July 29, 2019
Three-year I-5 reconstruction project begins in Sacramento. Expect closures, commute delays – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
South Sacramento commuters, get ready to adjust your morning work-drive start time. Caltrans will announce next week the start of a massive, several-year-long reconstruction project on Interstate 5 through south Sacramento – one that both the state and some local commuters say is overdue. The $370 million project, which includes replacing the road surface, will take three years and involve extensive lane closures at times, prompting traffic congestion and detours, officials said. Project finish date is set for late 2022.
California’s troubled bullet train project getting one of biggest management upheavals in years – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
The California bullet train project is going through one of its biggest personnel upheavals in years, several months after Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed he would be “getting rid of a lot of consultants.” Brian Kelly, the rail authority’s chief executive officer, said in an interview Thursday that he could not comment on three specific management moves The Times has learned about, but said some are designed to address the project’s multiple challenges.
Four Automakers Strike Emissions Deal With California – Reuters
Ford Motor Co, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and Honda Motor Co said on Thursday they have reached a voluntary agreement with the state of California to adopt compromise vehicle emissions rules. Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the four automakers sought regulatory certainty and had agreed not to legally challenge the state’s vehicle regulatory authority. “They didn’t want to face the expense, distraction and the bad publicity that comes from being part of a big rollback on clean cars,” she said.
Crumbling roads, bridges getting infrastructure love from the DOT – Yahoo! Finance
Last week, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho announced a total of 20 large and small infrastructure projects across the nation funded by INFRA grants, which provide dedicated, discretionary funding for projects that address critical issues facing our nation’s highways and bridges, according to DOT. The City of Temecula’s plan to construct a two-lane northbound collector/distributor system along I-15 was one of the 10 large projects that made the list.
July 25, 2019
Jerry Brown, his eye still on pensions, endorses candidate in CalPERS board election – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Former Gov. Jerry Brown is jumping into the CalPERS Board of Administration election with an endorsement of incumbent Henry Jones. Jones, 78, represents retirees on the 13-member board and serves as its president. He is running for re-election against J.J. Jelincic, 70, a former board member and a former CalPERS staffer.
The Crisis Lurking in Californians’ Taps: How 1,000 Water Systems May Be at Risk – The New York Times (tiered subscription)
As many as 1,000 community water systems in California may be at high risk of failing to deliver potable water — one out of every three — according to a previously undisclosed estimate by the California State Water Resources Control Board. These troubled districts often operate in poorer areas on thin budgets. With little oversight, they face problems ranging from bankruptcy to sudden interruptions in water capacity, to delivering harmful toxins through taps.
Feinstein op-ed: As the climate gets hotter and drier, state’s water plan must consider all options – The Fresno Bee (tiered subscription)
“Climate change presents a clear and present danger to California: Rising temperatures will continue to reduce the Sierra snowpack — essentially California’s largest bank of water — and will cause more frequent and dangerous droughts,” U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein writes. “As we continue to recover from the historic drought that stretched from 2011 to 2017, we must accept this new reality and start preparing now.”
July 22, 2019
What Crisis? The Case for Not Panicking Over Pension Debt. – Governing
Over the past decade, public retirement costs have spiked while governments’ unfunded liabilities — now totaling more than $1.2 trillion — have continued to grow. But according to research that debuted last week, lawmakers shouldn’t worry too much about accumulating pension debt.
Diverging Diamond Interchanges Coming To California In Effort To Ease Traffic – KPIX
Something new is coming to California highways and it is already under construction in Manteca. Drivers will soon be driving through the state’s first diverging diamond interchange.
In an era of extreme weather, concerns grow over dam safety – PBS News Hour
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management. And scientists now say the likelihood of dam failures — which not only threaten lives but also release toxic sediments trapped in reservoirs behind many dams — will increase as extreme precipitation events become more frequent in a warming world.
55-hour closures coming to 60 Freeway on 15 weekends between July and Thanksgiving – The Sun (San Bernardino)
A series of major closures are planned to enable construction crews to replace 18 miles of crumbling, aging Southern California highway pavement with shiny new ribbons of concrete. The most draconian feature will be 15 weekends of total shutdowns eastbound or westbound stretching from the 15 Freeway to the 60-91-215 interchange. For those who remember the weekend-long closure of the 91 Freeway in Corona in February 2016, dubbed “Coronageddon,” this will be a lot like that.
