April 2, 2020

Editorial: To protect public safety during coronavirus, let government employees work from homeThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Government bureaucracies are not known for their ability to quickly or nimbly navigate change.  That’s still no excuse for lumbering response times and fuzzy decision-making in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

White House says another coronavirus stimulus should include up to $2 trillion for infrastructureUSA Today
Days after signing a record $2 trillion stimulus bill to curb the effects of coronavirus, President Donald Trump said Tuesday the next phase to revive the economy should include up to $2 trillion more for roads, bridges, and other forms of infrastructure.

California Moves Ahead With Water Plan Without Feds’ Guidance Courthouse News Service/SCV News
In the latest break with the federal government on environmental policy, California officials decided Tuesday to give the state unprecedented control over a water plan that delivers water to more than 27 million residents.

Volvo Cars in Talks to Reach Emissions Deal With CaliforniaThe New York Times (tiered subscriptions)
Swedish automaker Volvo Cars confirmed Tuesday it is in talks with California to reach a voluntary emissions agreement.  Mary Nichols, who heads the California Air Resources Board, disclosed earlier Volvo planned to join Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG.  In July, the four struck an agreement with California to adopt emissions requirements that were more stringent than the Trump administration rewrite but looser than the Obama-era rules.

April 1, 2020

Unused vacation days give many California state workers a cushion amid coronavirusThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Workers with a decade of experience in California state government have been through tough times before.  The state instituted furloughs during the Great Recession that lasted five years, requiring workers to take off about three weeks per year without pay.  While the furloughs took a bite out of their incomes, the cost-saving measure added to workers’ banks of paid leave.  Now, as state offices stay open while the coronavirus spreads, some tenured employees may draw on weeks or months of accrued leave rather than going in to work.

Washington State Broadens Construction Shutdown OrderEngineering News-Record
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on March 25 clarified his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation from earlier in the week to further restrict construction activity in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the hard-hit state.  Inslee’s order will also suspend most of the operations for the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, except for fish passage work and projects needed for safety issues.  WSDOT was originally planning to proceed with all projects, but Inslee stepped in to change that course.

High-Speed Rail Construction Continuers Under COVID-19Streetsblog
More than 3,500 people are working on more than 100 miles of high-speed rail right now, as the project’s spine continues to take shape in California’s Central Valley.  While state and other office workers are adapting to a work-from-home order, it’s obviously impossible for construction workers to accomplish anything without being at the many construction sites.

Caltrans Claims SHOPP Projects include Complete Streets Elements. But Are They Speaking the Same Language?Streetsblog
Caltrans representatives told the CTC this week that the draft 2020 State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) reflects the department’s commitment to incorporate bicycle, walking, and transit features in its highway maintenance projects “where feasible,” in compliance with its Complete Streets policies.  But going just by the draft SHOPP itself, it’s impossible to ascertain to what extent this is true, or even what Caltrans means by “Complete Streets elements.”

Dry Winter Plunges Much of California Into DroughtCourthouse News
Much of California remains in abnormally dry conditions and several regions in the north state are experiencing drought, according to the latest report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor last week.

PECG Media Briefing Archive

March 2020

March 26, 2020

The complete list of California’s essential workersKTVU
This month, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered everyone to stay home in California unless you are an essential worker. There are exceptions to leaving the house, including taking a walk and going to the grocery store and doctor. Here is the list provided by the governor’s office on who in the public and private sectors is deemed essential.

The Golden Gate Bridge seeks an emergency bailoutCurbed San Francisco
The shelter-in-place orders now active across the entire San Francisco Bay Area region have sapped the vitality of sectors of the economy, including the Golden Gate Bridge, which is appealing to the federal government for monetary aid.

‘Outdated attitude’: Why California wasn’t ready for its state workers to telecommuteThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A decade before the new coronavirus arrived in California, the state encouraged departments to promote telework.  In addition to improving performance, morale, health and wellness, teleworking could promote “effective continuation of business” during an emergency, according to 2010 guidance issued by the Department of General Services.  Yet three weeks after California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared an emergency to help address the virus, many state workers say they are facing resistance, confusion and uneven responses when they ask to work remotely.

… “It’s a scary and difficult time and you’d like to think that the state of California departments were moving to adhere to the governor’s executive order to stay at home and protect public health,” said Ted Toppin, executive director of the union Professional Engineers in California Government, which represents Caltrans engineers.  “And for the state to do that, that means to put their employees to work at home.  But we know this: State government is a battleship.  It is very slow.”

Toppin, the director of the state engineers’ union, said the union has supported telework for a long time.

“Maybe what comes out of this crisis is that state departments will recognize that telework will work,” he said.  “That you can still deliver for taxpayers from your home office.”

March 23, 2020

California is asking state workers to consider changing jobs in coronavirus outbreakThe Sacramento Bee
Governor Gavin Newsom said that the state has sent out surveys to employees designated as having a “non-essential” capacity, asking them whether they would be willing to be re-assigned to another position.  He said many of them are saying they’re open to a temporary job change.

What does Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order mean for state workers?The Sacramento Bee
The statewide stay-at-home order Gov. Gavin Newsom issued Thursday appears to change little for the state’s workers, who are required to report to work unless they have reached a different agreement with a supervisor or are using leave.  A Department of Industrial Relations executive sent out an email following Newsom’s announcement addressing the new order, along with similar orders from local officials: “State and local health officials have determined government service is essential and government sector employees are exempted from the stay-at-home or shelter-in-place directives,” Chief Deputy Director Victoria Hassid said in the email.

$100 billion Bay Area transportation measure pushed backSan Francisco Business Journal
An ambitious plan to generate $100 billion in new funding for Bay Area transportation has been postponed indefinitely.  The coalition of business advocacy and public policy groups behind Faster Bay Area said Wednesday they have pushed plans for a nine-county measure from the November 2020 ballot to an undetermined date in the future.  The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council and SPUR said in a statement that the disruption and uncertainties related to COVID-19 were behind the postponement.

Cash Toll Collection Suspended On Bay Area BridgesSan Francisco Chronicle
The state at midnight on Friday stopped staffing of bridge tollbooths on seven Bay Area bridges and suspended collecting cash.  The suspension is being enacted “to minimize toll collectors’ and toll-paying customers’ risk of exposure to Covid-19 during the current public health emergency,” officials said in an announcement.

March 19, 2020

Can’t telework? You might get a new California state job, according to Newsom administrationThe Sacramento Bee
Many of the California state workers who reported to their offices Wednesday will have to keep showing up — whether or not their job is essential — under the latest guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom.  Workers have anticipated new direction from Newsom since Sunday, when he said it was coming Tuesday.  They continued showing up at offices in Sacramento and the Bay Area even after local officials issued shelter-in-place directives.  A central frustration among workers has been the discretion the state has left mid-level managers to decide who may and who may not work from home under telecommuting agreements.

CalPERS Employee Tests Negative For CoronavirusPensions & Investments
As volatile stock markets have resulted in tens of billions of dollars of losses for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), there was one bit of positive news Wednesday.  Tests came back showing the CalPERS employee suspected of possibly having coronavirus did not have the virus.

March 16, 2020

Is your state government job ‘essential?’ Newsom administration to tell you on Tuesday ­– The Modesto Bee
California will issue new guidance to state workers Tuesday on working from home, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday, intending to move employees out of crowded workplaces where the coronavirus can easily spread.  As of now, state workers must go to work unless they are under quarantine, have reached a telework agreement with a manager, or they are using sick leave according to state guidance.

Two California state offices close after workers take coronavirus testsThe Sacramento Bee
Caltrans planned to close an office in Oakland on Monday after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Sunday night email.  Separately, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System closed its Sacramento headquarters for cleaning Monday after an employee there showed symptoms and went home. The employee has been tested for COVID-19, according to a CalPERS news release.

Hushing up concerns of bullet-train workers? Not a great look for state rail authorityThe Fresno Bee
Serious allegations raised last week by former workers on California’s high-speed-rail project would, if true, support charges by conservative critics that the effort is deeply flawed.

DWR awards $47 million in grants for Groundwater Sustainability23 ABC News
The Department of Water Resources awarded $47 million in grant funding to 53 applicants to support local agencies in development of plans to manage groundwater basins for long-term sustainability.

March 12, 2020

Coronavirus tests are free for 1.5 million people with CalPERS health insuranceThe Sacramento Bee
The 1.5 million people with CalPERS health insurance won’t have to pay for medically necessary coronavirus tests, according to a spokeswoman for the retirement system.

What coronavirus means for California state workers: Telecommuting, sick timeThe Sacramento Bee
California state workers may use sick leave to take care of children who are home due to school closures, according to guidance CalHR sent to state departments earlier this week.  Employees who are required to stay at home under quarantine will receive administrative time off, and “telework may be considered,” according to the memo CalHR emailed to department human resources directors.  That’s unless the worker chose to travel to a high-risk country — then they will not receive administrative time off, according to the email.

18 states ask White House to withdraw major environmental rollbackThe Hill
Attorneys general for 18 states, including California, are asking the Trump administration to withdraw a rule that would roll back a bedrock environmental law, arguing the proposal is “unlawful, unreasonable, and unjustified.”  The administration in January announced changes that would limit the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires that an environmental review accompany any major infrastructure project such as building highways or pipelines.

