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jrouse:
I think this thread provides an opportunity for me to provide some background on how Caltrans is funded.  I see several people have issues with how my employer operates.  But if you were to understand the funding constraints, you might be a little more understanding as to why we don't do all the things you think we should do.

Back in 1998 there was this little piece of legislation known as Senate Bill (SB) 45 that dramatically changed the funding structure for transportation in California.  This bill, put simply, put 75 percent of the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds into the hands of the counties.  The State retains 25 percent for funding of inter regional projects.  There are some other splits and limitations that I won't get into here.  But in essence, the counties dictate to Caltrans what projects will be built. 

The primary source for transportation funding here is, like most other places, the excise tax on fuel.  However, close to half of the State's counties have local sales taxes that are used for transportation.  Combine that resource with their share of the STIP and that gives them a lot of leverage. 

The STIP is used to fund road widening and major improvements.  Another fund, also paid for out of the fuel excise tax, is the State Highway Operations and Protection Program (SHOPP).  These funds are used to cover maintenance needs and operational improvements.  SHOPP funds cannot be used to widen roads.  Caltrans controls the SHOPP, and those funds can be mixed with STIP funds to address multiple needs in one project.

Here in California, the fuel excise tax has not been raised in more than 20 years.  During that time, as vehicles have become more fuel efficient, people are filling up less, so there's less money coming into the coffers.  And inflation has reduced the buying power of those dollars over time.

With limited funding, and restrictions on the funds it has available, Caltrans cannot do all that it would.  It's been estimated that there's about $58 billion in unmet transportation needs in this State.   In the past, there have been general obligation bonds that have helped fund improvements, but those bonds have been issued and so that resource is gone.  The ARRA (Obama stimulus) funds are gone too.  Given this bleak picture, the California Transportation Commission made severe cuts to the STIP a few months back.  This affected both Caltrans' and the counties' shares.  In fact, there's been talk from time to time of not funding the STIP at all and putting everything into SHOPP.

The system is broke and while a fuel excise tax increase might bring some additional funds in the short term, it still won't work in the long term given the federal mandates for improved vehicle fuel efficiency.  The counties can cover some things with their sales taxes and at least two counties that I know of plan to put ballot measures up in November for additional sales taxes on top of what they already have.  But it will never be enough.  The issues with the excise tax are why there's the push for a road use charge as a replacement.  I'm participating in the pilot and I am very interested in seeing what it leads to.

Bottom line - we don't have much to spend, and so we have to prioritize accordingly.




iPhone

cahwyguy:
Joe - The one thing this bbs lacks is a like button. Well said. I don't think most people understand how government funding and processes work. I support the DoD, and I see that all the time.

Max Rockatansky:

--- Quote from: jrouse on July 20, 2016, 10:29:53 PM ---I think this thread provides an opportunity for me to provide some background on how Caltrans is funded.  I see several people have issues with how my employer operates.  But if you were to understand the funding constraints, you might be a little more understanding as to why we don't do all the things you think we should do.

Back in 1998 there was this little piece of legislation known as Senate Bill (SB) 45 that dramatically changed the funding structure for transportation in California.  This bill, put simply, put 75 percent of the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds into the hands of the counties.  The State retains 25 percent for funding of inter regional projects.  There are some other splits and limitations that I won't get into here.  But in essence, the counties dictate to Caltrans what projects will be built. 

The primary source for transportation funding here is, like most other places, the excise tax on fuel.  However, close to half of the State's counties have local sales taxes that are used for transportation.  Combine that resource with their share of the STIP and that gives them a lot of leverage. 

The STIP is used to fund road widening and major improvements.  Another fund, also paid for out of the fuel excise tax, is the State Highway Operations and Protection Program (SHOPP).  These funds are used to cover maintenance needs and operational improvements.  SHOPP funds cannot be used to widen roads.  Caltrans controls the SHOPP, and those funds can be mixed with STIP funds to address multiple needs in one project.

Here in California, the fuel excise tax has not been raised in more than 20 years.  During that time, as vehicles have become more fuel efficient, people are filling up less, so there's less money coming into the coffers.  And inflation has reduced the buying power of those dollars over time.

