share Governor Brown’s perspective as the Summit’s keynote speaker.
Leaders from key regional and state agencies scheduled to participate in panel discussions are:
- Gary Gallegos, Executive Director, San Diego Association of Governments
- Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
- James Goldstene, Executive Officer, California Air Resources Board
- Sharon Scherzinger, Executive Director, El Dorado County Transportation Commission
- Malcolm Dougherty, Acting Director, Caltrans
- Dan Richard, Chair, California High Speed Rail Commission
- Tim Schott, Executive Director, California Association of Port Authorities
Complete details on the Summit and the California Interregional Blueprint process are available on the Caltrans Web Site. Click here.
After registering, you’ll receive a confirmation email with directions to the workshop.
If you have questions, email Caroline Leary, Cambridge Systematics, at email@example.com or call her at 510-873-8700 (voice) or 711 (TTY). If you need physical accommodations or other assistance, please contact Caroline as soon as possible, but no later than two working days before the Summit.
California ranks third in US in number of older driver traffic fatalities
February 22, 2012
Transportation system insufficient to meet baby boomers’ growing mobility and safety needs
Older motorists are involved in a disproportionately high share of traffic fatalities. Although drivers 65 and older account for eight percent of all miles driven, they comprise 17 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to a new TRIP report. In 2010, there were 5,750 fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver 65 or older.
California leads the nation in the number of licensed drivers aged 65 and older and ranks third in both the number of drivers over 65 killed in 2010 and the number of traffic fatalities involving a driver 65 or older.
As the Baby Boom Generation begins to turn 65, the number of older Americans will swell dramatically. The population of Americans 65 and older will grow by 60 percent by 2025, when one in every five drivers will be 65 or older. For those 65 and older, 90 percent of travel takes place in a private vehicle.
“Public safety is a primary concern for all Californians and providing a long-term transportation bill with a steady stream of revenue is vital to the cost of maintaining safe and efficient roadways,” said Tom Holsman, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of California. “There is much more that can be done to ensure public safety with steady revenues, and increased funding to support new and existing infrastructure will improve California and the nation’s roads and highways.”
Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP, urged swift reauthorization in Washington, DC: “Congress can help not only older drivers, but all drivers by passing long-term federal surface transportation legislation now.”
Bert Sandman, former Executive Director of Transportation California, said this is also a state problem, not just federal: “Safety and mobility are critical issues not just for California’s baby boomers, but also for the state’s aging network of roads and bridges. A well-maintained transportation system promotes safety, yet 58 percent of California roadways require rehabilitation or pavement maintenance, and 20 percent of the state’s bridges require major maintenance or preventative work. It’s time for California to step up with creative funding approaches.”
The TRIP report offers a set of recommendations to improve the mobility and safety of older Americans. Read more in the report from TRIP.
TRIP is a national nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C.
California's rural traffic fatality rate is fifth highest in the nation
September 1, 2011
The roads connecting California’s farm, forest, mountain and other rural communities is an unsafe, inadequate weak spot in the state’s vast network of roads and bridges: nearly 38 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state occurred on rural, non-Interstate roads.
A new TRIP report says the fatality rate on California’s rural roads is four times higher than all other roads and highways in the state. California ranks fifth in the nation in the traffic fatality rate on its rural, non-Interstate roads. In 2009, California’s non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.86 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.68 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
“Californians deserve to get where we’re going safely, whether you’re driving to shopping areas, trying to connect to an Interstate, visiting a state park or national forest, or going to the wine country or skiing,” said Bert Sandman, former Executive Director of Transportation California. The TRIP report shows that inadequate roadway safety design, longer emergency vehicle response times and the higher speeds traveled on rural roads are factors in the higher traffic fatality rate, particularly on two-lane roads. “Many vital connector routes between towns and cities and between the major north-south freeways are hazardous two-lane roads,” Sandman said. “If the funding is provided, these roads can be modernized and made safer,” he said.
Rural bridges also deficient. Read more in the TRIP report here.
Unemployment in California jumped to 12.4 percent in August; it’s significantly higher in farm and rural areas. California’s rural communities and economies are facing even higher unemployment and decline. “Upgrading our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural California,” Sandman said.
