The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) expects its staff to swell by 10 percent over the next five years, adding 2,000 employees as it works on projects funded by the new gasoline tax in Senate Bill 1. Caltrans began escalating its hiring efforts a year ago according to reports on March 13, hoping to replace retiring workers and in preparation for the increased gas tax funding. The bill is expected to generate $182.6 billion in increased economic activity and benefits for California residents and businesses over the next 10 years, averaging $18.3 billion per year, according to an ARTBA analysis. Efforts are underway from a grassroots conservative group calling for a referendum in November to repeal the tax, while Caltrans and others are working to defend it and the road funding, citing ARTBA’s study to demonstrate its effectiveness.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R ) on March 20 signed a supplemental spending bill that will pump an extra $175 million into road and transportation projects this year. The funding is expected to reach local road agencies in time for summer construction work, but will not fully reverse long-term declines in road quality across the state, according to the state’s department of transportation director. The mid-year spending plan will send $38.2 million to cities and villages, $68.4 million to county road commissions and $68.4 million to the state, building on a 2015 road funding law that will begin to phase in additional general fund dollars next year.
Advocates, including Gov. Dannel Malloy (D), extolled the virtues of electronic highway tolling in Connecticut on March 14, squaring off against opponents like the state’s trucking association in a five hours- long debate over just one proposed solution to the state’s transportation funding problems. The issue, which has split the legislature, has some touting that it makes sense for out of state drivers to pay as they make their way to Boston, New York, or other Northeast cities through Connecticut and the revenue generated could help fund the billions of dollars in needed repairs and improvements to the state’s transportation infrastructure. The trucking association is strongly against tolls and a proposed increased gas tax, and some opponents have noted that the highway system in the state makes it easy to exit and avoid the tolls, causing more issues like congestion and potholes on local roads.
Colorado’s Senate on March 21 tentatively approved a bill to ask voters in 2019 if the state can issue $3.5 billion in bonds for roads and bridges while injecting a one-time installment of $500 million into transportation projects. The amended bill would ask voters whether to devote $250 million from the general fund each year to back the bonds, which are expected to cost up to $5 billion over 20 years. It originally called for asking voters to decide in November 2018 whether to devote 10 percent of each year’s general fund revenues to the bonds. If approved, the bonds would replace most of the nearly $1.9 billion in transportation bonds lawmakers agreed to last year, which were backed by leasing out state buildings. Competing road-funding initiatives may appear on the November ballot and would jeopardize the Legislature’s own ballot proposal this year.
The road usage charge program in Oregon is ready from a technical standpoint, according to local reports on March 22 that quote the state DOT. But the program called OReGo, which is intended to supplant the state gasoline tax as a primary source of funding for transportation projects, remains in limbo as the program looks to become an interstate initiative with Washington, Idaho and possibly Surrey, British Columbia.