California’s Road Charge Pilot Program Launches Today

volunteer graphicSACRAMENTO – Caltrans has officially launched California’s new pay-by-mile Road Charge Pilot Program, where selected volunteer participants will help the state gain insight into an innovative way to finance California’s transportation infrastructure. This pilot will be an opportunity to study road charge alternatives to the gas tax and will provide the Legislature with the data needed to better determine whether a road charge funding concept is viable for California. No actual money will be exchanged during the pilot.

“We’re proud that thousands of Californians have signed up to volunteer for the California Road Charge Pilot Program,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “The opportunity to provide valuable input and evaluate the viability of a mileage based user fee system demonstrates the commitment that Californians have to our roads and keeping them well maintained.”

Volunteers that have been accepted to participate in the pilot are made up of drivers from all parts of California with various socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, some out-of-state volunteers will be featured in the pilot in order to help California determine how a road charge tax could impact visiting drivers.

Pilot participants will not actually pay a road charge while participating in the pilot. Instead, they will make simulated payments based on how far they drive. The pilot offers several options for participants to report their mileage, including six different low-to-high tech methods:

road charge

The pilot is set to run for nine months from July 2016 to March 2017. When concluded, the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) will report the pilot’s findings to the Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee, the California Transportation Commission and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature. The Legislature will make the ultimate decision on whether to enact a full-scale permanent road charge program in California.

Even if the Legislature decides not to implement a road charge, California will still be in need of a more sustainable roadway funding mechanism than the current fuel excise tax. The fuel excise tax only funds approximately $2.3 billion of work to maintain the 50,000 lane-miles and nearly 13,000 state-owned bridges on the state highway system. This leaves nearly $5.7 billion in unfunded repairs each year.

Road charging is based on the same principle that the current gas tax was created upon: the amount drivers pay to maintain roads should correspond to the number of miles they drive. However, the gas tax no longer serves this purpose now that cars drive farther and need less fuel.

California is not the only state researching alternative road funding options. Several other states—including Washington, Colorado, Utah and others—are also exploring the road charge concept of pay-by-the-mile. Last July, the state of Oregon launched phase one of its OReGO program, where volunteers are paying a road charge of 1.5 cents per mile driven instead of the fuel tax.

There is still time to volunteer for the California Road Charge Pilot! To sign-up and learn more about California’s program, please visit http://californiaroadchargepilot.com/sign-up

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The California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee was created by the California Transportation Commission on January 21, 2015, to study road charging pursuant to Senate Bill 1077 (2014).  The volunteer committee represents a variety of interests and stakeholders from across the state including highway user groups, data security experts, privacy rights organizations, social equity groups, regional transportation agencies, business interests, national research and policymaking bodies, members of the Legislature and representatives from the telecommunications industry.

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Improving Caltrans requires new revenue and reasonable reforms

The following is an editorial submitted to the Orange County Register by California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly on June 30. To view the original post, click here.

Recently in these pages, some have had a lot to say about the state Department of Transportation.

But there is a lot that hasn’t been said that I believe your readers should know about the efforts that have been taken to improve Caltrans during this administration.

In May 2013, I commissioned the first comprehensive review of Caltrans in the last 20 years. The State Smart Transportation Initiative undertook a thorough assessment of the department and provided recommendations for improving performance – recommendations the department is implementing today.

In 2014, Caltrans and California State Transportation Agency executive teams crafted a new mission, vision and goals to modernize the department’s direction and emphasize performance and efficiency.

Last year, Caltrans adopted a five-year Strategic Management Plan that uses real performance measures for the department and provides for transparent reporting on how it is doing.

Already the department is being praised for the changes it is making. Caltrans is working more collaboratively with local governments on road design issues and with industry leaders on material specifications. The California Asphalt Pavement Association, in its 2016 industry newsletter, wrote that Caltrans is in the process of “making a genuine effort to get better.”

In August 2015, this administration put forth a comprehensive transportation funding package calling for both new revenue and reasonable reforms. Our proposal includes:

  • Streamlined environmental processes to deliver projects more efficiently;
  • Greater flexibility in staffing at Caltrans to meet new workload;
  • A more innovative procurement authority so Caltrans can execute projects more quickly and deliver results sooner;
  • Specific performance measures to hold the department accountable to the Legislature and the public;

Recent criticisms also took issue with Caltrans’ staffing numbers.

