For several years now the state has been looking to create a funds package to deal with the billions in deferred roads maintenance on highways and local streets across the state. While Davis is not alone on a roads crunch, Yolo County is worse than most counties in the state in its roads situations – and Davis is worse than the other cities in the county.
The question is whether we can count on the state and outside funding to help bail us out of this situation – which I would still argue is largely of our own doing.
On Thursday, the governor along with the assembly speaker and senate leader announced “a landmark transportation investment to fix our roads, freeways and bridges in communities across California and put more dollars toward transit and safety. The $5 billion-a-year program will cost most drivers less than $10 a month and comes with strict new accountability provisions to ensure funds can only be spent on transportation.”
“California has a massive backlog of broken infrastructure that has been neglected far too long,” said Governor Jerry Brown. “Fixing the roads will not get cheaper by waiting – or ignoring the problem. This is a smart plan that will improve the quality of life in California.”
“We can’t afford to keep kicking the can down the road. Californians are tired of the constant traffic jams and crumbling roads, and they expect us to find solutions,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León. “These critical investments will keep our state moving and economy growing. I look forward to getting this deal through the Legislature and onto the Governor’s desk next week.”
“We have a solution before us and we have a choice before us,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “We can choose to do nothing, and see more deterioration, more time lost in traffic, and more damage to cars, or we can choose to advance this compromise solution that fixes California’s broken transportation system in a way where drivers will actually end up paying less for a better quality of life.”
While Davis for years relied on state and federal transportation money – that money largely dried up in the last decade with a brief exception from 2009 to 2010 in terms of the stimulus plan. However, even in those years, the amount of money Davis has received is less than $1 million.
By 2009 and 2010, city staffers like Bob Clarke were warning council that the city needed $3 million. By 2011, council added $1 million to the budget – which was ultimately unfunded and unspent. Finally, following a revised roads study which showed hundreds of millions in backlog – and a consultant recommended $10 million or more a year in funding – the city council managed to carve out about $4 million in the 2015-16 budget.
Meanwhile, at the state level, California has not increased its gas tax since 1994. Since then, California’s population has grown by eight million, with millions more cars and trucks on our roads. Californians also drive more than 350 billion miles a year – more than any other state – yet road and transit investments have not kept pace with this growth.
According to a release from the governor’s office, each California driver spends approximately $700 per year in extra vehicle repairs caused by rough roads. If California does not make investments to fix the roads now, it will cost eight times more to replace later.
The legislation, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, SB 1 (Beall), invests $52.4 billion over the next decade – split equally between state and local investments:
Fix Local Streets and Transportation Infrastructure (50 percent):
– $15 billion in “Fix-It-First” local road repairs, including fixing potholes
– $7.5 billion to improve local public transportation
– $2 billion to support local “self-help” communities that are making their own investments in transportation improvements
– $1 billion to improve infrastructure that promotes walking and bicycling
– $825 million for the State Transportation Improvement Program local contribution
– $250 million in local transportation planning grants.
Fix State Highways and Transportation Infrastructure (50 percent):
– $15 billion in “Fix-it-First” highway repairs, including smoother pavement
– $4 billion in bridge and culvert repairs
– $3 billion to improve trade corridors
– $2.5 billion to reduce congestion on major commute corridors
– $1.4 billion in other transportation investments, including $275 million for highway and intercity-transit improvements.
Ensure Taxpayer Dollars Are Spent Properly with Strong Accountability Measures:
– Constitutional amendment to prohibit spending the funds on anything but transportation
– Inspector General to ensure Caltrans and any entities receiving state transportation funds spend taxpayer dollars efficiently, effectively and in compliance with state and federal requirements
– Provision that empowers the California Transportation Commission to hold state and local government accountable for making the transportation improvements they commit to delivering
– Authorization for the California Transportation Commission to review and allocate Caltrans funding and staffing for highway maintenance to ensure those levels are reasonable and responsible
– Authorization for Caltrans to complete earlier mitigation of environmental impacts from construction, a policy that will reduce costs and delays while protecting natural resources.
Guided by the principles set forth by President Ronald Reagan when he increased the federal gas tax in 1982, this transportation investment package is funded by everyone who uses our roads and highways:
– $7.3 billion by increasing diesel excise tax 20 cents
– $3.5 billion by increasing diesel sales tax to 5.75 percent
– $24.4 billion by increasing gasoline excise tax 12 cents
– $16.3 billion from an annual transportation improvement fee based on a vehicle’s value
– $200 million from an annual $100 Zero Emission Vehicle fee commencing in 2020.
– $706 million in General Fund loan repayments.
Leadership in both the senate and the assembly expect the measure to be voted on by Thursday, April 6, 2017.
Will that be enough to help Davis? For sure. Will it save us from ourselves on this issue? Unlikely. We will see how much Davis gets, but even $3 million a year would be helpful as it would close the gap – from the $4 million we are spending to the $10 million or so we need – down to a level that might be fixable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting