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.



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

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:

Panel Discussion (following the Keynote) Podcast:



Governor Brown is Funding ‘Active Transportation’

The Sacramento Bee published the following piece by California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly. It is included in full below:

The Brown administration created the nation’s largest Active Transportation Program in 2013, dedicated to providing about $120 million each year to develop safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities in communities throughout California. The program was designed to move such investment from the periphery of the state’s transportation funding strategy toward the center, assuring that the state is meeting mobility, health, safety and environmental objectives.

That’s why it’s so puzzling that Daniel Weintraub (“Brown’s roads budget is bad for environment and heath,” Viewpoints, Jan. 19) says that Gov. Jerry Brown “proposes almost nothing to promote ‘active transportation’ – human-powered movement through neighborhoods and cities on bikes and on foot that are better not only for the environment, but also for our health.”

This assertion bears no resemblance to the reality of the Brown administration’s transportation strategy.

Our program has been a major success. Since its inception, the California Transportation Commission has approved funding for 472 bicycle and pedestrian projects throughout the state, including the 19th Street BART to Lake Merritt Urban Greenway project in Oakland, the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Hub in Los Angeles and the Edinger Protected Bike Lanes project in Santa Ana.

In addition, the Brown administration continues to invest hundreds of millions in cap-and-trade dollars in public transit and sustainable community development projects that include transit and pedestrian safety.

California is leading the nation in bicycle and pedestrian facility investment. The governor’s proposed budget for active transportation projects brings the total programmed since 2013 to about $720 million. Moreover, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research just issued proposed changes to CEQA guidelines designed to make bicycle and pedestrian projects easier to permit and construct.

Contrary to Weintraub’s suggestion, a hallmark of the governor’s transportation investment strategy is good environmental stewardship and smart climate change policy. Since 2012, the administration’s investment priorities have been in clean vehicles, public transit, high-speed rail, bicycle and pedestrian facilities and “Fix-it-First” projects to repair existing streets, roads and bridges.

These investments are not antithetical to smart climate change policy, but are necessary to implement it.

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Statement from Secretary Brian Kelly on Proposed $4 Billion for Automated Vehicles and Initiatives to Accelerate Vehicle Safety Innovations

SACRAMENTO—Today, United States Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced President Obama’s proposal of nearly $4 billion for automated aehicles and DOT initiatives to accelerate vehicle safety innovations.

“This is great news,” said California State Transportation Agency Secretary, Brian Kelly. “We welcome this bold step by the Obama Administration. California looks forward to partnering with NHTSA to encourage innovation that will make our streets and roads safer.”

The announcement from the United States Department of Transportation is included in whole below:

Thursday, January 14, 2016
Contact: DOT Press Office
Tel.: (202) 366-4570

Secretary Foxx Unveils President Obama’s FY17 Budget Proposal of Nearly $4 Billion for Automated Vehicles and Announces DOT Initiatives to Accelerate Vehicle Safety Innovations

DOT actions revise existing guidance and clear administrative hurdles for new automotive technology

DETROIT – In his last State of the Union address, President Obama signaled his intent to invest in a 21st century transportation system. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today revealed part of the president’s proposal: a 10-year, nearly $4 billion investment to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.

Secretary Foxx also announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation is removing potential roadblocks to the integration of innovative, transformational automotive technology that can significantly improve safety, mobility, and sustainability. Secretary Foxx made the announcement at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where he was joined by leaders in technology, executives of traditional auto manufacturers, and newcomers to the industry.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” said Secretary Foxx. “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials, and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”

The President’s FY17 budget proposal would provide nearly $4 billion over 10 years for pilot programs to test connected vehicle systems in designated corridors throughout the country, and work with industry leaders to ensure a common multistate framework for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Secretary Foxx also unveiled policy guidance that updates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2013 preliminary policy statement on autonomous vehicles. The new guidance, released today, reflects the reality that the widespread deployment of fully autonomous vehicles is now feasible.

“NHTSA is using all of its available tools to accelerate the deployment of technologies that can eliminate 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “We will work with state partners toward creating a consistent national policy on these innovations, provide options now and into the future for manufacturers seeking to deploy autonomous vehicles, and keep our safety mission paramount at every stage.”

DOT is committing to the following milestones in 2016:

  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles, providing a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis methods needed to assess them.
  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with state partners, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and other stakeholders to develop a model state policy on automated vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy.
  • Secretary Foxx encouraged manufacturers to submit rule interpretation requests where appropriate to help enable technology innovation. For example, NHTSA responded to an interpretation request from BMW confirming that the company’s remote self-parking system meets federal safety standards. Click here to read this interpretation.
  • When interpretation authority is not sufficient, Secretary Foxx further encouraged manufacturers to submit requests for use of the agency’s exemption authority to allow the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. Exemption authority allows NHTSA to enable the deployment of up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years if the agency determines that an exemption would ease development of new safety features.
  • DOT and NHTSA will develop the new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility, and will consider seeking new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when they are demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.