State orders permanent shutdown of oil drilling site near USCLos Angeles Times
California regulators are ordering Allenco Energy to plug wells and decommission an oil drilling site whose neighbors once complained of nosebleeds, headaches and other ailments, permanently closing the South Los Angeles facility.  In the order, State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk declared that Allenco Energy had “deserted” the facility and failed to properly fix leaks that showed that wells were deteriorating.

March 9, 2020

California unions would get more details on job applicants under proposed lawThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The state of California would be required to provide more information to unions each time it fills a job under a new proposed law.  Under the proposal, Assembly Bill 3349, union representatives could request information on how many people have applied, been interviewed, and have been hired or rejected for any state job.

California bullet train officials say they were told to suppress bad news and ‘shut up’Los Angeles Times
Former engineers of the consulting firm in charge of California’s High-Speed Rail program, WSP, say that managers at the company’s Fresno office threatened to punish or terminate employees if they reported bad news about the project.  A former project controls coordinator said WSP’s failures ran the gamut of estimating costs, scheduling construction and managing change orders.  “Revealing bad news was discouraged,” he said.  “I just couldn’t continue to work there.  I don’t work that way.  American professionals don’t work that way.”

Caltrans will begin $26 million road improvement project on Interstate 15 in FontanaFontana Herald News
Caltrans will begin a $26 million road improvement project on the Interstate 15 Freeway in and near the cities of Fontana and Rialto by the end of March.  The project includes repaving on- and off-ramps, adding two outside lanes in each direction, and slab replacement where needed.  Roughly 10 percent of the funding, $2.5 million, is from Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

Conservatives sue over state law that limits public employers’ anti-union talkOrange County Register (tiered subscription)
Saying their free speech rights are being trampled, seven local leaders from cities in Southern California are challenging a state law that prohibits them from expressing anti-union sentiment to public workers.  In a lawsuit filed last month in federal district court, the officials from Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties are challenging a 2018 law that says public employers “shall not deter or discourage” workers from joining unions.

March 5, 2020

Carmageddon Is Back: Burbank Bridge Demolition Project To Shut Down 5 FreewayKCAL
Drivers will need to brace themselves for significant traffic issues over the coming months due to a large-scale construction project that will include completely shutting down the 5 Freeway in Burbank for a full weekend in order to demolish the much-traversed Burbank Boulevard overpass bridge.

Seepage monitors installed at Oroville DamKRCR News
This week, the California Department of Water Resources will install eight new measurement devices at the base of the Oroville Dam.  The devices, called piezometers will monitor seepage and will be used to confirm seepage measurements that the DWR already collects.  Seepage refers to a small amount of water that can pass through the dam.

Bond measure would put $5.5 billion toward fighting climate changeLa Cañada Valley Sun
A proposed $5.5-billion bond measure from the California Senate aims to combat climate change by funding various environmental preservation and expansion projects throughout the state.  Senate Bill 45, also known as the Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020, would allocate the money based on environmental hazards faced in California.

Quarantined workers would be protected from retaliation under proposed California law – The Sacramento Bee (open access for coronavirus news)
Assembly Bill 3123 would protect workers forced to stay home due to a public official ordering their workplace closed.  It also would protect workers who have to take care of children whose schools have been closed.

March 2, 2020

Public employees can’t skip work because of coronavirus. How can they keep safe? – The Sacramento Bee
Wash your hands and don’t discriminate against minorities.  That’s the essence of an email CalHR Director Eraina Ortega sent out to California government employees last week as fears of the COVID19 strain of coronavirus circulated.

FHWA distributes $653 million for emergency infrastructure repairsTransport Topics
The Federal Highway Administration is awarding $653.2 million in emergency relief funds to assist states and territories that have experienced infrastructure damage.  California received the largest amount of funding, totaling over $228 million, to help with repairs needed from various wildfires and floods.

Water is life. It’s also a battle. So what does the future hold for California?CalMatters
This series of short articles and graphics lays out the state’s water supplies and uses — as well as the challenges, today and tomorrow, of providing water for California’s people, places and things.

CalPERS fund drops by $15 billion amid market plunge and coronavirus fearsThe Modesto Bee
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s portfolio, which rode a hot stock market to reach a milestone of $400 billion last month, stood at $385 billion at the end of Thursday, according to a tracker on the fund’s website.  However, CalPERS says it has changed its investment strategy in the last three years to prepare for a market downturn and doesn’t overreact to short-term fluctuations.  “CalPERS is a long-term investor,” spokesman Wayne Davis said.  “We monitor the markets, we pay attention to the news, but we focus on our long term strategy.”

February 2020

February 27, 2020

Bernhardt fires back at Newsom over Calif. water lawsuit – The Sun
The future of the complicated network of waterways and canals that supplies millions of Californians with water daily could be murky at best, U.S.  Interior Secretary David Bernhardt warned Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a letter this week.

California court tosses blanket approval for 72,000 new oil wellsDesert Sun
A California appellate court threw out a Kern County law that allowed major oil producers to rely on a single, blanket environmental approval for 72,000 new oil wells, instead of facing scrutiny for each new project’s potential impact on air quality, drinking water, wildlife and other concerns.

Caltrans addresses Highway 1 erosion – Half Moon Bay Review
In early 2018, Caltrans officials noticed cracks in the road and an eroding roadbed while authorities investigated a vehicle that went over the cliff nearby. Since last year, the department has been working to retain the land and repair the roadway.  The work should be finished this summer.

Bill calls for strict oversight of high-speed railThe Visalia Sun-Gazette
The measure, AB 2249, would create a legislative oversight committee requiring the California High Speed Rail Authority to submit monthly reports on contracts, change orders and any other documentation the committee requests.

February 24, 2020

White House reverses itself, will pay California for Oroville Dam fixes – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The California Department of Water Resources said Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to cover approximately $300 million in repair costs the agency had previously denied.  All told, the state now expects to be reimbursed for approximately $750 million of the $1.1 billion cost of the crisis, said DWR spokeswoman Erin Mellon.  By law, the federal agency can reimburse up to 75 percent of the costs.

Summertime ‘Carmageddon’ Fears Ignite Over 101 Deck Replacement Project in SF – SFist
Caltrans is undertaking a major project on the 101 freeway in San Francisco this July, and the agency is holding a series of public meetings to discuss how it may impact businesses, traffic, and more.

Fees are going up for California state workers’ 401(k) plansThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California state workers soon will face higher fees and have fewer investment options in the retirement savings plans many use to supplement their pensions.

February 21, 2020

Two dams — essential to the Salinas Valley — are in serious need of repair – KCBX FM
The San Antonio and Nacimiento dams in San Luis Obispo County need a combined $160 million in repairs, according to state and local officials.  California’s Division of Safety and Dams says San Antonio Dam’s spillway – the feature that failed on the similarly-aged Oroville Dam a few years ago – needs to be fixed by the end of 2024.

California Is Drying Out Again; Here’s Why It’s Not a Concern – Yet – The Weather Channel
For the first time since early December, a small part of the Golden State’s central valley and Sierra Nevada have fallen into a moderate drought.  So far, however, reservoirs around the state aren’t doing too badly.

Feds OK more California water for Valley farmers. Gavin Newsom promises to sueThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a pre-emptive strike, said Wednesday he plans to sue the federal government to block a controversial plan that would increase water deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley.  Newsom’s office said he “will file legal action in the coming days…to protect highly imperiled fish species close to extinction.”

New $72.5M Bridge Over I-15 In Corona Nears CompletionPatch.com
The work on the Cajalco Road Interchange Improvement Project began in the summer of 2018 and entailed replacing the old two-lane Cajalco Road Bridge with a six-lane overcrossing.  The cost: $72.5 million.

February 18, 2020

California adopts first air pollution measures targeting local emissions in Central Valley – The Fresno Bee
Last Thursday, the California Air Resources Board met in Shafter and after several hours, and at times battling over details and ideas, the board approved plans for Shafter and Fresno that outline ways to reduce emissions.  Under AB 617, the law that called for the plans voted on last week, the state set aside $32 million for implementation of the Fresno projects and $29 million for Shafter.  Eight other communities chosen for the programs also received funding, and each year new communities will be added.

Opinion: Time to act is now on California’s water system – Capitol Weekly
In the face of climate change and an increased risk of natural disasters, it is imperative that the state take action now to fortify our mainline water distribution infrastructure to better protect all Californian’s access to clean, reliable water.

California lawmakers voice concerns about extra $1.3B in high-speed rail planFox 40
California’s latest high-speed rail business plan is drawing bipartisan frustration from state lawmakers.  Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle aired out their concerns Thursday with the project.  The latest business plan calls for an extra $1.3 billion of the $80 billion bullet train project.  The immediate plan includes completion of a line from Bakersfield to Merced by 2022, with plans to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles by 2033.

February 13, 2020

The toxic legacy of old oil wells: California’s multibillion-dollar problem – KGET
Across much of California, fossil fuel companies are leaving thousands of oil and gas wells unplugged and idle, potentially threatening the health of people living nearby and handing taxpayers a multibillion-dollar bill for the environmental cleanup.

