• Shuster Prepared to Meet Challenge of Long-term Transportation Bill

    February 20, 2015

    “Time is money.Whether we’re talking about the commuter that’s stuck in traffic or a truckload of goods that’s forced to reroute around a bridge that’s no longer performing to standard. Congestion costs us over $120 billion dollars and…”  Read more

  • SOSroads Supports Measure A

    March 18, 2015

    On June 2nd Sonoma County voters will be asked to approve Measure A, which would raise the sales tax by 1/4 cent for 5 years. The proposal is a general tax which requires majority approval and for that reason there is no legal requirement as to how it can be spent.

    While a general tax makes some people nervous, polls indicate that it would be virtually impossible to achieve the 2/3 approval that is needed for a specific tax. Only a specific tax can be legally committed to specified projects.

    While a general tax makes some people nervous, polls indicate that it would be virtually impossible to achieve the 2/3 approval that is needed for a specific tax. Only a specific tax can be legally committed to specified projects.

    A general sales tax increase is the only realistic source of new revenue to fix our streets and roads. State and federal gas taxes once provided the needed revenue for roads but their purchasing power has declined by half since the 1990s. Neither the Congress nor the state legislature seem interested in increasing gas taxes. We are on our own.

    Funds from a sales tax increase are the centerpiece of the Long-Term Road Plan approved by the board of supervisors last October. We are confident they will spend the funds as outlined in that report.

    We have two primary reasons for our position on Measure A.  First, the tax is limited to only five years and there will be annual public audits. If the funds aren’t spent on roads, voters would likely reject a renewal of the tax.  Second, the supervisors have suggested they would enter into a contract with the Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) to administer the new funds. The SCTA would disperse funds for road repair (90%) and transit (10%). If the tax is approved, SOSroads will advocate that the county immediately enter into a 5-year contract with the SCTA.

    Road funding in Sonoma County was at an all-time low when SOSroads.org was founded in 2011.  County roads ranked 56th worst of the 58 counties in California. Most of the county’s city councils support the measure. Condition of city streets, particularly in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, are ranked among the lowest in the Bay Area and have hundreds miles of needed repairs. 

    Since 2012 the supervisors have restored county general funds for roads to the 1990 level (adjusted for inflation) and have improved 150 miles of pavement. They have proposed improving another 90 miles during the next two years.

    If voters approve additional funding the county will be able to improve more roads on a much faster schedule.  Some argue that the 1/4 cent sales tax only offsets the ongoing pressure of high salaries and pensions on the county budget. While recent reforms should reduce pension costs over the next 20 years, it will take years for additional, meaningful pension reforms given the strong grip public employee unions have on policy makers at every level of government.

    Our roads are deteriorating rapidly and every year we delay the cost for repairs will go up drastically. Waiting for pension reform will doom a vast majority of our roads for decades and cost more to repair. We can’t afford to wait.

    What do you think? Respond to our one question “YES or NO” survey or send us an email at: admin@sosroads.org

    Supervisors Long-Term Road Financing Policy

    In July 2014 the supervisors approved a financing plan for the Long-Term Road Plan. This plan lays out the county’s plan to commit $15.6 million

    in general fund dollars each year for road repairs.  This is a combination of the ongoing $5.4 million for maintenance + $2.2 million trash hauler franchise fee and an additional $8.0 million from the general fund for pavement preservation.

    These expenditures along with federal and state gas tax funds and the passage of Measure A will allow the county to commit $40 million per year on the county road system.

    If Measure A is passed, SOSroads will be following closely the county and city budgets. If commitments for street and road repairs are not met, we will be informing the public.

    Read the full plan for road financing here.

    2-Year List of Road Projects Announced

    The supervisors approved a list of 88 miles of roads slated for pavement preservation for the next two years. For the next two years they are committing $22.4 million in general fund money.  The selection of roads is based on the Road Evaluation Framework which uses criteria such as average daily traffic, pavement condition, bikes and bus routes and access to public safety facilities.

    The Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) is continuing to focus on pavement preservation for roads that are still in good condition and that serve the most residents. This strategy is aimed at keeping more roads in good condition at a lower cost per mile and the huge backlog of pavement repair needs and insufficient funding to address the entire road system. Pavement preservation costs about 1/10th the cost of rebuilding roads.

    Of the $22.4 million, $2 million is being devoted to rural roads in poor or failing condition. Since two-thirds (or 990 miles) of county roads are in poor or failing condition, this money falls dramatically short for residents, businesses and farms who depend on these roads.

    The supervisors have adopted a Long-Term Road Plan that repairs half of the 1,370 miles of paved roads over the next ten years. This plan depends on voters approving Measure A, a five-year 1/4¢ sales tax, described above.