July 18, 2019
Top women to CalPERS candidate: Drop out, we don’t want an accused harasser – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The state treasurer of California, a state senator and another woman serving on the CalPERS board have called on J.J. Jelincic Jr. to drop out of the race because of his history of harassing women who work at the Sacramento-based pension fund. Jelincic is a former board member who is running again for a seat on the 13-member panel.
California Stopped Tracking Sexual Harassment Complaints Years Ago. What Happens Now? – Capital Public Radio
The California Legislature fueled the #MeToo Movement after reports in 2017 that several lawmakers were investigated, and in some cases were disciplined, for sexual harassment in the workplace. Now the state is building a system to track sexual harassment complaints filed by state employees, but the state already had a system for that – until it was eliminated in 2012.
Marin officials mull $100 billion transportation mega-measure idea – Marin Independent Journal
Dubbed “Faster Bay Area,” officials are considering a ballot measure that would seek to raise $100 billion from nine Bay Area counties over several decades. The money would overhaul and integrate the region’s transit services, including more frequent and efficient BART, Caltrain and ferry trips; more express toll and bus lanes on local highways; and a second BART crossing under San Francisco Bay.
Caltrans Puts Finishing Touches On Project To Fix Richmond-San Rafael Bridge – KPIX
Caltrans is now putting the finishing touches on a project to fix 31 expansion joints on the upper deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Work crews have been working overnight shifts since March with jackhammers and blowtorches to demolish the existing joints, then pour concrete to build and install the replacement joints.
July 15, 2019
Nepotism at California state agency leads to discipline for public employee – The Sacramento Bee
The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has begun dispensing discipline over findings that its former director and her subordinates violated nepotism rules to promote the director’s daughter and a friend, according to a letter the department recently sent to the State Personnel Board (SPB). Last week, DIR voided a promotion of an unnamed employee who the SPB said had benefited from former Director Christine Baker’s favor with a special hiring arrangement and an inappropriate promotion in 2014. Another half-dozen DIR employees remain under investigation.
AP: Public unions see only modest decline after court ruling – Associated Press
Anticipating that the U.S. Supreme Court might end mandatory union fees for public employees, some labor-friendly states enacted laws last year to protect membership rolls while unions redoubled their recruitment efforts. Those steps appear to have paid off, at least initially. (Please click here for a list of public employee union membership change by state.)
What’s Driving You Crazy? – Shout-out to Caltrans earthquake response – CBS 8 (Las Vegas)
A post-earthquake shout-out to the California Department of Transportation.
Are state and local pension funds really in crisis? – Brookings Institution
Government pension systems across the nation are in better long-term shape than commonly reported, according to three economists in this Q&A.
July 11, 2019
‘Outrageous conflicts of interest’: Watchdog groups urge California Gov. Gavin Newsom to fire oil regulators – Desert Sun
Two consumer groups are calling on California’s governor to freeze all new oil drilling permits and to clean house at the agency that issues them, after the organizations uncovered records showing that top state regulators and engineers held investments in Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other petrochemical giants.
Funding enables California DOT to extend life of 18 bridges on I-5, SR 152 – Transportation Today
Construction recently began on improvements to State Route 152 and Interstate 5 in California’s Merced County under funds provided by Senate Bill 1, which allow for work to keep 18 bridges functioning throughout the state. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) estimates the roads see around 65,000 vehicles each day, including a sizable amount of heavy truck traffic.
Senators Aim to Produce Five-Year Highway Bill Before August Recess – Transport Topics
The first version of what could become the country’s next major highway policy bill will be unveiled in the Senate prior to Congress’ recess in August, surface transportation policymakers announced July 10. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee intends to consider a five-year highway bill, kicking off reauthorization of the FAST Act.
Nearly two dozen governors join California’s push for more efficient cars and trucks – The Washington Post
In a joint statement Tuesday, governors from 22 states and Puerto Rico joined California in calling for a “common sense” national approach that would provide regulatory certainty to the auto industry while also helping to combat climate change.
July 8, 2019
Caltrans begins post-earthquake repairs on Route 178 – Bakersfield Californian
On Sunday, Caltrans started permanent construction repairs on State Route 178 about six miles east of Ridgecrest, on a four-mile stretch that cracked in three areas due to recent earthquakes. Meanwhile, Caltrans engineers have evaluated all bridges and highway structures in the area and have determined that all routes are safe for normal operations.
Davis High School grad heads State Transportation Agency – Davis Enterprise
David Kim — a 1981 graduate of Davis High School — was sworn in as the new secretary of the State Transportation Agency. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Kim’s appointment in April, replacing Brian Annis.