Justice Department Drops Antitrust Probe Against Automakers That Sided With California on Emissions – The New York Times (tiered subscription)
The U.S. Justice Department has dropped its antitrust inquiry into four automakers that had sided with California in its dispute with the Trump administration over reducing climate-warming vehicle pollution, deciding that the companies had violated no laws, according to people familiar with the matter.  The decision could boost the efforts of the auto companies and California to move ahead with tighter vehicle pollution standards than those being finalized by the federal government.

California bullet train cost rises by another $1 billionAssociated Press
The estimated cost to complete California’s high-speed rail line rose another $1.3 billion, to $80.3 billion, while construction is on schedule to meet a 2022 deadline to have about 20% of the track laid, according to a new business plan released Wednesday.  The cost increase is mainly because the plan pushes back the completion of a high-speed rail link between Silicon Valley and the Central Valley by 18 months, to late 2031.  California voters in 2008 approved a $9 billion bond measure for the project, with estimates a Bay Area-to-Los Angeles line would be completed this year for $33.6 billion.

February 10, 2020

Tired of bumping along I-80 in Northern California? White House, Congress say they want to help – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
House Democrats and Republicans last week unveiled new plans to pump billions of federal dollars into highway and bridge repair around the country, including California.  A Senate committee last year unanimously passed a highway and bridge improvement plan, and the White House last week urged its adoption.

Opinion: California’s water status quo isn’t working – CalMatters
Our water status quo isn’t working.  We’ve accepted a false choice that pits our environment against our farmers – and ultimately, it’s a false choice that serves to flood our courts with lawsuits more than it serves our economy, our ecosystems or our agricultural sector.

A closer look at the gas tax and what Caltrans is doing with your moneyKSBY News
Road maintenance in California took a back seat for a number of years due to lack of funding, but the $5 billion annual cash infusion from Senate Bill 1 has kick-started dozens of road projects.  Here’s a closer look at how Caltrans is spending the money on Central Coast projects.

Gavin Newsom ends long-distance commuting deals for state executivesThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California government stopped paying for officials to commute across the state last year after The Sacramento Bee reported on a department director’s regular travel between Sacramento and San Diego, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office told The Bee last week.

February 6, 2020

With 31,000 Job Openings, California Government Ramps Up Recruitment in Tight Labor Market – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California state government is making it easier to get a job in public service as its vacancies rise amid historically low unemployment.

Gov. Newsom: California Must Get Past Differences on Water. Voluntary Agreements are the Path Forward – CalMatters
Governor Gavin Newsom writes, “Today, my administration is proposing a path forward, one that will move past the old water binaries and set us up for a secure and prosperous water future.  Guided by science, this new framework will provide the foundation for binding voluntary agreements between government agencies and water users with partnership and oversight from environmental groups.”

Interstate 10 in Palm Springs Area Getting Major Upgrade; Work Will Last Three Years – Palm Springs Desert Sun
A stretch of Interstate 10 through the San Gorgonio Pass is undergoing a $210 million paving project to fix the freeway of damage that causes bumpy rides for motorists.  Dubbed the “I-10 Tune-Up,” the project will cover about 20 miles.  More than half the cost is covered by funds from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, also known as Senate Bill 1.

4 Months After New Contract, These California State Workers are Waiting for Raises – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The International Union of Operating Engineers has filed a grievance on behalf of 900 Bargaining Unit 13 state employees who have not received geographic pay, longevity pay, or special certification pay according to the terms the union bargained last fall.

February 3, 2020

More Than 600 High-Risk Dams in CA Do Not Have an Approved Emergency Plan, Report Says – Action News 12
A new report from the California State Auditor shows that there are more than 600 high-risk dams in the state that do not have approved emergency plans.  The report criticizes two state agencies – The Department of Water Resources and the Office of Emergency Services – for not doing enough to ensure public safety.

Berkeley Officials Show Support for Bay Bridge Bus and Carpool Lanes – The Daily Californian
Elected officials from Berkeley and Oakland have expressed their support for the creation of dedicated bus and carpool lanes on the Bay Bridge and sections of Interstate 580 and 880 leading up to the Bay Bridge.

Another top California oil regulator will step down amid continued probes – Palm Springs Desert Sun
Jason Marshall, one of California’s top oil and gas regulators, is stepping down in mid-February from his post as chief deputy director of the Department of Conservation.  In that role, he has overseen the beleaguered Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) as well as the mining division and other key department functions.

January 2020

January 30, 2020

More Rain and Less Snow Means Increased Flood Risk with Consequences for Infrastructure – Science Daily
As the world warms and precipitation that would have generated snowpack instead creates rain, the western U.S. could see larger floods, according to new Stanford research.  The findings could inform management of reservoirs that not only secure the region’s water supply but also provide a buffer for flooding, according to senior author Noah Diffenbaugh, the Kara J. Foundation Professor at Stanford Earth.

Port commissioners briefed on Harbor Bridge project – KRIS 6 News
In Corpus Christi, Texas, port commissioners learned that the company removed from work on the span of the new Harbor Bridge construction project is continuing work on other parts of it.  On Jan. 10, the Texas Department of Transportation asked that the FIGG design firm be taken off design of the cable-stayed span of the bridge. TX-DOT took that action following a federal investigation into the collapse of a pedestrian bridge in March 2018 that killed several people in Florida.  The FIGG group designed that bridge.

Settlement Talks Over $1.2 Billion CalPERS Lawsuit are Extended with Retired Judge at Helm – The Modesto Bee
A retired judge is now managing settlement talks between CalPERS and a group of people suing the retirement system over its long-term care insurance policies, according to court filings.  The development shows settlement efforts in the $1.2 billion class-action lawsuit haven’t faded since they started in September.

January 27, 2020

California, climate change and the trauma of the last decade – Phys.org
Scientists say there’s no doubt that climate change has amplified California’s extreme events of the previous decade, mostly because the state’s average temperature is rising.  PECG member Lesley Ewing, a senior engineer with the California Coastal Commission, uses steroids in sports to illustrate the impact.  “Top athletes who use steroids are still great athletes—the steroids just give them a little push,” she said.  “Storms and fires already have the potential to do horrible damage, but climate change gives them an added push.”

Newsom hosts National Governors Association in San Francisco, says infrastructure projects a priority – KTVU
California’s water supply for this year looks promising, with the statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack standing at its tallest in four years for early January, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources latest measurement on Thursday.

California dominates list of most polluted cities in U.S. – Black Hills Pioneer
Five of the 15 America’s largest metro regions with the worst air quality are in California, according to federal data.  Meanwhile, the state’s small- and mid-size metros also claim a disproportionate number of spots, eight in 30, on the nation’s worst-air list.

The Remarkable Story of the Golden Gate BridgeThe Bold Italic
The Golden Gate Bridge is thought to be many things.  To engineers, it’s a wonder; to photographers, a dream.  To the poet, it’s an emblem—“the western bookend to the Brooklyn Bridge,” as Michiko Kakutani once wrote.  To the troubled, it’s a provocation, an intolerable curiosity.  To all, it’s a source of awe, lending from every vantage the sense that what you’re looking at is not just beautiful, or impressive, but historic.  John van der Zee, author of The Gate, called it “the most successful combination of site and structure since the Parthenon.”

January 23, 2020

CalPERS members slow to make their online accounts more secure – Pensions & Investments
Since last summer, CalPERS’ staff has been encouraging its members to use two-factor security, but they have been slower to adopt it than anticipated, Marcie Frost, CEO of the $401.4 billion pension plan said in an interview Tuesday.  The next question is whether CalPERS executives should make two-factor security measures mandatory, she said in an interview.

Newsom pledged to fix California water politics. Now he’s bogged down in the DeltaLos Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
Soon after taking office last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged to break through the “status quo” of California water politics, plagued by decades of litigation and impasse.  One year later, the Newsom administration appears to be a house divided on water, as competing interests pull it in opposite directions.

Study: Americans pay 4x more for cell phones than road repairsForConstructionPros.com
American families pay thousands of dollars a year to use critical services such as electricity, water and broadband, but on average they pay far less for the critical transportation network that powers economies, strengthens communities and improves quality of life.

January 21, 2020

Time’s up on groundwater plans: One of the most important new California water laws in 50 years explained – KQED
Much of California’s water supply is a hidden asset: Deep below the surface, rocks, gravel and sand store water like a sponge, in an underground zone called an aquifer.  The landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, requires some of the state’s thirstiest areas to form local “Groundwater Sustainability Agencies” and submit long-term plans by Jan. 31 for keeping aquifers healthy.  Here are some key things to know about the groundwater situation in California and how the law will impact the state.

California sues feds over fracking – The Hill
California is suing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over its plan to open up public lands in the state to oil and gas drilling including fracking, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) announced Friday.

Federal government boosts obscure permitting agencyE&E News
A little-known federal agency is staffing up, reflecting President Trump’s vow to streamline environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects.  Located two blocks from the White House, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council is a tiny office of six people.  They work to coordinate the federal environmental experts reviewing some of the nation’s largest, most complex projects.  The council does not conduct National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews, but they help the federal officials who do to meet their deadlines by ensuring ecological studies, for instance, are not duplicative.

