• An overhaul of CEQA looms large

    December 10, 2012

    It’s often considered sacrosanct, but CEQA also is 42 years old. Some people, including the Governor, think it’s time to revise it somewhat.  Read more here.

  • Recount for Alameda County transportation sales tax increase

    December 3, 2012

    A partial recount of Measure B1 in Alameda County starts Monday. The measure lost by 0.14%.  Read more here.

  • Bay Bridge Passes Major Milestone

    November 26, 2012

    Caltrans just completed the “load transfer” on the new span, shifting the bridge decks from temporary trestles onto the tower and main suspension cable.  It was a three-month process.  Read more here.

  • 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

    To register for the Summit, click here.

    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 cleary@camsys.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.”