Deteriorated rural roads and bridges hinder mobility and economic growth
The safety issue is compounded by population growth in cities at the heart of rural, agricultural counties. “All the counties between Bakersfield and Stockton are now classified urban/exurban, despite the fact that this is the richest agricultural region in the country,” Sandman said. “The rural transportation infrastructure can’t accommodate the 15-27 percent population growth in those cities during the last decade,” he said.
“Gas tax revenues aren’t keeping up with maintenance needs either in cities or in rural regions,” Sandman said. “Proposition 1B, which pumped nearly $20 billion into California’s aging transportation network, is nearly spent. Right now the best help we can get for our roadways is from Washington, but Congress has been frustratingly slow to authorize a new national highway bill – one that will direct funds into our diminished coffers. Just when we need it most, many in Congress want to slash funding by a third. That’s a precipitous plunge certain to stall out improvements California desperately needs.”
New Budget Contains Earlier Agreements on Transportation Investment
June 29, 2011
Late Tuesday night the Legislature approved a new 2011-12 state budget and necessary trailer bills that make the budget conform to state law. The budget closes the $9.6 billion deficit gap, but it relies on a $4 billion in anticipated revenue. If that revenue fails to come in, another round of cuts would be required midyear. The budget plan, passed by the Democrat majority, delays a public vote on tax increases until next year.
“The Governor and the Legislature have made extremely difficult choices in crafting this budget,” said Bert Sandman, former Executive Director of Transportation California. “The solutions are not ideal, but the economic reality is that the money isn’t there for all the programs the state needs, and without action now, there would be less money in the future. California can’t afford inaction, and we commend the Legislature for taking it.”
The passage of a budget allows the state to move forward to sell the bonds needed to fund Prop. 1B and other projects. It appears that the full amount of Prop. 1B that was appropriated by the subcommittees is contained in the budget bill. Also included is $262 million in Prop. 1A appropriations previously approved by the subcommittees.
High-Speed Rail Authority
Consistent with the actions of the subcommittees, the budget bill, SB 87, contains funding to permit engineering, environmental and public outreach to continue. However, it is conditioned upon receipt of adequate business and financial plans from the Authority.
“These investments in transportation infrastructure will enhance our mobility, help move people and goods to strengthen the economy, and provide vitally needed jobs in the construction industry, which still struggles with 25 percent unemployment,” Sandman said.
Call to Action – State Budget
April 27, 2011
(April 27) Urge your legislators to support a budget that includes a Fall bond sale for transportation. Both the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees for transportation are scheduled to have a hearing on the issue this week.
PROTECT JOBS: Without a state budget in place, the State Treasurer could delay the fall bond sale. If the fall sale is cancelled, thousands of good-paying jobs will be lost. Tens of thousands of good-paying jobs are generated by transportation improvement projects and are welcome relief for the construction industry, in particular, which has been buffeted by unemployment rates approaching 40 percent.
PREVENT WASTED TAXPAYER DOLLARS: Some projects are already are under construction. Shutting down the work will not only throw more people out of work but cost taxpayers millions of dollars to shut down and remobilize.
KEEP CALIFORNIA MOVING: Mobility is the linchpin of the economy. Moving people and goods more efficiently keeps the state’s economic engine running smoothly.
RIPPLE EFFECT: If the state can’t be a solid funding partner, California could lose potentially billions of federal matching dollars.
EASE CONGESTION AND CLEAN THE AIR: Proposition 1B projects are specifically planned to ease traffic, which improves air quality.
IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO: The state has a moral commitment to California taxpayers who overwhelmingly approved Propositions IB and IA in 2006 and 2008 to invest in transportation infrastructure. Voters were alarmed that the state can’t even afford to fix potholes on highways let alone add more highway capacity and give traffic weary commuters and others more transit options.
SIGN ON: Sign your name to the letter of support provided by Mobility 21 here.
This will be delivered to your member of the State Assembly and State Senator as well as members of key budget committees in both houses of the State legislature (listed on the right hand side of the screen on the Mobility 21 link).
SPEAK OUT: If you’re in Sacramento this week, attend one or both of the budget hearings.
