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How to Restore California’s Transportation Infrastructure

Download the white paper: "The Critical Need for New Transportation Funding in California"Every day, I work as part of a team that helps California communities move people and goods safely and efficiently. Every year, that becomes harder to do. The state’s transportation infrastructure continues to deteriorate, while the population and funding shortfalls increase.  We’re seeing more congestion, more dangerous road conditions, more pollution—everything but more answers.

Without innovative funding solutions and a commitment to make transportation an urgent priority on par with other needs, California will fall off a transportation “fiscal cliff.”

Is that what it will take to wake us up?

I’d rather shake you awake now. That’s why I started writing about the turnaround that our state desperately needs.

A New Path Starts Here

Unless the state acts now to develop a plan for the $78.3 billion needed for the next 10 years for  transportation infrastructure (local streets and roads only), we’ll be even worse off by 2020: We’ll spend triple the time in traffic, suffer from a declining economy and still face an astronomical repair bill.

California needs innovative funding ideas—along with determination. The solution will likely take a combination of approaches, each of which requires political compromise from citizens and leaders. Here are some of the more promising ideas are being discussed in the capital:

  • Increasing the gas tax while indexing it to inflation, or substituting a mileage tax that charges for miles actually driven. Oregon was the first state to switch to this approach. With SB 1077, California will have a Road Charge Pilot Program as a funding vehicle from 2017 to 2018.
  • Increasing the diesel tax, which (as long as industry supports it) may be more politically palatable than a gas tax increase, since consumers don’t pay it at the pump.
  • Increasing the vehicle registration fee, or adding a special fee for electric vehicles.
  • Increasing the vehicle license fee.
  • Pursuing public-private partnerships (PPP), a successful method of project delivery in other states and countries. In this model, private funding pays for upfront highway improvements and maintenance in exchange for toll collection for a number of years. The highway is then returned to the public. Several agencies, including Los Angeles Metro, are aggressively pursuing this approach.
  • Creating a dedicated, local source of revenue for roads with a ½-cent sales tax in each county. Twenty counties, termed Self-Help Counties, currently have this program. However, any new tax needs a 2/3 majority, and other counties have failed to pass it. (Some lawmakers have discussed amending the state constitution to lower the 2/3 threshold.)

There are other viable solutions for keeping California off the road to ruin. You can learn more about them, and our current state of affairs, by downloading my free whitepaper, “The Critical Need for New Transportation Funding in California.”

Before you go, please share your thoughts about how to move our state onto a better path! 

 

Author

Tapas Dutta, PE, ENV SP, QSD

Tapas Dutta has more than 25 years of experience helping communities on both coasts keep their people and goods moving safely and efficiently, with expertise in highway design, traffic engineering, project management, QA/QC and operations. An award-winning California-registered civil engineer, he understands the intricacies of the public and private sectors, having worked for both. Tapas is a Board Member of the ACEC Orange County Chapter.

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