Monday Morning Thoughts: Will Transportation Bill Help Davis?


The big news was last week the Senate and Assembly passed SB 1, a $5.2 billion annual revenue measure that will fund roads, streets, bridges and an overall transportation network.

According to analysis from the League of Cities, SB 1 will generate $5.2 billion annually for transportation improvements, split equally between state highways and local streets and roads in California cities and counties.

For cities and counties, this includes $1.5 billion annually to fix local streets and roads. This is nearly double what is available today.

What does that mean for Davis?  Davis will receive about $15.63 million over the next 10 years.  That means about $1.56 million per year from the state.

That sounds good and frankly is good.  City officials suggest that might mean traffic signal improvements, enhancements to bike and pedestrian safety and other competitive grant programs.

The problem is that it is really just a drop in bucket compared to what we need.  Right now the city has carved out about $4 million in annual spending for roads.  That is a vast improvement over where we were in 2010 and 2011 when the city was not putting any general fund money into roads at all.

However, as reported, we really need about $10 million per year just to maintain the current quality of roads in Davis.  That level is currently at around a 63 PCI (Pavement Condition Index).

Bob Leland’s presentation was a bit confusing last week as it seemed to suggest the city would have its PCI increase to 70 in the near future before gradually retreating back to 60 by 2035.

Bob Clarke explained that the model presented was just an initial draft that was “intended to show what variables are built into the model and the output it produces. It was not intended to suggest it is in its final form and without possible refinements still needed. “

He said,  “Based on my knowledge of the current overall average PCI for our roads, the value projected for 2017, near 70, seems high. While we do have a great deal of pavement-related work in progress and expected to be completed this year, I don’t know if it is enough to raise the average PCI to the 69-70 range.”

The most recent analysis back in 2015 found that the city’s unfunded road maintenance is running around $200 million over the next decade with the potential of it reaching over $350 million without additional funding.

The bottom line is that, while $15 million over ten years will be nice to have and it will allow the city to deal with some unfunded infrastructure issues, it is not going to do much to cut into the enormous backlog of unfunded needs for roads, bike paths, and sidewalks.

The short-term strategy is going to evolve around some form of tax, whether it be a parcel tax or another more specific tax.

Longer term, the city is going to continue to look into economic development and revenue strategies.

So, while the influx of state funding is good news, it comes nowhere near solving Davis’ roads problems.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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    1. Todd Edelman

      Hmm… more like the “10% of the $520 billion tax we actually need bill”? And a much larger share of this on walking, cycling and public transport (individual and collective) would be magnanimous.

  1. Tia Will

    The only part of this tax that I do not like is its regressive nature. Those who will be hit the hardest are as usual, those who are least able to take the blow. I firmly believe in paying directly for that which we want. However, I anticipate that this will place an inequitable burden on those who have to travel the furthest for work at low paying jobs and may have unintended consequences for those who supplement their incomes through Uber, Lyft and the like.

    1. Todd Edelman

      I think that the companies – especially the large ones – that could simply not operate if their employees can’t get to work are getting off easy… once again. I don’t like regressive taxes/fees such as bridge tolls – or even moving violation penalties not based on the ability to pay – but $10 a month extra is teeny-tiny-itsy-bitsy. Like magnitudes less than in mature, responsible and collectively-minded mobility countries, such as e.g. almost everyone else in NATO, including eastern Europe. In the USA the costs of driving are still far from internalized. Everyone who doesn’t drive still should pay something for transportation infrastructure, but they’re still subsidizing people who do drive.

      New bandage covers 25% of your wound instead of 15%! Not impressed.

  2. Ron

    From article:  “What does that mean for Davis?  Davis will receive about $15.63 million over the next 10 years.  That means about $1.56 million per year from the state.”

    As previously noted, this is the estimated ADDITIONAL amount that Davis is expected to receive for road maintenance.  The total amount that Davis is expected to receive from the State is more than $3 million per year.

    This may not include funds for other categories, such as improvements for transit, bike, and pedestrian access).

    On a related note (and to provide some perspective regarding the statewide nature of the challenge, I have attached here is a link to a report from early 2011, which states the following:

    “statewide average pavement condition index (PCI) has deteriorated from 68 in 2008 to 66 (“at risk” category) in 2010.”

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron said . . . “On a related note (and to provide some perspective regarding the statewide nature of the challenge, I have attached here is a link to a report from early 2011, which states the following:

      “statewide average pavement condition index (PCI) has deteriorated from 68 in 2008 to 66 (“at risk” category) in 2010.”

      And to put that statewide 66 into perspective, here is the graphic of what the Davis PCI trend has been in recent years.