January 16, 2020

Newsom Moves Ahead With Plan for Single Delta Water Tunnel – Associated Press/KQED
California’s governor has restarted a project to build a giant, underground tunnel that would pump billions of gallons of water from the San Joaquin Delta to the southern part of the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration on Wednesday issued a Notice of Preparation for the project, which is the first step in the state’s lengthy environmental review process.

FHWA Extends Comment Period on Bridge Inspections Proposal – Transport Topics
The Federal Highway Administration has announced it is extending the period for public comment on its proposed rule to improve oversight of U.S. bridge inspections by incorporating a risk-based approach and encouraging the use of such technological advancements as unmanned aerial systems and sonar. The sweeping proposal applies to all highway bridges on all public roads, on and off federal-aid highways that include tribally and federally owned bridges and privately owned bridges that are connected to a public road on each end.

CalPERS board’s divestment dilemmasTop 1000 Funds
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order calling on the state’s pension funds and endowments to invest more in green energy and less in fossil fuels flags more, complicated divestment decisions ahead for CalPERS’ 13-member board.

January 13, 2020

California sends 50 emergency crew members to help Puerto Rico with earthquake recovery – Fox 40
The California Office of Emergency Services and Caltrans together are sending up to 50 people to Puerto Rico following two earthquakes that have rocked the island within a week.

She says her pension should be bigger. CalPERS says she was a bad boss. – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A lawsuit sparked by a $10,000 end-of-career “superior performance” bonus is challenging a California Public Employees’ Retirement System policy that since 2017 has excluded bonus incomes given under certain conditions from final pension calculations.  The plaintiff in the Los Angeles County Superior Court case also disputes CalPERS’ determination that the bonus wasn’t awarded on the basis of “superior” work, citing her shortcomings as a manager and the fact that her performance rating dropped from the year prior.

Toro Creek Bridge Open on State Route 192 – Noozhawk
Two year after the Montecito Debris Flow damaged six bridges on State Route 192, Caltrans has announced that the last one that closed, the Toro Creek Bridge, is now open to two-way traffic.  The other five bridges reopened last year.  Combined cost to repair or replace the bridges was $30 million.

California Lays Out Ambitious Climate Change Budget Plan – Capitol Public Radio
Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a budget proposal on Friday with ambitious goals for addressing climate change, including a $12.5 billion climate budget, which will be rolled out over five years.  It includes a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and a new $4.75 billion climate resilience bond the governor hopes to put in front of voters this fall.

January 9, 2020

Top trends: 5 ways construction will evolve in 2020 – Construction Dive
No. 5: Top contractors will continue reconsidering megaprojects with inherently high-risk contracts: Public-private partnerships will continue to fall out of fashion next year, continuing a trend that started in 2019 when executives from Granite Construction and Fluor called out public-private partnership arrangements for having detrimental effects on business.  Swedish-based Skanska AB also announced that it would no longer pursue major design-build transportation public-private partnerships in which it held an equity stake.

Two bills could decide fate of critical Friant-Kern Canal in 2020. Will reps outside Valley care? – Visalia Times Delta
Two bills, at the state and federal level, will likely determine the fate of the Friant-Kern Canal in a legislative year that is shaping up to be pivotal for Central Valley growers and ag communities.  Friant-Kern has delivered Sierra snowmelt to farmers and rural communities since 1952.  However, land subsidence caused by groundwater overdraft after years of historic drought has significantly compromised the canal’s ability to do its job.  Canal repairs could cost as little as $200 million, depending on how engineers go about the fix.

California awards contract for SR 99 project – Transportation Today
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) recently awarded Granite a $33 million contract for the reconstruction of four miles of State Route 99 near Kingsburg.  The majority of the project will be funded through the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

January 6, 2020

California water supply looks promising in 2020, officials say – U.S. News & World Report
California’s water supply for this year looks promising, with the statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack standing at its tallest in four years for early January, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources latest measurement on Thursday.

Sterling selected by Caltrans for $43.6 million highway projects – California Construction News
Sterling Construction Co. says that its subsidiary Myers & Sons Construction has been selected by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for two California highway projects totaling $43.6 million.

Understanding infrastructure: The cost of repairing our roads, bridges and dams – Politifact
Leaving aside proposals made during campaigns, just how much money would it take to fix our infrastructure in three key areas — roads, bridges and dams?  The American Society of Civil Engineers report card says $588 billion is needed for roads, bridges and dams.  Experts told us it could be more.

January 2, 2020

SB-1 funding multiple projects – Kern Valley Sun
The California Transportation Commission (CTC) acquired more than $200 million in December 2019 for twenty-seven fix-it-first projects concerning highways and $42 million towards transit, bike, and pedestrian projects, partially funded by money allocated through Senate Bill 1, the Road and Repair Accountability Act of 2017.  Projects in Kern, Tulare, Kings, Madera and Fresno counties include drainage and pumping upgrades along state routes 99, 198, and 204 ($11.5 million), and Transportation Management Systems installed at varying locations throughout the region ($6.1 million).

DWR prepares Oroville Dam spillway for winter releases – KCRA
The Department of Water Resources is preparing Oroville Dam’s primary spillway for use this winter season.  The reconstructed spillway was completed this spring and used for the first time in April since the 2017 spillway crisis threatened 188,000 residents downstream.

100 years ago an engineer unlocked the Golden Gate Bridge’s beauty. Years later, his career ended in shame. – San Francisco Examiner
Beautiful.  Graceful.  Iconic.  Seemingly hyperbolic — yet, wholly accurate — words that are often used to describe the Golden Gate Bridge, the landmark that defines the City by the Bay.  The Golden Gate Bridge’s elegant form came at a price, however.  In a chapter of its life not often discussed, the Golden Gate Bridge was once briefly shut down for fear that strong gusting westerly winds would tear it asunder.

December 2019

December 30, 2019

Op-Ed: On Water, California and Feds Need to Work Together for the Benefit of Fish, Farmers and 27 Million People – Napa Valley Register
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift away.  This new era of opportunity springs from a common recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet the needs of all interests.

Siskiyou Bridges to Benefit From Caltrans, SB1 Funding – Siskiyou Daily News
Nine bridges along Trinity County’s 299, Highway 36 and Siskiyou County’s Highway 96, will get a combined $12.2 million in maintenance and repairs as part of 27 “fix-it-first” highway projects funded by Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

79 Years Ago Today, the Arroyo Seco Parkway Opened – Pasadena Now
Not to be overlooked during local New Year’s preparations is the anniversary of an essential city feature that celebrates its 79th anniversary today: the Arroyo Seco Parkway, formerly called the Pasadena Freeway, connecting Pasadena to Los Angeles and beyond.  The Parkway was the first freeway to be built in California and represented the transition from the early parkways into modern freeways throughout the United States.

December 26, 2019

Climate change threatens billions in CalPERS pension fund.Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
California’s massive Public Employees’ Retirement System has released the first climate risk assessment of its $394-billion pension fund.  The draft report, which was submitted to the CalPERS board this month, found that one-fifth of the fund’s public market investments were in sectors that have high exposure to climate change.  Those include energy, materials and buildings, transportation, and agriculture, food and forestry.

In a battle over Kings River water, Fresno should clearly win out over Kern County.The Fresno Bee
A Kern County water agency wants to get state permission to take floodwaters from the Kings River.  Kings River water interests, including the city of Fresno, are opposing such a grab.  Now it’s up to the State Water Resources Board to decide who gets what in this classic battle over water.

Caltrans aims to save Big Sur’s bridges by zapping them with electricity.Monterey County Now
Over the next year and a half, Caltrans plans to jolt new life into Big Sur’s historic Big Creek Bridge, essentially turning it into a big battery.  The process, called electrochemical chloride extraction, works by zapping structures with electricity, pulling out the salty ions that can penetrate concrete and rust a bridge’s inner steel skeleton.

What happens to your CalPERS pension after a divorce? It’s complicated.The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Ralph Johnson got married a year and a half before he retired from the Alameda County Fire Department.  Twelve years later, in 2011, he filed for divorce.  In the proceedings that followed, his ex-wife was found to be entitled to less than 1 percent of his CalPERS pension.  He was surprised to learn that her small share of the pension had a much bigger implication: He couldn’t remove her as the plan’s beneficiary.  If he dies before she does, she will start receiving a large portion of the pension, said Johnson, 72, of Lincoln.

December 23, 2019

A toll lane future is inevitable in California as traffic congestion worsensLos Angeles Times
When California began building its freeway network after World War II, the unstated expectation was that drivers would use them to bypass traffic lights, pedestrians and increasingly congested city streets – for free.  But that was long before those freeways became perpetually congested, making for miserable commutes and smoggy skies.  Now, California is expanding toll lanes on freeways like never before, not just to raise revenue for transportation projects but to change behavior as well.