Under Secretary Foxx’s leadership, the Department has been working to transform government for the 21st century, harnessing innovation and technology that will improve people’s lives. In 2015, Secretary Foxx refocused the national dialogue about the future needs of our transportation infrastructure by releasing Beyond Traffic, a report examining the challenges facing America’s infrastructure over the next three decades. This draft framework has already influenced decisions by elected officials, planners, and stakeholders nationwide.

Secretary Foxx has also energized DOT’s embrace of innovation to help solve these challenges. In December 2015, the Secretary launched the Smart City Challenge, a national competition to implement bold, data-driven ideas that make transportation safer, easier, and more reliable in that city. He also worked to accelerate the Department’s efforts to incorporate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology into new vehicles.

More information on the President’s budget proposal will be forthcoming.

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State Government Departments Offer Cash Awards for Innovation

Legislature-Created Contests Offer Innovators up to $25,000


SACRAMENTO – A trio of state department heads on Tuesday announced a set of contests in which Californians can win up to $25,000 for ideas to improve transportation and sustainable government practices, and help prevent underage drinking. They were joined at the State Capitol by the Los Angeles lawmaker who wrote the bill creating the innovation contests.

The directors of Caltrans, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and the Department of General Services (DGS) announced the “$25K Find a New Way” contests, which stem from legislation by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (AB 2138), which was signed into law last September by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

DOT_Fixed dgs abc
 Caltrans will award up to $25,000 to the Californian with the best unique idea with the highest likelihood of being successfully put into action that will improve the state’s transportation system. All California residents are eligible to apply except for current and retired state employees and their immediate families. Applications for the Caltrans contest will be accepted beginning August 25. Deadline: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. PDT.  DGS and the Government Operations Agency will award up to $25,000 to Californians who participate in its “GreenGov Challenge,” an open data code-a-thon to be held October 24 – 25, which will engage the civic coding community to better show the work the state is doing to combat climate change. Participants will focus on creating apps, visualizations, and other tools that can help improve government sustainability practices. The contest is open to California residents and individuals who are 18 years of age or older as of the date of entry. State employees are not eligible to enter.  ABC will award up to $25,000 to the Californian(s) with the best unique idea(s) about how the department can more effectively and efficiently prevent or reduce underage drinking. All California residents are eligible to apply except for current and retired state employees and their immediate families. Applications for the ABC contest will be accepted beginning August 25. Deadline: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. PDT.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty, whose contest seeks the best idea for improving the state’s transportation system, said, “Californians have contributed some of the best transportation solutions in the country and we look forward to putting a great idea into action.”

“As the state deals with the on-going impacts of environmental change and the drought, we in state government are seeking out innovative ways to better promote sustainability,” said Daniel C. Kim, Director of DGS. “This code-a-thon allows us to leverage the creativity of the civic coding community to better show the work the state is doing to combat climate change.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for Californians to possibly win an award for submitting new ideas to reduce or prevent underage drinking or develop new ways to limit youth access to alcohol. We are looking for out of the box solutions and creative strategies to improve these efforts,” said ABC Director Timothy Gorsuch.

“The people of California are resourceful and inventive,” said Gatto. “Incentives like this can showcase Californians’ creative solutions to some of the state’s most pressing issues.”

Visit (or the departments’ individual websites) to enter. More information is available on social media via hashtag #25KFindANewWay.

You can view a video of the announcement press conference below:

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Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards Now Open for Applications

SACRAMENTO – The online application period to apply for the state’s most prestigious environmental achievement award is now open. Applications for the 2015 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards (GEELA) program are available at

The GEELA program recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses that have demonstrated exceptional leadership for voluntary achievements in conserving California’s resources, protecting and enhancing the environment, building public-private partnerships, and strengthening the state’s economy.

Applications are due Friday, July 24, 2015.

California consumers are environmentally conscious and actively seek products and services that protect our state’s natural resources. The GEELA program allows all sectors to raise public awareness of their green mission, goals and products.

GEELA winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Sacramento and will receive recognition through a California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) issued press release, promotion through our social media accounts, and prominent placement on the CalEPA website. Recipients of this year’s award will also receive a 2015 GEELA Winner logo for use on a website or printed materials.

This year, GEELA recipients will be chosen from 5 different categories and one subcategory, which include:

  • Environmental Education
  • Ecosystem and Land Use Stewardship
  • Climate Change
    • Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Dealers
  • Sustainable Practices, Communities or Facilities
  • Waste Reduction

Established in 1993, the GEELA program is administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; the Health and Human Services Agency; and the Governor’s Office.

For more information about GEELA, please visit

For an electronic version of this release, please visit

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