An additional $1.3 billion in California transportation projects could be up for bid by the end of the year if the state legislature approves Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers (R) proposed restoration of Proposition 42 funds in the 2005-2006 budget. Prop. 42 is a 2002 measure that earmarks California fuel taxes specifically for transportation funding. The taxes were diverted to the general budget since fiscal year 2003 because of the states fiscal crisis.
The restored Prop. 42 legislation would allocate $678 million to the Transportation Congestion Relief Program (TCRP), $254 million to the State Highway Account (SHA) in order to finance State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) projects, $254 million to cities and counties for deferred maintenance of roads and $127 million to the Public Transportation Account, with half for STIP work and half for transit.
Project priorities have been set in each category, but California Transportation Commission Chief Deputy Director David Brewer cautions that these priorities could change since some project environmental reviews may now be out of date or because costs for some projects may have increased since the initial estimates. "If we have more projects than we have money, then we may have to reevaluate priorities," Brewer says.
California Dept. of Transportation spokesman David Anderson says the state agency has more than 100 projects ready for the next fiscal year, competing with each other for any new funding that may be approved for allocation by CTC. The list includes $92 million for carpool lanes in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, $70 million in interchange work in Monterey County and a $45-million expressway in Kern County.
Local contractors hope restoration of transportation funds will survive anticipated challenges by education lobbyists who original-ly opposed Prop. 42. "Nothing is set until ink is dry on the final budget," says Stephen Boll, infrastructure program manager at San Diego-based Kleinfelder Inc.
Some funding has been suspended every year since it was enacted. CTC has more than $7 billion in designed and approved STIP projects that have been awaiting money to move forward. CTC Chairman Bob Balgenorth estimated in his 2004 annual report that 50,000 jobs have been lost because of the lack of transportation funding.
If Prop. 42 funding is reinstated in the budgetexpected to be approved late this summerBoll predicts most of the new work will be in construction. Northern California projects might wait for warmer weather. Boll also advocates passage of the Live Within Our Means initiative, a ballot proposal that would prevent Prop. 42 funds from being taken for other state purposes through 2007, and require that more than $2 billion already taken in the past two years be repaid to the transportation pot by 2021.