Opinion: California must stop agriculture from fouling our drinking waterCalMatters
The San Jerardo housing cooperative in Salinas is home to 60 farm workers and their families.  They breathe pesticides when neighboring fields are sprayed.  Since 1990, San Jerardo residents have drilled one well after another, only to see each closed due to agricultural contamination.  The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is beginning to work on a new set of requirements for agriculture on the Central Coast, to ensure that our rivers and our water quality are protected.  Those of us who drink from that water urge board members find practical, effective solutions.

$200 million allocated for roadway projectsAuburn Journal/Gold Country Media
The California Transportation Commission has allocated more than $200 million for 27 fix-it-first highway projects and $42 million for 43 transit, bike and pedestrian projects that are partially funded by Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.  “Californians expect their transportation system to be well maintained, efficient, and multimodal” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin.  “This funding will keep us safely moving motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users across the state.”

December 19, 2019

Late Night Contract Talks Net 8 Percent Raise for California State Hospital, Prison WorkersThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The union representing California state mental health nurses has reached a new contract agreement that includes an 8.25 percent raise over three years, the union announced Wednesday.

Gov. Newsom’s Threat to Sue Feds Upends Peace Talks on California Water WarsThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Even before he was sworn into office, Gov. Gavin Newsom threw his weight behind a series of tentative deals, brokered by his predecessor, that were intended to bring lasting peace to California’s never-ending battles over water and endangered fish.  Now, one of the nation’s most powerful farm irrigation districts says it will back out of the agreements if Newsom follows through with a pledge to sue the federal government over a plan to pump more water to farmers from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the fragile estuary on Sacramento’s doorstep.

It’s Official: Caltrans Restores Funding for Highway 99, 46 Expansion WorkThe Sun
Caltrans formally backed off its plans to axe millions in funding for highway expansion projects in and around the San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday.

Coastal Commission Approves I-5 Express Lanes from Carlsbad to OceansideTimes of San Diego
Local transportation planners received a milestone approval when the California Coastal Commission issued a permit for express lanes on Interstate 5 from Carlsbad to Oceanside.  The new lanes will be built from Palomar Airport Road to Route 78, with construction beginning in the fall of 2020 and completion scheduled in 2022.

December 16, 2019

Ten Minutes With Caltrans Director Toks OmishakinEngineering News-Record
California’s new Caltrans Director touches on “alternative delivery methods,” “complete streets,” and his priorities for the department.

Why Government Still Bears the Risk in Public-Private PartnershipsCenter for American Progress
This analysis explains why the government always remains the ultimate guarantor for the completion of P3 infrastructure projects, even though P3 advocates claim otherwise.  The biggest reason:  The ballot box holds politicians — not private contractors — accountable when P3s go bust.

Feds to Open More than 1 Million Acres in California to Fracking LeasesCourthouse News Service
The federal Bureau of Land Management announced last week that it will open 1.2 million acres in Central California to fracking, ending a five-year moratorium on the controversial method of oil and gas extraction in the Golden State.  The bureau said that its analysis “shows that there are no adverse environmental impacts due to hydraulic fracturing that cannot be alleviated.”  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra blasted the move and hinted California could take legal action to keep fracking out of the state.

See Long Beach’s Signature Bridge Under ConstructionNew York Times (tiered subscription)
Crews are in the home stretch of a $1.47 billion replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach, Calif.  The current bridge, built before containerization took hold in the shipping industry, is considered obsolete, despite bearing 15% of inbound waterborne cargo in the US.

December 12, 2019

Caltrans Is Trying To Prepare California Highways For Climate ChangeCapitol Public Radio
Nearly three miles of prime beach views from Highway 1 near San Luis Obispo were recently moved inland by Caltrans, and  the state’s Department of Transportation is considering doing the same on other highways.  The problem?  The ocean began encroaching on the highway.

Battle lines are drawn over oil drilling in CaliforniaCalmatters
California is clamping down on oil exploration.  Washington is expediting it on nearly 2 million acres of federal land here.  How will this schism play out?

CalPERS CIO: No Divestment of Fossil Fuel Companies Chief Investment Officer
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng has made a forceful rebuke to advocates wanting the pension plan to divest of fossil fuel stocks, stating that the pension plan cannot “constrain itself to a limited set of investment opportunities.”

Another price increase? Some with CalPERS long-term care insurance face sticker shockThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
CalPERS has informed many long-term care insurance holders that they must pay significantly higher rates once again if they want their policies to cover the rising cost of benefits.  Meanwhile, 57,000 other people with the same plans who switched to less costly coverage rather than pay skyrocketing premiums for inflation-adjusted plans, are part of a $1.2 billion class action lawsuit over a similar 2013 increase.

December 9, 2019

Caltrans investigations find waste and wrongdoing in state transportation programsLos Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
A new inspector general at Caltrans has found millions of dollars in misspending on transportation improvement projects in the last year.  Caltrans said none of the misspent money involved funds from Senate Bill 1.

‘Brown Water for Brown People’: Making Sense of California’s Drinking Water CrisisNew York Times (tiered subscription)
In the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country on earth, hundreds of thousands of residents don’t have access to potable water.  Here’s the story, decades in the making, of how California got here.

CalPERS CIO: No Divestment of Fossil Fuel Companies Chief Investment Officer
California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng has made a forceful rebuke to advocates wanting the pension plan to divest of fossil fuel stocks, stating that the pension plan cannot “constrain itself to a limited set of investment opportunities.”

California must act now to prepare for sea level rise, state lawmakers sayLos Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
Scientists and local leaders last week shared a bleak assessment with the Assembly’s Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy:  Flood projections keep getting worse, critical roads and infrastructure are mere feet from toppling into the sea, and cities up and down the coast are paralyzed by the difficult choices ahead.

December 5, 2019

“This was not a close election”: Losing CalPERS candidate drops challenge – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A former state government union leader who lost an election for a seat on the CalPERS Board has withdrawn a challenge he filed alleging state officials and pension board members helped his opponent win.  J.J. Jelincic, a past board member and investment officer at the $380 billion pension fund, lost to Henry Jones, the incumbent, by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin.  Jelincic on Monday withdrew his formal protest over the results of the Nov. 4 election.

Caltrans Preparing for Climate Change Impacts to California’s Transportation System – The Sentinel (Hanford, Ca.)
Caltrans has released four new assessments focusing on Central California and Orange County and the risks posed by the impact of climate change: wildfires, extreme temperatures, sea-level rise and coastal bluff erosion.

Toll lanes in Sepulveda Pass? The 405 Freeway is moving in that direction – Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles County spent 4½ years and more than $1.6 billion to widen the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass.  Now, the carpool lane born from that mega-project is facing a major change of its own: tolls.

Marin-Sonoma Narrows ‘milestone’: Carpool lanes – Marin Independent Journal
Caltrans will soon have new carpool lanes open in both directions on Highway 101 between the Marin-Sonoma County line and Petaluma.  The lanes are part of the ongoing Marin-Sonoma “Narrows” project launched in 2011 to widen 17 miles of Highway 101 between Novato and Petaluma from four to six lanes by adding a carpool lane in each direction.  The entire project is expected to cost about $762 million.

December 2, 2019

Late raises for California state workers won’t arrive by Christmas – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
About 19,000 California state workers who have been waiting on new raises and special pay bumps since October won’t see the money by Christmas, according to state officials.  The employees are represented by the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association; the International Union of Operating Engineers; the California Association of Highway Patrolmen; and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment.  If everything goes according to plan, the workers will see the raises in their monthly paychecks Dec. 31, State Controller’s Office said.

Gavin Newsom’s climate order focuses on pensions and roads. What does it mean? – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
On his way to an international climate forum two months ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom handed down an executive order meant to sharpen the state’s focus – and its spending – on global warming.  It directs the state’s Transportation Agency, pension funds and the department that manages government contracts to reconsider how they spend the public’s money with an eye toward investing in projects that could help Californians prepare for climate change.  Government agencies have been struggling to explain it ever since.

These 7 projects are making Inland freeways into one big construction zone – Redlands Daily Facts
Caltrans is busy tackling a backlog of maintenance work and new projects largely funded by SB 1.  It didn’t help that last winter was particularly brutal on mountain roads in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.  Much of Caltrans’ focus in recent months has been on fixing them.  Here are seven prominent examples of projects around the Inland Empire.

Aging Oroville Dam spillway gates draw concern – Chico Enterprise-Record
Despite increased maintenance of Oroville Dam since the spillway fell apart in February 2017, some local community members are worried about the age and wear of mechanics within the spillway’s main gates, citing similar failures on dams of the same era.  In addition, UC Berkeley’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management said in an independent 2017 study that proof exists two out of 384 anchor tendons have already failed — and they believe the state is aware of 28 more that have “crack indicators” in the steel.

Swinging gate on 5 Freeway below Grapevine got drivers out of a jam – Pasadena-Star News
Caltrans officials on Thanksgiving used a swinging gate recently installed on the 5 Freeway at the base of the Grapevine so that northbound drivers could turn around instead of waiting while the highway was cleared of snow.  Thursday, Nov. 28, marked the first time the 52-foot-long, five-ton, reinforced-steel gate was used.

November 2019

November 25, 2019

California to sue feds over rules governing water – Mojave Valley Daily News / AP
California officials said last Thursday that they would sue the federal government over proposed rules managing the state’s scarce water, arguing its conclusions are not scientifically adequate and fall short of protecting species and the state’s interests.