    You can read the full DTPW road recommendation report to the board of supervisors here.

  • U.S. Transportation Secretary Drums Up Support for $468 Billion Transportation Bill

    February 18, 2015

    “Going under underpasses shouldn’t be an act of courage,” Foxx said Tuesday as he visited Jacksonville during a four-day, five-state bus tour aimed at drumming up public support.  Read more

  • Jim Earp: He Builds the Case for Building

    February 13, 2015

    Companies and unions join in supporting infrastructure spending.  Read more

  • How Tax Reform Could Help Save U.S. Infrastructure

    February 17, 2015

    Less than four months before federal government and state officials must confront another highway and mass transit funding crisis, two key individuals are pressing the cases for major tax reform to eliminate shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund.  Read more

  • Secretary Foxx Discusses ‘Beyond Traffic’ at MTI

    February 11, 2015

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx presided over a roundtable policy discussion at the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI).  Read more

  • Brown Seeks Money for Fixing Roads as Gas Tax Value Plunges

    February 10, 2015

    California lawmakers are looking at new ways to pay for crumbling roads, bridges and highways as the traditional repair fund from gasoline taxes dries up. Read more

  • State Weighs Per-Mile Transit Tax

    February 10, 2015

    Whether they’re behind the wheel or sitting in the legislative chambers in Sacramento, few Californians doubt the state’s freeways, bridges and streets need attention. But they have different ideas on the best way to raise money. Read more

  • Assembly Speaker Wants New Fee to Pay for Road Repairs

    February 5, 2015

    LA Times – Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins proposed a plan Wednesday for funding road maintenance with $1.8 billion in fees on California drivers. The fees would total roughly $52 annually for most people behind the wheel…  Read more

  • New DOT Study Examines Future Transportation Challenges

    November 30, -0001

    The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that approximately $77 billion in annual investment is needed to meet the needs of our federal highway system.  Read more…

    The entire 316-page report is available for viewing at “BeyondTraffic“.

    The study was released with an introduction by Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx who said, “Beyond Traffic is intended to open a national dialogue about what our country really needs and why we need it. It is a draft survey of major forces impacting transportation and a discussion of potential solutions that can be adopted to address those forces.”

    By 2050, America’s population will grow by over 70 million, but rural populations are expected to continue declining. While that means fewer people in the countryside, it will mean more in Southern (and Western) mega-regions like Atlanta, Charlotte and the Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem area.

    That means rural areas are likely to receive fewer transportation infrastructure dollars, if nothing changes in the currently funding structure.

    The study highlights important lifestyle realities, too.

    * Globally, the U.S. used to be listed as number 1 in roads; now it is number 16.

    * The average person spends the equivalent of five vacation days each year sitting in traffic.

    * Sixty-five percent of our roads are rated in less than good condition; a quarter of our bridges need significant repair; 45 percent of Americans lack access to transit.

    * The federal gas tax is no longer enough to address our transportation needs. If the actions of the N.C. General Assembly are any indication, the state gas tax is also inadequate. State legislators are trying to adjust the way the state calculates the tax it puts on gas.

    * In 2045 there will be nearly twice as many older Americans who are expected to be reliant on quality transit connections to medical and other services.

    * In 2009, Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 drove 21 percent fewer miles than those in that age group did in 2001. Fewer young adults are getting their driver’s licenses. The total number of licensed drivers under the age of 34 actually declined between 2001 and 2012, despite an increasing population. Many are choosing to live in cities where they can bike, walk and take public transit to work or school.

    To help address these concerns and more, the study has several recommendations.

    Officials advocate finding new revenue sources that are not tied to fuel consumption such as taxes on vehicle miles traveled, vehicle registration fees or sales taxes could help to alleviate the downward pressure on revenues caused by declining fuel consumption.

    Another idea is to expand the use of tolling and congestion pricing could help to reduce congestion, while generating revenues that could be used to finance the construction of new roadways and bridges or maintain existing facilities.

    Study authors proposed public-private partnerships, where the private sector could finance the construction of new roads and carry a greater share of the risks.

    Here are some other ways researchers say the country can avoid “drifting toward gridlock”:

    * Increase infrastructure capacity: build new roads, bridges and other facilities; maintain existing facilities more effectively; use existing facilities more effectively by implementing better designs and technologies; or use some combination of these methods.

    * Reduce congestion through land use, telework and flex-time work schedules, smaller and automated vehicles and pricing.

    * Promote public transit, biking and walking.

    By J.D. Walker
    jdwalker@courier-tribune.com