Here is what you weren’t told: Staffing is down at Caltrans. The staffing program to deliver projects, known as Capital Outlay Support, is at a 20-year low. Over the last eight years, the COS program has dropped approximately 3,400 positions. The program has been reduced each year of the Gov. Jerry Brown administration.

The Legislature has raised questions about Caltrans’ staffing methodology. Having worked in the Legislature for 17 years, I take those questions seriously.

That’s why, in January, I asked the California Transportation Commission to conduct a thorough review of staffing – with both parties from the Legislature, the Department of Finance and the Legislative Analyst’s Office included in that review.

Recently, the CTC acknowledged the progress Caltrans has made since 2013.

The CTC will continue this work to ensure department staffing is sufficient to deliver projects that benefit all Californians and that Caltrans is held accountable to the Legislature. Staff size should not be determined by ideology, but by analysis and actual workload.

Some would also have you believe that a few bad actors define the department. That is wrong.

Caltrans routinely takes disciplinary action, including termination, against employees who act in a manner inconsistent with the department’s values and expectations. With respect to the Bay Bridge, I remind you, it was this administration that replaced the two top managers on that 20-year-old project.

There is still work to do at Caltrans. That is why the Brown administration is seeking new funding in combination with meaningful reforms. To build the transportation system we need, however, the state must increase its investment, just as 22 other states have done since 2012.

Both Govs. Ronald Reagan and George Deukmejian understood the necessity of increasing reasonable user fees for transportation infrastructure. That’s why they took action to approve them.

We need that kind of leadership today if the state is going to have the world-class transportation system it needs and it deserves.

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Secretary Kelly delivers Keynote at 7th Annual Mineta National Transportation Finance Summit

Secretary
California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly talks all things transportation at the 2016 Norman Mineta Policy Summit on Transportation Finance.

SACRAMENTO – California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly spoke this month at a transportation summit held at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, joining a long list of diverse and respected individuals from Martin Luther King, to Ronald Reagan and Bill Gates who have presented at the historic public affairs forum.

Delivering the keynote speech at the 2016 Norman Mineta Policy Summit on Transportation Finance at the club on June 24, Secretary Kelly covered a range of topics in the transportation world, from the emergence of new technology and autonomous vehicles, to high-speed rail and the need for increased investments in transportation funding.

Early on, he reminded the audience not to underestimate the impact of climate change on transportation policy in the state.

“In California, it is estimated that roughly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, and the vast majority of those from automobile and truck emissions,” Secretary Kelly said.

“Our job today is quite clear: promote transportation policies that address not just the state’s mobility and safety objectives, but also our sustainability and environmental objectives.”

In case you missed Secretary Kelly’s keynote address and would like to hear the speech in its entirety, please use the following links:

Keynote Speech Podcast: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/podcast/7th-annual-mineta-national-transportation-finance-summit-superior-infrastruct

Panel Discussion (following the Keynote) Podcast: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/podcast/7th-annual-mineta-national-transportation-finance-summit-superior-infrastru-0

Video: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/video/7th-annual-mineta-national-transportation-finance-summit-superior-infrastructur

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Active Transportation Program Call for Projects Now Open

SACRAMENTO – The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) is excited to announce that project applications for the Active Transportation Program (ATP) Cycle 3 are now being accepted. Approximately $240 million in state and federal funding is available for projects that encourage the use of active modes of transportation, like biking and walking.

In March, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved the final 2017 ATP guidelines. Applicants can apply for the funding through the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The application period closes June 15.

The ATP was created in September 2013 with the signing of Senate Bill 99 (Chapter 359, Statutes of 2013) and Assembly Bill 101 (Chapter 354, Statutes of 2013) by Governor Brown. The ATP consolidated a number of federal and state transportation programs into a single program with a focus on making California a leader in active transportation.

In 2015, the ATP provided approximately $215 million in funds for 114 Statewide and Small Urban and Rural program projects. An estimated 88 percent of the funding directly benefits disadvantaged communities. An additional $143 million in ATP funds went to 93 Metropolitan Planning Organization projects.

A few of the projects selected during the last cycle include:

• Approx. $1.5 million for Safe Routes to Schools safety improvements and a community outreach program for kindergarten through eighth grade in Humboldt County, California.
• Approx. $600,000 for a pedestrian connection project at Rio Vista Elementary School in Contra Costa County.
• Approx. $400,000 for the development of an Active Transportation Plan in the greater downtown district of the city of Stockton.
• Approx. $400,000 for the Pico Rivera Regional Bikeway Project in L.A.