Op-Ed: California rejects federal water proposal, lays out its vision for protecting endangered species and meeting state water needs – Calmatters
Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources, and Jared Blumenfeld, California Secretary for Environmental Protection, write that federal assessments of the Delta and water management are “insufficient” to protect endangered fish.  “Those of us who are responsible … decided we could no longer rely on the federal process,” which, they note, is a “departure from past practice.”  The secretaries argue, “The state needs to protect California’s interests and values” with a different approach for setting regulations that control the State Water Project.

Caltrans opening final debris-flow-damaged Highway 192 Bridge in Montecito – Noozhawk
Caltrans opened the Montecito Creek Bridge on Friday, the last of six bridges along State Route 192 that required extensive rebuilding or repair after the Montecito Debris Flow in January of 2018.

‘Old conditions’ cause continued concern for SR 243 – NBC Palm Springs
Caltrans has already spent millions on State Route 243 repairs after the Valentine’s Day flood. Still, with the first rainstorm of the season, the highway’s integrity is being brought into question again. Heavy rain washed out the dirt underneath a section of the road, which was quickly remedied with a berm of dirt. The cause: failing drainage and culvert systems that Caltrans says date back to the early 1900s.

November 21, 2019

Gov. Newsom halts new steam injection, oil fracking in CaliforniaVC Star
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday placed a moratorium on new permits for potentially dangerous oil drilling techniques, which officials said are linked to illegal spills across the Central Valley.  The temporary ban on new permits for steam injection and fracking is one of a suite of measures announced to increase scrutiny of oil operations — and how they are currently regulated — across the state.

Caltrans may reinstate some Hwy 99 fundsThe Sun-Gazette
Central Valley officials credit their protests for the California Transportation Commission’s decision to hold an unusual third hearing on funding for three Highway 99 projects.   A controversial proposal by Governor Gavin Newsom would shift the money, collected under SB 1 law, to rail projects.

California opens new front in car emissions waiver fight in DC circuitCourthouse News
Diversifying their battle with the federal government over vehicle emissions, California and 22 states asked the D.C. Circuit last week to review a federal revocation of a waiver that allows the Golden State to set strict greenhouse gas and zero emissions requirements for auto manufacturers.

How crews are prepping flood-prone Highway 37 for rainPetaluma Argus-Courier/Press-Democrat
Ahead of winter rains, state transportation crews are wrapping up paving and drainage improvement work along Highway 37 in an attempt to avert flooding, which in two of the past three years led to multiday closures of the critical North Bay commuter artery.

November 18, 2019

60 Swarm in Inland Empire declared success as 15-week project nears end – Press-Enterprise
As the final 60 Swarm full freeway closure draws to a close, you may be wondering what those construction workers did while you navigated around the 12 miles of closed 60 Freeway those 15 weekends.  The answer? Pretty much everything they set out to do, according to Caltrans construction inspector David Hissen.

Caltrans moving ahead with plans to ease traffic on I-80 – Fox 40
Caltrans is moving ahead with plans to ease traffic congestion plaguing Interstate 80 from Solano County through Natomas in north Sacramento.  The solutions could range from $100 million to $600 million.  Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2024.

States Face Potential Loss of Transportation Funding – U.S. News & World Report
A budgetary quirk to a 2015 transportation funding bill is set to slash $7.6 billion to certain types of national transportation funding in 2020, eating into states’ transportation budget baselines.  California stands to lose $280 million, the 9th-highest amount of funding among the 50 states.

After FIU bridge collapse, feds say FDOT needs to close roads in future if cracks occur – Miami Herald
Failures in design, lack of adequate oversight and systematic negligence led to the fatal collapse of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge, federal investigators have concluded nearly two years after the deadly incident.

November 14, 2019

Caltrans plans Highway 1 closures when storms are forecastU.S. News & World Report
The California Department of Transportation plans to temporarily close landslide-plagued Highway 1 on the southern Big Sur coast when there are forecasts of significant rains this winter.  Closures could occur at one or both locations and would involve Caltrans crews locking gates across the highway.

2019 Bridge Inventory: States struggle to keep up with deteriorating bridgesEquipment World
With few exceptions, states are losing the battle with aging bridges in need of repair or replacement.  In California, a 12-cent gas-fee increase in 2017 has helped the state tackle its funding gaps, but it will not be enough long term, Caltrans says.

Public-funded Oroville Dam advertising called ‘propaganda.’ Here’s how much it costThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The state agency that manages Oroville Dam is on a PR offensive nearly three years after its spillways collapsed, triggering the evacuation of nearly 200,000 Sacramento Valley residents.  Now the Department of Water Resources’ latest messaging effort has cost ratepayers $29,000 for an eight-page color advertorial that ran in six Sacramento Valley newspapers including The Bee.  Critics argue the advertorial was a waste of money on a government feel-good campaign.

November 12, 2019

Groundwater: Deadline nears for completion of local plansAg Alert
With roughly two and a half months remaining before a state-mandated deadline, local agencies overseeing critically over-drafted groundwater basins are working to finalize sustainability plans mandated by a 2014 state law.  The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, requires local water agencies to submit their plans by Jan. 31.  The submissions will trigger a two-year window for the Department of Water Resources to evaluate the plans.

Former California pension leader says CalPERS broke election law, wants result overturnedThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
J.J. Jelincic, who ran for the CalPERS Board of Administration in October, is formally protesting the election’s result with claims that the pension fund improperly used government resources to support his opponent.  Jelincic filed a protest letter with the California Public Employees Retirement System Nov. 4 calling for a new election based on what he says are violations of election procedures after receiving just 34 percent of the vote for the retirees’ seat on the 13-member board.  PECG endorsed the winner incumbent Henry Jones.

Nearly 2 years after spillway crumbled, lessons learned at Oroville DamKCRA 3
Oroville Dam construction crews are still busy doing some final grading on work that has spanned more than two years.  It all began in February 2017 when the main and emergency spillways were damaged.  More than 180,000 people living downstream were forced to evacuate.  After all of that repair work, at a cost of more than $1 billion, you might think Oroville would be one of the highest rated dams anywhere.  But it’s not.

Disability status for CalPERS retirees must remain privateThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The disability status of CalPERS retirees will remain private, at least for now, following a Nov. 6 Sacramento County Superior Court ruling.  A libertarian-leaning Nevada nonprofit organization that posts public salaries and pension payments to the website Transparent California, requested the information from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System last year.

November 7, 2019

New health care perk for 102,000 California state workers, explainedThe Sacramento Bee
About 102,000 California state workers are eligible for a unique new health insurance benefit worth about $3,100 per year.  While most of those eligible will receive the money automatically, about 20,000 won’t.

Sources: Newsom could tap Swearengin for transportation post – San Joaquin Valley Sun
The ties between Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin could to be getting closer.  Sources told The Sun on Wednesday that Newsom, who is visiting Fresno on Friday as part of California Forward’s California Economic Summit, may announce he will appoint Swearengin as a member of the California Transportation Commission.

Caltrans could roll out real-time, A.I. decision-making traffic control on I-210 Pasadena corridor next yearPasadena Now
A team of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory computer scientists is working with Caltrans to use high-performance computing and machine learning that could help improve Caltrans’ real-time decision-making when traffic incidents occur.

California pushed to revamp water plans for increasingly wild weatherCourthouse News Service
Casting climate change as a direct threat to California’s water security, a panel of experts this week said the state must plan for the “new normal” by modernizing water infrastructure before the next great disaster.

November 4, 2019

Automakers Pick Sides in California Emissions Fight– CSP News
California’s legal fight with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the right to set state greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards has split automakers.  General Motors (GM), Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and several other automakers are taking the side of Washington.

Calif. governor seeks to ‘jumpstart’ PG&E bankruptcy talks; threatens state takeover – NPR
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that he wants to speed up Pacific Gas & Electric’s bankruptcy case, calling on the beleaguered utility’s executives, creditors and shareholders, as well as wildfire victims, to reach “a consensual resolution” to the negotiations before next year’s wildfire season.  Newsom left little doubt that he is looking beyond the PG&E bankruptcy case and that he envisions a future in which the state could take over California’s largest utility.

California Congressional delegation backs Transportation Emergency Relief Funds Availability Act – Transportation Today
Legislation in Washington, D.C., proposes to safeguard federal funding given for disaster-recovery transportation projects in California by repealing a two-year regulatory deadline.  Currently, U.S. Department of Transportation regulations allow such emergency funding to be withdrawn if project construction hasn’t started within two years.  Federal officials have threatened to take back funds for California projects that have been delayed for a number of  reasons.  The Congressional bill would extend the funding deadline to six years.

Tears as Italy marks bridge disaster in shadow of political crisisHowe Business Daily
Relatives and emergency workers wept at a ceremony on Wednesday marking a year since the Genoa, Italy, motorway bridge collapse that killed 43 people, as Italy grapples with a political crisis.  Officials in Genoa expressed concern that the power struggle could hamper the progress of the new bridge, due to be completed early next year.

