Facing a campaign to repeal the state’s new gas tax increase, Sacramento-area politicians and transportation officials gathered under a freeway underpass Monday to tout projects that are expected to be funded by the hike.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, county Supervisor Phil Serna and others spoke in praise of Senate Bill 1, which has continued to generate opposition from Republicans after the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved the measure in the spring.
Caltrans officials Monday outlined more than $1 billion in projects that will be “accelerated” in the region as part of the $52 billion statewide anticipated from higher gas taxes and vehicle fees over the next 10 years. The projects include replacing pavement on 67 lane miles of Interstate 5 between Cosumnes River Boulevard in Elk Grove and the American River in Sacramento.
“They’re running scared,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, who has been leading the initiative to repeal the gas tax.
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Steinberg, a former state Senate leader, said he had a hard time understanding how investing in infrastructure had become a political issue. He also accused critics of spreading inaccurate information about the gas tax, including claims that the spending plan hasn’t been transparent.
Allen and other repeal backers must gather about 366,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. They’ve been tied up in court over the attorney general’s proposed wording of the initiative and recently won a court ruling on the dispute.
Roger Dickinson, a former state and local Democratic politician who now heads advocacy group Transportation California, said investment in roads is essential because they’re fallen into a terrible state of disrepair. He also said traffic congestion needs to be relieved.
But Allen said the projects planned under the gas tax will do nothing to reduce congestion because they don’t add traffic lanes.
Caltrans says half of the revenue will go to maintain state roads, while the other half will go to local roads, mass transit, sidewalks and bike lanes. About $250 million or 5 percent is earmarked for “solutions for congested corridors.”
Of the 20 projects highlighted by Caltrans in the broader Sacramento region, none call for additional traffic lanes. Most call for resurfacing.
Dickinson said such work is important because the average motorist spends $760 a year on repairs related to substandard roads.
Sacramento County projects funded by new transportation taxes
Caltrans officials highlighted eight projects in Sacramento County that will be “accelerated” because of a new gas tax. The project costs include anticipated revenues from a higher gas tax and other sources.
- Replacing pavement on Interstate 5 from Cosumnes River Boulevard to the American River viaduct. Cost: $267 million.
- Improving truck carrying capacity on I-5 in Sacramento. Cost: $247 million.
- Improving bridge safety on the West End Viaduct on I-5. Cost: $157 million.
- Resurfacing 11 miles of Highway 50 between Rancho Cordova and El Dorado Hills. Cost: $7.6 million.
- “Pavement preservation” of 56 lane miles of Highway 50 between I-5 and Watt Avenue. Cost: $278 million.
- “Pavement preservation” of 36 lane miles of Interstate 80 between Longview Drive and Madison Avenue in Sacramento. Cost: $18 million.
- Installing ramp meters and interchange connector ramps at various Sacramento locations. Cost: $5 million.
- Install traffic management systems on Highway 99 and other roadways. Cost: $12.5 million.