Near earthquake epicenter in Trona, ‘it looks like a tornado went through’ – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
The small, unincorporated Searles Valley community of Trona seemed relatively unshaken by the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that rocked Southern California on Thursday afternoon, despite moderate damage to the town. A sense of community is what will get people through this quake, say residents, and that can-do attitude could even be seen in state officials’ response to the quake. A giant crack that formed across Highway 178 on the outskirts of the town had already been repaired by Caltrans crews an hour after the temblor tore up the road.
Editorial: Summer driving season is here — time for us to repeat ourselves on the cost of a gallon of gasoline. Specifically, it should be higher. – The Washington Post (tiered subscription)
The cost of a gallon of gasoline should be higher. Congress last raised the federal gas tax in 1993, which means that the 18.4-cent-per-gallon levy has fallen more than 40 percent in real terms. While Capitol Hill has been paralyzed, however, July 1 was an occasion to celebrate a surge of policy activity in the states, including blue states such as California and Illinois and red ones such as Indiana and Tennessee. In all, 13 states saw gas taxes increase on that date, many from indexing to inflation to avoid future political fights. It indicates that Americans are open to rational fuel taxation, regardless of politics.
July 3, 2019
Clear path ahead for Highway 17 animal corridor, with $5 million campaign complete – Santa Cruz Sentinel
The first animal corridor to bridge Highway 17 is on track to be completed in 2022 as the last piece of financing for the $12 million project fell into place this week. Land Trust Santa Cruz County announced completion of a $5 million fundraising campaign Tuesday, $3 million of which was raised to build a tunnel for animals beneath Highway 17’s most dangerous stretch of roadway for mountain lions and other critters.
Where will California’s high-speed rail stop in the Bay Area? – The Mercury News (tiered subscription)
If the billions needed to build the high-speed rail line from the Central Valley through San Jose and onto San Francisco can ever be raised, we may soon know the route for the nearly 130-mile link. The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Tuesday made recommendations for the preferred alternatives in Northern California with public meetings to begin next month and a vote in September.
Fixing old San Rafael 101 off-ramp will cost millions more than estimated – KPIX
The contractors bids to replace an aging Highway 101 off-ramp that handles thousands of cars daily have come in at $4.5 million more than the $12.5 million Caltrans estimated, placing the project’s future in jeopardy.
Interstate 5 to receive millions from gas fee for culvert repairs – Bakersfield Californian
Caltrans has received millions of dollars in gas tax funding for repairs to drainage systems along Interstate 5 in Kern County. The funding came as part of a package of $533 million in allocations done by the California Transportation Commission for highway projects throughout the state.
July 1, 2019
California Mandates Zero-Emission Vehicles at Airports – Scientific American
The California Air Resources Board has mandated a switch to nonpolluting shuttles and buses running short hops at its 13 largest airports, the first policy of its kind in the nation. It requires by 2035 the switch to zero-emission vehicles serving airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland and Ontario International, along with commuter airports in Orange County, Burbank-Hollywood, Long Beach, Palm Springs, Fresno and Santa Barbara.
Fire-ravaged Paradise water agency faces state ultimatum: Fix your cracked dam spillway – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Just months after California’s deadliest wildfire laid waste to the town of Paradise, hillside residents face yet another costly and potentially dangerous problem. The Department of Water Resources downgraded the Magalia Dam on the hill above town to “poor” condition, and has ordered the dam’s owner to make interim repairs by November on the cracked spillway.
State approves $10M for Highway 37 flooding fix – Marin Independent-Journal
The California Transportation Commission has approved a $10 million study of flood-prone Highway 37 in Marin County in a unanimous vote during its meeting in Sacramento. North Bay representatives and transportation officials had urged Caltrans to begin the studies after the four-mile section between Novato and Black Point Bridge was closed twice due to flooding this winter. Although officials lauded the commission’s decision, it only addresses a small section of the flood-plagued corridor that stretches between Novato and Vallejo.
Damaged by storms, a major highway to Idyllwild is closed for the summer – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
As summer tourism ramps up, a scenic highway into Idyllwild will remain shut down. Highway 243, which leads into the popular Southern California vacation spot in the San Jacinto Mountains, is closed for the next several months as crews repair lanes that collapsed under catastrophic rains. Portions of the mountaintop highway — more than 100 spots in all — are in need of repairs.