October 2019

October 31, 2019

Risky business: Major contractors pull back from P3sConstruction Dive
Presidential candidate Donald Trump pledged to upgrade the country’s infrastructure by using public-private partnerships (P3s) to help finance and build the $1 trillion worth of projects subject to his proposal.  But a year later, President Trump had soured on the idea, saying that public infrastructure P3s aren’t likely to work and that they are “more trouble than they’re worth.”  Now several large construction firms have, like the president, moved away from P3 agreements.  The reason: They’re bad for business.

Borenstein: How Caltrans stopped BART’s dangerous outage planThe Mercury News (tiered subscription)
If not for Caltrans’ last-minute intervention Friday, the Bay Area’s largest commuter rail system would have shut down two lanes of Highway 24 — right in the heart of the pre-announced power outages and, it turned out, 1 1/2 miles from a fire that forced evacuations of hundreds of homes on both sides of the freeway.

Disadvantaged Communities Claim A Stake In State Groundwater OverhaulValley Public Radio
Tombstone, a tiny community on the outskirts of the City of Sanger, symbolizes California’s groundwater issues — which was why Governor Gavin Newsom chose it as the place to sign the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act into law earlier this year.  Most of Tombstone’s 40 or so homes get their drinking water from shallow domestic wells, which can be vulnerable to both aquifer contaminants and falling groundwater levels.

California fires back over federal EPA’s water, air complaintsRoute Fifty
California officials this month pushed back against the Environmental Protection Agency’s accusations that the state is not doing enough to address water and air quality violations, while also accusing the federal government of neglecting its own environmental responsibilities.

October 28, 2019

Federal Justice Dept. sues California to stop climate initiative from extending to Canada – New York Times (tiered subscription)
A new U.S. Justice Department lawsuit says that a regional system created by California’s air resources board, which allows corporations to trade greenhouse gas-emissions credits, was unlawful because it included Quebec, Canada.  The Justice Department cited the constitutional prohibition on states making their own treaties or agreements with foreign governments.

Santa Barbara water agencies say no to state water tunnel project – Noozhawk
Local water agencies aren’t buying into the new version of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta “twin tunnels” project. Santa Barbara County members of the State Water Project voted Thursday to opt out entirely.

Express Lane construction taking shape – San Mateo Daily Caller
Caltrans in January will begin widening Highway 101 in San Mateo County as part of a long-term goal to construct uninterrupted express lanes from San Francisco to San Jose and throughout the Bay Area.

Virgin Trains project gets approval for $3.25B in bonds – Las Vegas Review-Journal
A privately-built high speed train proposal to connect Las Vegas and Southern California continues its track toward becoming a reality.  The Golden State last week approved a $3.25 billion bond request, with the money earmarked for the $4.8 billion project.

October 24, 2019

California state worker raises to cost $5.6 billion under Gavin Newsom’s new contractsThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Pay, benefit and health care changes in new contracts covering about two-thirds of the California’s state workforce will cost about $5.6 billion, according to the Department of Human Resources.  Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is boosting pay for about 147,000 of its 235,000 employees through the contracts, giving raises of about 3 percent per year to most, while increasing salaries for some hard-to-fill jobs by up to 24 percent.

Feds rewrite Delta rules to pump more California water to Valley. Will Newsom fight?The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rolled out an aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about endangered fish species.

Angeles Crest Highway Reopens After Rock Slide That Prompted 8-Month Closure of 19 Mile StretchKTLA
The Angeles Crest Highway has finally reopened after the Woolsey Fire ripped through Ventura and Los Angeles counties last year, followed by unusually heavy rainfall that led to debris flows and rock slides throughout the area.  A major slide on Feb. 15, 2019, forced the closure of a 19-mile stretch of the highway, which also doubles as State Route 2 and the only path that cuts through the San Gabriel Mountains.

Traffic lights worldwide set to change after Swedish engineer saw red over getting a ticketThe Register
Mats Järlström’s fight over a traffic ticket led to a six-year legal fight and a global change in the speed with which traffic light signals are timed.

October 21, 2019

California Water Board OKs 35-year plan to tackle farm pollutionCourthouse News
A decade in the making, regulators have approved new rules that will require the agricultural industry and others to shield nitrates and salt from seeping into groundwater supplies.

Gavin Newsom reforms oil standards with regulatory changes, top Conservation appointmentsBakersfield Californian
Sacramento’s shifting approach to reining in California oil production came into sharper focus with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement that he had signed half a dozen bills regulating petroleum activities and appointed two senior officials — including a former Chevron engineer — to positions that oversee Kern County’s most valuable industry.

How the Bay Bridge is designed to withstand an earthquakeSan Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
Almost 30 years ago to the day, the Bay Bridge was not somewhere you wanted to be.  The 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta quake hit, causing a portion of the bridge to collapse.  But after 25 years of work, Caltrans says the bridge is now one of the safest places to be when the big one strikes.

New Chevron Crude Spills Emerge in Kern County Oil FieldKQED
Thousands of gallons of crude petroleum began spouting out of the ground near a part of Chevron’s steam injection well network in a Kern County oil field last week, prompting a new cleanup effort and state response.

October 17, 2019

Caltrans says it saved $233 million of your tax dollarsSan Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
The California Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it had met its statutory mandate of spending money wisely, issuing a report that documented $233 million of savings in the latest budget year.

Plan in place to ensure power outage never closes Caldecott TunnelKTVU
Last week when Caltrans announced that the Caldecott Tunnel might be closed for the Public Safety Power Shutoff, commuters were shocked and angered.  The Caldecott Tunnel complex gets PG&E power from two separate grids, one on the Alameda County side and the other on the Contra Costa side.  To keep the tunnel open, Caltrans “ had to get right to work with our electrical crews and work directly with our utility partners in order to get separate generators out on site as quickly as possible,” a department spokesman said.

SF developer joins California high-speed rail board to get it ‘back on track’San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
Not sure if congratulations or condolences are in order, but longtime Bay Area housing developer Jim Ghielmetti of San Francisco, has been appointed to the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors.

A do-over at SEIU Local 1000 gets a new result: State workers vote ‘yes’ on contractThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A group of workers within California state government’s largest union voted to approve a contract in a second vote last week, reversing a previous ‘no’ vote.  SEIU Local 1000 members in Bargaining Unit 11 — a collection of construction and agricultural inspectors, lab assistants and others — approved the contract by 72 percent to 28 percent vote, according to an announcement on Local 1000’s website.

October 14, 2019

Skelton: Are California transportation officials pulling a bait and switch on gas tax funds? – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
A current episode in Sacramento may or may not fall to the level of a bait and switch.  It’s murky.  It involves gasoline taxes and promised highway improvements.  Some of the money is being shifted from road construction to commuter rail in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The money is coming from allocations for three “deleted” projects and other road project savings totaling $61.3 million.

Bill to Eliminate 710 Freeway Tunnel Signed Into Law – Pasadena Now
With a signature, Governor Gavin Newsom relegated the concept of a 710 Freeway tunnel beneath Pasadena to the archives of history.

California dam-raising project favored by feds stumbles after water agency retreats The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s $1.3 billion plan to raise Shasta Dam has run into a roadblock that could delay the project or even kill it.  California officials oppose the plan.

CalPERS in settlement talks in $1 billion long-term care insurance lawsuit – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A judge has postponed a trial to make time for settlement talks in a $1.2 billion lawsuit against CalPERS over its long-term care insurance policies.

October 10, 2019

California highway projects could lose gas tax funding as Newsom shifts money to mass transit – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is directing some money collected through gasoline taxes away from road repairs in favor of rail projects, according to a 200-page proposal from the state’s transportation department.  Under an executive order Newsom signed last month, Caltrans must “reduce congestion through innovative strategies designed to encourage people to shift from cars to other modes of transportation.”

Contract gamble: California state workers who voted down raise want return to bargaining – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California state workers who recently rejected their union’s proposed contract are betting they can get a better deal by returning to the bargaining table.  This week, a do-over vote organized by SEIU Local 1000 leaders is testing the resolve of those who voted against the deal while giving those who didn’t vote another chance to do so.

The power’s out in Northern California, and state workers could be sent home – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
California state departments affected by widespread power outages may instruct workers to work from home, take administrative time off or make other special arrangements during widespread power outages, according to CalHR.

California water czar seeks resource collaboration, not combat – Bloomberg
For E. Joaquin Esquivel, California has made great strides in fighting climate change and transitioning to a cleaner energy sector.  Now, he said, it’s water’s turn.

Babies won’t be allowed to come to work with state worker parents after Governor vetoes bill CBS 13 Sacramento
California state workers will not be allowed to bring their infants to work after Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 372 on Tuesday.  The bill would have allowed state workers next year to bring their infants to work until they were six months old or crawling, whichever came first.

October 7, 2019

California retirees voted in an expensive election at CalPERS.  Here’s who won.The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Henry Jones will keep his seat on the CalPERS Board of Administration after defeating challenger J.J. Jelincic in an election that saw hundreds of thousands of dollars in union spending.  PECG endorsed Jones’ re-election.

Editorial: It was a terrible idea to build a new freeway in Los Angeles County. Now it’s on hold for goodLos Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
Could the era of building new freeways in California be over?

