The first wave of bids for new road projects could go out at the beginning of 2018, now that the California Legislature has approved $52.4 billion over 10 years from a new 12¢-per-gallon gas tax, which begins in November. The bill, called SB-1, also includes new fees on zero-emission vehicles.
Lawmakers approved SB-1 late in the evening on April 6. By April 7, Caltrans already was working on a list of projects that could start construction by summer 2018.
Counties and cities are looking forward to $1.5 billion a year in new revenue for maintenance and improvement to local roads. Mike Penrose, director of the Sacramento County Dept. of Transportation, told California counties that the new funds would be leveraged with federal dollars to fix structurally deficient bridges. But he also said the funds would not be enough to cover all the deferred maintenance needs. “Additional funding sources will have to be developed to address the entire funding shortfall for local streets,” he said.
California has an estimated $6 billion in annual unfunded maintenance needs, Caltrans spokesman Skip Allum noted. The extreme winter weather alone added $900 million in damages.
Jim Shivers, acting director for Caltrans’ central coast area, says storms inflicted $82 million in damage there. For example, the Pfeiffer Bridge was knocked out, stranding the Big Sur area until late September 2017, when the $24-million replacement bridge is set to be in place.
As part of the negotiations process, promises were made to include projects in key districts in other funding packages: for example, $400 million for the Altamont Commuter Express rail-line extension in the Central Valley and $427 million for a highway in Riverside.
The funds, which would be divided between state and local agencies, could refurbish an estimated 17,000 lane-miles of pavement, which is a third of the state’s total roadway, according to Allum. Further, 55,000 culverts need to be repaired, a problem that has led to dangerous sinkholes.
Associated General Contractors of California Chief Executive Officer Tom Holsman heralded the bill as a way to create up to 1.5 million jobs.