    2. Todd Edelman

      Would be interesting to see how PCI relates to comfort level for different street users…

      I was riding driving  my bike car and hit a pothole, lost control and crashed into a parked car bike. Thus began the long blockade of City Hall and the State Capitol by the Sacramento Area Drivers Association (SAD), inspired by last year’s protest on the same theme by cyclists that was thankfully stopped by our police, because the cyclists had no good reason to do it. I mean, can’t they just take a different route if the bike lane is bumpy?”

      “First the potholes came for frail elders crossing the street, but I was not old so I did nothing. Then they came for the bikes, but I was not a cyclist so did not get involved, then they came for the drivers and…”

        1. Todd Edelman

          “Comfort” matters because it’s relative. I’d love to be able to figure out the four-wheel motor vehicle equivalent of a parallel-to-street-orientation 2″wide x 1″ deep x 18″ long pothole for a bicycle – I call this species the Common Davis Wheelgrabber. How big does something have to be to cause a car driver to nearly lose control? Maybe a 12″ high speed bump? Keep in mind that there’s a huge truck behind them that’s going 35 mph and can’t stop too quick…

        2. Howard P

          Todd… “statewide”?  All pavements?  Including local streets in Susanville, or Inyo county?  Ron’s apparent ‘need’/desire to have state-wide PCI data (hint, Susanville and Inyo County may not have even done that evaluation/analysis) is what I questioned… why would such data, even if available, have any pertinence to Davis?

          Hence, my statement (in the form of a question) “why would that matter?”…

        3. Todd Edelman

          Howard P: In Davis. I want to see how comfort level relates to PCI in Davis. The Beyond Platinum Bicycle Plan mentions “comfort” (comfortable, uncomfortable, etc.) 37 times. A quantifiable level of comfort is one of the goals of the Plan. Perhaps it would be possible to do comfort surveys on specific streets for people driving and cycling. I am not sure of the methodology.

      1. Matt Williams

        According to a California Senate report.

        Pavements: The conditions of California’s local streets and roads are rolling toward a cliff’s edge. On a scale of zero (failed) to 100 (excellent), the statewide average Pavement Condition Index (PCI) has deteriorated to 66 (“at risk” category) in 2014.

        And according to

        On a scale of zero (failed) to 100 (excellent), California’s average local street and road pavement condition index (PCI) has deteriorated to 65 (“at risk” category) in 2016.

  3. Ron

    Matt: Thanks for posting more recent data, regarding road conditions statewide.

    Personally, I’m not necessarily against augmenting state funds with local/targeted parcel taxes, at some point.  (Especially if there’s opportunities to leverage matching state funds, for roads, bike and pedestrian paths, and transit.)

    However, I do prefer putting most of the costs directly on motorists, as the statewide tax does.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Since Unitrans apparently does not contribute sufficiently toward the cost of repairs, it’s yet another way that UCD is dumping costs related to housing students, on the city.”

      That’s a very snap judgment on are far more complicated issue. The alternative to a busing system would be what? What would be the impacts? If Unitrans had to pay into roads funding, would it be viable? You have taken a single comment, haven’t checked into it with anyone, and come to a snap decision that aligns with your world view.

    2. Howard P

      Ron… to clarify (as I thought I had done) buses do do much greater damage to streets than the same-weight vehicles… it is their suspensions, and the fact that “big-rigs” generally have less “pounds/sq in” of wheel loads.  Two discrete, but contributing factors.

      Rich appears to be equating weight with ‘damage’… not that simple…

      Pavement deterioration (reduction in service life) can actually be caused by LACK of wheel-loads (AC pavement… not true of PCC).  Due to oxidation… AC pavements are ‘flexible pavements’ (a class in and of itself), and the asphalt binder actually needs wheel-loads to minimize the oxidation effects.  Otherwise, they tend to become more brittle over time.  As they become brittle, they crack, admitting moisture, which gets into the gravel/soil beneath, and that is the main cause of most pavement distress/failure.

      But, this is only a “troll” speaking, and not very “objectively”, as you can plainly see.

      Pavement mainteance/design, is not ‘rocket science’, but it is not ‘simple’, either.

      1. Ron

        Howard:  Thanks for the clarification. Yes, you had mentioned that.

        Regardless of whether it’s “weight” or “suspension” – the net result is the same.  ($$)

  4. Ron


    Your response regarding Rich Rifkin’s comment seems quite defensive, considering your focus on the cost of road repairs.  Note that it wasn’t my suggestion – I just pasted it here.  If you disagree with that suggestion (or my subsequent comment), perhaps you could explain why.

    Once again, I can’t see your comment as I write this.  I could see that you responded, but had to log out to actually see the text.  (I’ve forgotten your exact wording.)

    1. David Greenwald

      How can my response seem “defensive” – I’m not a policy maker, I’m simply pointing out that the situation is more complicated than you’ve expressed.

