Back-Seat Driver

Here’s what Sacramento gets from the new state transportation bill

The Sacramento area’s bumpiest roads are likely to get a lot smoother in the next few years, thanks to the state transportation funding bill approved by the Legislature Thursday, local officials say. But the “gusher” of new funds, as one activist put it, is unlikely to be enough to make daily commutes less congested.

For that, local transportation officials say, Sacramento’s cities and counties will have to find some other budgetary magic. Federal funding remains a dark cloud; the Trump administration recently proposed cutting transportation funding 13 percent this year.

Sacramento leaders say the long-awaited state bill, SB 1, will allow them to come out of starvation mode. The bill imposes a pump-tax increase and higher vehicle registration fees, and will cost the typical driver about $10 a month. Much of the funding will not start flowing until November.

First order of business, said James Corless, head of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, is to fix potholes and resurface rutted roads. “This is going to help you avoid having to get your front end realigned from the massive pothole you just hit on your way to work,” he said.

State Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said the new funds likely will speed up fixes on some crumbling sections of Interstate 5 south of downtown, Highway 50 from downtown to Watt Avenue and Interstate 80 west of the city.

Placer County Transportation Planning Agency chief Celia McAdam says the cash infusion “is great for dealing with the backlog of road maintenance that is needed all over place.” But, in her county, she says, “it really does nothing for traffic congestion for the Interstate 80/Highway 65 interchange, or for 65 widening, and some of the big capacity issues in south Placer.”

Those projects require Placer to have local transportation “matching” funds to use to compete for state and federal grant programs. Placer attempted a sales tax ballot initiative in November that would have secured some of those funds, but it failed.

▪ West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle said his city should get about $1.2 million annually to repair aging streets in older city neighborhoods. “The big win is for maintenance,” he said. West Sacramento voters approved a small transportation sales tax in November, which the city should be able to leverage to compete for some SB 1 supplemental funds.

▪ City of Sacramento transportation head Ryan Moore said his city will get a “desperately needed infusion” of an estimated $11 million annually for road repair. “It’s an investment that our parents and grandparents made and we have a responsibility to take care of it.”

▪ Mike Penrose, head of the Sacramento County transportation department, said the county will get an estimated $28 million annually that should help take a big chunk over time out of the county’s $450 million backlog of unfixed streets.

▪  Sacramento Regional Transit, the bus and light rail district, should see an additional $10 million annually. SacRT officials say they will use the money mainly to fill in gaps left by federal funding reductions and by lower-than-expected revenues from the state cap-and-trade program.

Bike and pedestrian advocates say they are pleased the Legislature added more money at the last minute for non-car transportation needs. Jennifer Donlon Wyant of the City of Sacramento said city officials are doing a study of the most dangerous areas for walkers and bikers, and likely will use some of the state money on safety measures in those areas as part of street resurfacing projects.

Local transportation sales tax opponent Craig Powell of the Eye On Sacramento group called the new state funding a “gusher” of money, and said it showed that Sacramento County voters were right in November in rejecting Measure B, a proposed local transportation sales tax.

But several Sacramento transportation officials said cities and counties need even more money for projects that will provide congestion relief. County transportation chief Penrose said “there is still significant pressure” for some form of local transportation funding, potentially another effort to pass a sales tax increase.

SacRT officials issued an even stronger statement Friday, pushing for a one-third cent additional local sales tax to increase bus and rail service to every 15 minutes and in some cases 10 minutes, and to build a rail line to the airport, with potential extensions to Elk Grove, Roseville and Davis.

If you want to estimate how much the state transportation bill will cost you, go to this calculator created by Bee reporter Jim Miller.

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