Wednesday, April 27
Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3
State Capitol, Room 447
Thursday, April 28
Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 2
9:30 a.m. or upon adjournment
State Capitol, Room 2040
PICK UP THE PHONE: Don’t like sending an e-mail? A simple 30 second phone call to your member can make a big difference. Call today to make your voice heard.
PASS IT ON: Encourage your friends, colleagues, neighbors and family to do the same.
Transportation funds for STIP, local roads, transit protected
March 17, 2011
The Legislature worked through a number of trailer bills pertaining to budget cuts and revenue transfers late yesterday, including the much-needed transportation trailer bill, AB 105.
AB 105, Budget Trailer Bill, Reenacts the Fuel Tax Swap
When Proposition 26 passed in November, it threatened the core funding for the STIP and Local Roads provided by the Fuel Tax Swap. Since then, Transportation California, the Alliance for Jobs, Laborers and the Operation Engineers have been working with a larger coalition to preserve the Fuel Tax Swap.
AB 105 specifically maintains the $1.5 billion we had counted on from last year’s Fuel Tax Swap, and also provides stability for the STIP, local roads and Caltrans’ SHOPP. It also provides as much as $1.7 billion in General Fund relief over two years through the dedication of the weight fee revenues to support GO Bond debt services, which will make it easier to access Prop 1B for projects later this year.
AB 105 also provides significant benefit to transit funding, with the dedication of diesel sales taxes beginning this July to fund the STA up to about $330 million, while still providing sufficient funds for state programs like intercity rail.
AB 105, one of the budget resolution trailer bills had been in print since Tuesday, so we had the advantage this year of understanding what elements were included.
Not only does AB 105 deal with core issues of vital concern to the transportation industry, such as the reenactment of the Fuel Tax Swap and the related Vehicle Weight Fee shift to support Prop 1B Bond debt service, but a number of other items as well. Included were two issues that Senate Republicans were in particular concerned about:
- language that had been included in the original 2010 Tax Swap related to how revenues shifts were to be treated under Prop 98, the education funding guarantee – this was needed to ensure that the Tax Swap, in either last year’s version or this year’s, did not inadvertently reduce the Prop 98 guarantee.
- language related to the timing for DMV to adjust the period that the new fees under the extension of the VLF increase are due in the event that the VLF extension is on the ballot and approved by voters in June.
To address these matters, the bill was sent to the Senate Budget Committee yesterday evening and these sections were stripped from the bill. The Prop 98 language will be added to one of the Education Trailer bill’s (SB 70) while the DMV authority related to VLF will likely go in to the tax extension measures, or some other trailer bill.
AB 105 Passes Both Houses
With these minor amendments, the Senate Republicans joined Senate Democrats in sending AB 105 out to the Assembly on a 39-0 vote. The Assembly quickly took up the measure, and after some minor challenges by Assembly Republicans on elements of the bill related to High Speed Rail, and concern whether this action was necessary at this time, the Assembly approved the measure 66-3. It was then sent to the Governor.
It was clear earlier in discussions with top Democratic staff over the past few weeks that the pressure to provide a comprehensive, $27 billion, two-year budget resolution, (including cuts, transfers and tax extensions) was so great that they advised transportation advocates not to expect to see our trailer bill move ahead of an approved, final package that included all of the budget elements. But, as the strategy shifted, to one that put all of the cuts and transfers ahead of the tax components needed to adopt a complete budget resolution package, it appears that the Governor and legislative leaders may be content to approve AB 105 in order to capture the budget savings approved yesterday, including the Transportation Trailer bill’s $1.7 billion in General Fund relief.
However, until we see how the next few days play out, we will have to be vigilant in monitoring the budget activities; the Legislature could still rescind their action whereby AB 105 was approved, bringing the measure back to the Assembly, as a means to keep pressure on as they push for a complete budget resolution package. The really heavy lifting in the Legislature on the budget is still before them, with yesterday’s failure to capture $1.7 billion from Redevelopment Agencies, other major cut bills, and the tax extension bill.
Transportation California and the transportation funding coalition worked diligently for the past three months in a successful effort to protect $1.5 billion in annual highway and transit revenues through passage of AB 105.