  5. Ron


    Had to log out again, to see your follow-up response.  I have not put you on “ignore”, but I understand that I can’t “fix” that, even if I had done so.  Howard mentioned that this might have to do with the device that you’re using to respond.  And, that if I use a different browser, it might work.  (At some point, it becomes too much hassle.) Bottom line is that this appears to be an ongoing technical problem (affecting more than just me), originating from the Vanguard.

    Regarding “complexity” (and your other rapid-fire questions), that’s related to “how” to implement Rich Rifkin’s suggestion.  It’s not a question or challenge regarding the “validity” of the suggestion, nor is it necessarily indicative of my “world view” (whatever you think that means).

  6. Ron

    Howard:  “Hence, my statement (in the form of a question) “why would that matter?”…”

    It was partly curiousity.  However, it also goes to show that if/when a “statewide” problem becomes significant and widespread, the state is eventually motivated to act (as it did in this case).  Something that I’ve been pointing out repeatedly – but has been met with resistance, on the Vanguard.

    1. Howard P

      An axiom of ‘survival training’ is “prepare for the worse, expect the best”… Davis needs to assume that we need to deal with our streets… if we get help from elsewhere, GREAT, we can use funds elsewhere (or reduce revenues/taxes)… but I believe it is, at best, ill-advised to count on a fairy-godmother to save the day.

      Also, taxes are taxes… collected statewide or locally… pretty much “same-same”…

      1. Ron

        Howard:  “Also, taxes are taxes… collected statewide or locally… pretty much “same-same”.

        I could not disagree more.  The proposed “solutions” to various challenges can be quite different, depending upon how taxes are administered.  (In the case of the state tax road maintenance tax, it’s directly from motorists.  For local taxes, it might be from parcels – regardless of whether or not one even has a car.) “Some” might also push for a “savior” development, as a promised local solution.

        If one “believes” that a problem must be solved (entirely) locally, the “solution” would be entirely different, compared to state intervention.

  7. Keith O

    I don’t know how much the transportation bill is going to help Davis but some other cities sure made out great.  The bribes were flowing, too bad our representative didn’t get in on the action.

    Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, said some supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 1, had been “bought off.”
    “When was the last time any member of the Legislature got $10 million, let alone $427 million for one group of legislators, and $500 million for another group of legislators?” asked Mayes after the Assembly sent the measure to Brown. “If the goal that we have in the Legislature is to represent all of California, then our goal shouldn’t be, ‘Hey, I’m gonna get my pet project for my district at the expense of someone else.’

    Read more here:

      1. Ron

        Keith:  I saw that, earlier.  With funds like that earmarked for another UC host community, perhaps they won’t mind so much, if their respective UCs dump more costs upon their communities?  (Actually, I imagine that those communities are much more “pro-growth”, regardless.)

        Yeah – I know – kind of a “reach”.  🙂

        In general, such earmarks are an unfortunate part of politics.  It’s too bad that politicians can’t just say, “I think this is what’s best for the whole, not just my district”.  They’d likely be targeted, in a subsequent campaign. (But then again, why aren’t more willing to take that chance? What is the purpose of going into politics, if you’re not going to advocate for the best overall decision?) 

        1. Keith O

          Ron, it just feels like we’re already behind the curve when other communities have already managed to slice off a chunk of the new gas tax that we will all be paying.  If I were a representative I would always play sly with my vote knowing that I might be able to procure some goodies for my constituents if this is the way the game is played.

      2. Howard P

        looked at your links… could not find the name/party of who “got the goodies” for UC Merced… feel free to share…

        That part of the valley is pretty “red”…

        Was it Canella?

        1. Keith O

          If you noticed I didn’t make it a GOP vrs. Dem thing, you chose to.  Both parties took part in the goodies.

          Indeed, Cannella and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, joined forces with Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton. They held out to get $400 million to bring the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train to Ceres and Merced, and $100 million for the UC Merced Gateway plan. Otherwise, they would not have voted in their respective houses for the 10-year tax expected to generate about $54 million for transportation needs including road and bridge repairs.

          Read more here:

        2. Keith O

          Republicans just seem to be more effective in taking “bribes” for their votes… goes to why I’m an Independent…

          Baloney, more Democrats took part in the CA gas tax vote bribes just as only Democrats took part in the Obamacare vote bribes.

          Do some research.

        3. Keith O

          No I didn’t, I just said reps took bribes for votes.  I never distinguished any party even though more Democrats took part and only one GOP member that I can find.

          You chose to make it about party.