With limited funding, and restrictions on the funds it has available, Caltrans cannot do all that it would.  It's been estimated that there's about $58 billion in unmet transportation needs in this State.   In the past, there have been general obligation bonds that have helped fund improvements, but those bonds have been issued and so that resource is gone.  The ARRA (Obama stimulus) funds are gone too.  Given this bleak picture, the California Transportation Commission made severe cuts to the STIP a few months back.  This affected both Caltrans' and the counties' shares.  In fact, there's been talk from time to time of not funding the STIP at all and putting everything into SHOPP.

The system is broke and while a fuel excise tax increase might bring some additional funds in the short term, it still won't work in the long term given the federal mandates for improved vehicle fuel efficiency.  The counties can cover some things with their sales taxes and at least two counties that I know of plan to put ballot measures up in November for additional sales taxes on top of what they already have.  But it will never be enough.  The issues with the excise tax are why there's the push for a road use charge as a replacement.  I'm participating in the pilot and I am very interested in seeing what it leads to.

Bottom line - we don't have much to spend, and so we have to prioritize accordingly.




iPhone

--- End quote ---

Wow that's a lot to type on a iPhone....yikes.  Anyways, my issue isn't with Caltrans operates it's with how Caltrans is funded versus how it COULD be funded.  You mentioned some excellent points like local sales tax increases to help prioritize corridors that counties or localities may want help on quicker.  I know the issue isn't as straight forward as many other states given the high volume of routes maintained at the state level rather than county or locality.  Personally I would prefer some of the recent surplus be earmarked for highway improvements along with a increase (despite what I said earlier) in the gas tax, sales taxes or even corporate taxes....multi-pronged across the board that hits as many places as possible with a wide distribution.  I know that tends to be a dirty word these days....."tax increases" but for me I would greatly prefer something like that to reinvest into infrastructure in general than say a usage tax which Scott has been touting like crazy in these threads.  The problem goes back to what others have said....apathy...in the legislature and in the general public for which anything infrastructure (including roads) has generally fallen out of favor.  So the question is...how to promote such a push for funding increases?...is it even possible in this modern climate when things like High Speed Rail are going to get much more positive reactions out of people?  Even in states like Arizona and Nevada where there is this huge push to get a new Interstate like I-11 going you get a crap ton of push back from people when you tell them their taxes are going to increase.  That's how the whole idea of a tolled I-11 came up and honestly given the brush back that those DOTs had it really isn't a bad idea. 

I guess for me personally a usage fee just has too many questions associated with privacy concerns versus a more conventional means of generating revenue.  The problem you run into with general tax increases be it gas, sales, property or commercial is you get just as much if not more push back from the parties involved.  But then again, I'm speaking from the perspective of someone who has historically driven 30,000 to 80,000 miles a year throughout his adult life.  There is actually an interesting thread in the General Section basically on highway usage taxes that I haven't opined on yet.  Yes taxes need to be increased for funding general, I would just prefer that everyone get affected as about equally as possible. Then again I don't know why I'm so invested in the topic considering on my 9th state and likely I'll be on the 10th in the next three years.  Anyways here is the thread from the General Section:

https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=18419.0

Rothman:

--- Quote from: jrouse on July 20, 2016, 10:29:53 PM ---Back in 1998 there was this little piece of legislation known as Senate Bill (SB) 45 that dramatically changed the funding structure for transportation in California.  This bill, put simply, put 75 percent of the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds into the hands of the counties.  The State retains 25 percent for funding of inter regional projects. 

--- End quote ---

From here at NYSDOT, I can't believe this insanity.  NYSDOT thinks it already gives the locals/MPOs too much power and believes many other states dictate to counties/municipalities/MPOs what they will do in the STIP process.  Never knew there was a state stupid enough to actually give them more power than NYSDOT does!   :wow:

(personal opinion emphasized)

Henry:
Even with the uncompleted I-710, aren't there enough freeways in L.A. already? It used to irritate me when I lived there, but now, not so much, and in fact, I can accept that the gap in South Pasadena may never be filled in.

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