For more information, including guidelines to apply and eligibility requirements, visit http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/atp/cycle-3.html. For more information on projects funded in Cycle 2, visit http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/atp/cycle-2.html.

Building Bridges Along the California and Mexico Border

Today, the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) joins United States and Mexican officials and dignitaries in celebrating the formal inauguration of the Cross Border Xpress, an international border crossing that connects airport passengers in San Diego directly to the Tijuana International Airport via an enclosed pedestrian sky bridge.

The 390-foot bridge has reduced travel times from several hours to a matter of minutes for the more than two million Tijuana International Airport passengers who cross the border each year.

Prior to the opening of the Cross Border Xpress in December 2015, Tijuana International Airport passengers crossed the border at the congested San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, enduring unpredictable border wait times and routine delays of up to two hours.

According to a 2007 study by the San Diego Association of Governments, border crossing traffic and delays cost the U.S. and Mexican economies an estimated $7.2 billion in gross output and more than 62,000 jobs annually. Vehicle congestion at all border crossings between San Diego and Tijuana also has a negative impact on air quality in surrounding communities.

Now an average of 2,000 passengers per day – up to 5,000 during peak holiday travel periods – are using the 24-hour Cross Border Xpress to avoid those unnecessary delays.

In 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. participated in a trade mission to Mexico where he committed to expand environmental and economic cooperation between the two neighbors. The Cross Border Xpress is just one example of the successful bridge building currently underway to increase California and Mexico cross-border collaboration and reduce border wait times.

California’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is partnering with local, state and federal stakeholders in the U.S. and Mexico on the creation of the state’s first tolled vehicle border crossing. The flagship Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry, expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2018, will further reduce border crossing wait times and facilitate more efficient movement of traffic between California and Mexico.

Innovative solutions – like the Cross Border Xpress and Otay Mesa East – that create safe and efficient transportation connections between California and Mexico are vital to achieving the region’s economic, health, and air quality objectives.

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Caltrans Prepares to Bring Down Major Section of the Old Bay Bridge

FIRST 504 Truss Span to be Lowered by Jacks

Oakland – Caltrans has reached another historic milestone in the removal of the original east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Starting as soon as tomorrow, crews will begin lowering the first 504-foot truss span. This is scheduled to take place over a 2-day period, beginning as soon as Thursday, February 4th, weather permitting.

In 1935, the building of the “504s”, as they’re called, was relatively straightforward and used disruptive piles to hold the steel frame high above the bay. The lowering and dismantling process later this week is more complex, but also more environmentally friendly.

The five 504s stretch from Pier E4 to Pier E9, extending approximately half a mile. The weight in steel of each 504 truss to be lowered is equivalent to 2,500 tons.

“The deconstruction of the cantilever was a bold and outstanding engineering achievement and the implosion of the Pier E3 foundation was an environmental success. Now, the lowering of the first 504-foot truss, without using a single pile, is our next environmental challenge,” explained Chief Bridge Engineer, Brian Maroney.

Day one of the project will focus on severing the truss from its towers and its slow decent toward the bay below. The second day will concentrate on setting the truss down on barges and transporting it to the Port of Oakland for disassembly. Each day is expected to take anywhere from 12 to 14 hours. The lowering operation is highly weather dependent. Heavy rains and/or high winds could cause changes.

This is the second part in a three part process to dismantle the Old Bay Bridge. Phase I was completed the end of 2015, with the complete demolition of the cantilever section and S-curve to Yerba Buena Island. Now, Phase II continues with removal of the first five 504s and then removal of fourteen 288-foot truss span sections that extend to the Oakland shore. Phase III will focus on the demolition of the remaining marine foundations.

The lowering of the 504s is a slow and methodical operation compared to the 6-second implosion of Pier E3 that was performed in mid November. Although these are very different operations, environmental measures have been priorities for both. In addition to no piles being needed for this process, contractors are working closely with a bird deterrence contractor and engineers to coordinate activities to avoid other impacts.

A live stream will allow for public viewing during the operation. We encourage the public to use this method for observing the operation. You can see the stream here: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm-wXGyG0tHq4NAco-TzKRg/live

Schedule:

Day 1 – Truss Lowering
Work hour 6:00 am to 8:00 pm
(Best visuals for media will likely occur at mid to late morning, when strands are hanging down. The truss is scheduled to be lowered at a rate of 25 feet per hour.)

Day 2 – Truss Set-Down and Transport
(Throughout the day, the truss will be closer the barges.)

You can see an animation of the lowering at this link:

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