        4. Howard P

          And Keith… I abhor the “bucks for votes” thing… but know it happens… as Jesse Unruh said, “money is the mothers’ milk of politics”… you are absolutely are correct… both parties do it… sours the “milk” to me…

          Yet, you specifically focused on the UC Merced thing, and also the fact that neither the local (Democrats) got special “goodies”… was that accident, or contrived… c’mon… don’t play poker for serious money… not a good idea… too many “tells”…

        5. Leanna Sweha

          My understanding is that the “goodies” were added to the state budget bill. Yes, they will still come out of taxes, but just wanted to clarify that they won’t be coming out of the gas taxes.  We are all paying for these goodies one way or another though.

    1. Howard P

       this isn’t a “Democrat” or “Republican” issue.  It’s a “political” issue.

      Never learned how to possess two diametrically opposite views at the same time (at least in the climate that has existed for decades, now)… congrats.

      If you mean “what’s in it for me, to continue to be elected”, as “political”, then I could see it… giving your voters what they need to keep re-electing you, despite your “values” (that you sold your district on), OK.  There is another word for that… whoring…

  8. Ron

    Just thought I’d re-post this quote, without further comment:

    “Dan Drummond, executive director of the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association, said approval of the funding package “was inevitable” and an example of what “Sacramento can do when they put their mind to it.” But he said state legislators must put the same effort into tackling the state’s pension liabilities, which he contended are “causing even bigger problems.”

    1. Ron

      I’ll add a comment here, after all.  I suspect (predict) that a statewide solution will also ultimately be implemented regarding pension liabilities, as alluded to in the quote above.  (However, as with roadways, it might not address 100% of the concern.)

  9. Matt Williams

    Interesting comment in the Enterprise

    Jim Hoch: Maybe we have different calculators. “an average motorist should expect to pay about $10 more per month” or $120/yr per motorist. Assuming that we have about 30K motorists that is $3.6M per year. “Davis’ slice of the pie will come in the form of $15.63 million earmarked for the city over the next 10 years.” So we are paying $3.6M per year and getting back $1.56M per year. How is this good for us?

    1. Ron

      Matt:  Keith made a similar point.  However, this additional amount (combined with what Davis already receives from the state) amounts to more than $3 million/year (as previously noted).

      Of course, this may (or may not) include “other” (non-auto) categories, such as bike, pedestrian and transit improvement categories.

      Just to clarify, I never said that the state tax would be “evenly” or “fairly” distributed to communities.  (However, in general, I like the fact that the tax is charged directly to motorists, and subsidizes some non-auto transportation improvements.)

      Perhaps more importantly, decisions that the state makes (as a whole) are outside of the individual control of individual communities such as Davis.  To some degree, it doesn’t really matter what a given community collectively “thinks” of statewide decisions. (And of course, even proposals within a community are often subject to significant disagreements.)

      1. Matt Williams

        Ron said . . . “However, this additional amount (combined with what Davis already receives from the state) amounts to more than $3 million/year (as previously noted).”

        You are absolutely correct Ron.  If the State does pass and implement the program as described, the total amount Davis receives will be approximately $3 million per year.

        If Jim Hoch’s numbers are correct, the $1.563 million per-year, incrementally-added portion will cost Davis taxpayers $3.6 million.  How much gas tax do you think Davis residents are paying currently to produce the $1.45 million that Davis is currently getting?  Would $3.3 million be a good guess?

        If $3.3 million is correct then that means Davis residents will be paying the State $6.9 million a year in gas taxes in order to receive $3 million from the State.

        Ron said . . . “Of course, this may (or may not) include “other” (non-auto) categories, such as bike, pedestrian and transit improvement categories.”

        Once again you are absolutely correct.  What is your guess about how much additional “other” money is likely to be added to the $1.563 million per year?  Each additional 10% would be $156,300.

        Ron said . . . “Perhaps more importantly, decisions that the state makes (as a whole) are outside of the individual control of individual communities such as Davis.”

        Why “more importantly”?

        1. Ron

          Matt:  See Don’s comment below, regarding how the funds appear to be generally allocated (e.g., between state and local projects).  Might be important, for someone who periodically drives on roads beyond Davis (or otherwise has some connection to the “outside world”).

          Why is it “more important” that some decisions are made beyond Davis?  Because it doesn’t really matter what Davis (alone) “thinks” of them.  It’s sort of like discussing what Davis thinks of Trump.  (Sure, it’s interesting at times, but perhaps doesn’t make much difference, on its own.) And yet, such external decisions can directly impact individual communities in a major way (such as the statewide road tax).

          Davis does not entirely control its own destiny.

        2. Matt Williams

          Actually Ron, if the citizens of Davis chose to tax themselves a total of $6.9 million per year to repair roads and other transportation infrastructure, then $6.9 million would be spent in Davis.  Davis does have the opportunity to efficiently, effectively help itself with more fiduciary responsibility than your chosen solution.

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