Questions of unethical dealing hit high-speed rail. But don’t stop construction in FresnoThe Fresno Bee
Some tough news recently hit the state’s high-speed-rail project.  The Rail Authority board members’ have become enmeshed in reports of conflicts of interest.   Meanwhile, politicians threaten to redirect rail funds to projects in Southern California and the Bay Area.  But, if anything, that should focus the rail board even more on getting the project done while making sure its leadership is completely ethical in all its dealings.

Caltrans depicts Soscol Junction as big congestion-busterNapa Valley Register
Caltrans predicts that building a roundabout-featuring fix for congested Soscol Junction where Highway 29 and Highway 221 meet east of the Grapecrusher statue could all but erase rush-hour delays there.  Delays at the signalized intersection with no changes will top five minutes in 2025, compared to eight to 15 seconds with the roundabout, a new state report said.

October 3, 2019

Some California workers reject SEIU contract, revealing divide in state’s largest unionThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A small but significant group within state government’s largest union rejected a proposed contract with the state Tuesday, revealing a split over a three-year SEIU Local 1000 agreement that includes a major new health care perk.  A group of engineering and scientific technicians rejected the contract, which includes a 7 percent raise and a health insurance stipend worth about $3,100 per year.  The rejection could mean that the unit of Local 1000 that rejected the contract will not get new raises and benefits while the rest of the union would.

You’ve been warned: ‘Carmageddon’ coming to Highway 101 in SF in JulySan Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
Caltrans officials have one word to describe the planned rebuild of a deck of Highway 101 at Alemany Circle, north of the interchange with I-280: “Carmageddon.”

New gel-like material can stop wildfires for months at a timeZME Science
The idea behind the gel is to apply it to areas that are prone to wildfires.  The gel helps fix fire-retarding compounds where they’re needed long after weathering would remove them by themselves.  It is non-toxic, made from materials used in food, drug, cosmetic, and agricultural products.  Researchers are now working with Caltrans and CalFire to test the material on high-risk roadside areas that are the origin of dozens of wildfires every year.

Deck installation begins for replacement of collapsed Genoa bridgeThe Construction Index
The first span has been installed for the structure being built to replace the viaduct that collapsed last year in Genoa, Italy.  Pergenova, a joint venture of Salini Impregilo and Fincantieri Infrastructure, is building the new bridge.

September 2019

September 30, 2019

SANDAG Approves $600M in Funding for Transportation Projects Across County – NBC 7
Should more highways be built in San Diego County? Or should mass transit be the focus of transportation investment? Those were the questions discussed at Friday’s SANDAG meeting where leaders approved nearly $600 million in funding for transportation projects across the County.

Caltrans Contemplates Overhaul of Pasadena’s Freeway, the SR-110 Arroyo Seco Parkway – Pasadena Now
Caltrans is considering five changes to the SR-110 Arroyo Seco Parkway.  First opened in 1940, the Parkway, formerly known as the Pasadena Freeway, is notable for representing the transition between early parkways and modern freeways.  At the time it was built, it was in conformity with modern standards, but today, it is regarded as a narrow outdated roadway.

The Bay Area’s Next Big Traffic Headache – KCBS
Caltrans is finalizing plans for a major San Francisco freeway reconstruction project that will disrupt a key freeway for several weeks next summer.  The agency plans to  replace 800 feet of bridge deck on US 101 just north of the Alemany Boulevard exit in San Francisco.  That’ll require the detouring of traffic from a stretch of freeway that carries about 240,000 vehicles a day in each direction.

California Must Embrace Groundwater Management, and Expand It – CalMatters
With dry periods expected to increase in frequency and duration, groundwater is key to creating a more resilient water supply for drinking water, producing food, and sustaining our precious natural resources.  Yet despite its importance, groundwater use in California has been largely unregulated.  Fortunately, this is about to change.

Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery: Northern California Project of the Year 2019 – ENR California
The Engineering News-Record has named the Oroville Spillway Project California’s Best Project for “Water/Environment and Excellence in Safety.”

September 26, 2019

Caltrans Plans Emergency Reports on Hwy. 1 Along San Mateo Coast – KPIX
Caltrans is planning emergency road repairs for a busy section of Highway 1 along the San Mateo County coast.  On the surface, they look like rather ordinary regular cracks but they are not.  From a nearby vantage point, you can see the side of the cliff is slowly giving way, right up to the highway.

Trump EPA blasts California air quality, threatens to withdraw highway funds – KFGO/Reuters
The Trump administration escalated its fight with California on Tuesday, accusing the state of failing to enforce the U.S. Clean Air Act and threatening to withdraw billions of dollars in federal highway funds to the country’s most populous state.

California high-speed rail board member under investigation for potential conflict – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
The state Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating allegations that Ernest Camacho, a board member of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, has a conflict of interest — the second such investigation the watchdog agency has launched involving the bullet train.

California’s chronic water overuse leads to sinking towns, arsenic pollution – Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you don’t notice anything wrong.  But the problem’s there, underfoot.  The land around her — about 250 square kilometres — is sinking.

September 23, 2019

Gavin Newsom tells CalPERS, CalSTRS to favor green investments in climate change order – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed an executive order to leverage the might of California’s $700 billion public pension funds and the state’s purchasing power as a highway builder in a campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California sues Trump over revoking state’s authority to set car emissions standards – Los Angeles Times
A coalition of 14 states led by California filed a lawsuit Friday against the Trump administration, challenging its decision to revoke a rule that empowers the state to set tougher car emissions standards than those required by the federal government.

Rising ocean will flood new Trancas Bridge due to global warming – 991KBU
Caltrans has issued a new assessment of what global warming will mean for the state highway system, and it predicts that major sections of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu will go underwater in 80 years under a worst-case scenario.

‘The strongest earthquake bridge ever built’: A look inside the eastern span of the Bay Bridge – KTVU
Caltrans gave KTVU an inside look at how the Bay Bridge is seismically resilient.

September 19, 2019

SoCal traffic: 5 Freeway expansion project on track to alleviate gridlock by 2021 ABC 7
Most drivers in Southern California bold enough to brave the 5 Freeway during rush hour will tell you it’s always terrible, but Caltrans hopes to help alleviate the gridlock by 2021.  Transportation officials said Tuesday that the expansion of the Santa Ana Freeway was coming to the rescue.

Trump officials slam California air, rescind state’s authority on emissionsSan Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
Trump administration officials attacked California’s air quality Thursday as they announced the revocation of the state’s authority to set its own auto emissions standards, saying the state should focus on its own problems instead of the rest of the nation.

Bullet train board votes on proposed Valley to San Jose route, amid backlashThe Fresno Bee
The California High-Speed Rail Authority board voted unanimously Tuesday on a route that may ultimately connect the San Joaquin Valley with San Jose – though it didn’t come without some backlash from community groups.

September 16, 2019

Gavin Newsom says he’ll veto Trump-defying California environmental bill – The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday declined to pick a fight with the Trump administration, announcing he’d veto a bill that would have preserved Obama-era environmental policies and negated the Republican’s regulations.

Caltrans reports on new bridge built in Napa Valley Lake County News
In this Caltrans News Flash, see how Caltrans built an innovative new bridge right in the middle of one of Napa Valley’s most iconic tourist towns. The completion of the new bridge happened with minimal disturbance to residents, businesses and visitors.

California bullet train’s mishandling of land deals adds to mounting costs and delaysLos Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
California’s bullet train project confronts an array of political and financial challenges, but its biggest problem involves mismanagement of land acquisitions, which has contributed to construction delays, cost increases, litigation and the launch of a federal audit.

California adds an 11th state to its travel ban. No taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa The Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Friday extended California’s ban on taxpayer-funded trips to an 11th state, adding Iowa to the list based on the Midwestern state’s passage of a law that removed gender protections under Medicaid. Becerra’s order means public employees and college students may not travel to Iowa under provisions of a 2016 California law.

September 12, 2019

US DOT providing $871 million for highway disaster reliefFreight Waves
The Trump administration will spend $871.2 million to repair roads and bridges in the U.S. and in American territories that have been damaged in natural disasters and unexpected events over the past three years.  California will receive $157 million (18%) of the relief, which includes $115 million to repair damage from storms and fires.

Project rebuilding Hwy. 1 after Mud Creek Slide is up for an award. And you can vote for itThe Tribune (tiered subscription)
Nearly a month of online voting will determine if the $54 million Highway 1 restoration project at Big Sur’s Mud Creek area will win the People’s Choice award in a national transportation project competition.  Voting ends Oct. 6.

Unquenchable Thirst: Groundwater bill could shift state’s water management approachKCET
The latest salvo is California’s long-running water wars, SB 307, has the potential to emerge as one of the most important pieces of water regulation in recent years.  The adoption of the law this summer sheds light on the smartest, least expensive, and most efficient method of building a more water-resilient state: Tackle the demand side of the equation.

Caltrans’ new director: Toks Omishakin has credentials in active transportationStreetsblog California
Adetokunbo Toks Omishakin comes from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, where he directed its Bureau of Environment and Planning.  He has also served on the board of directors for American Walks, and as vice chair of the AASHTO Council on Active Transportation, where biking and walking advocates say he has provided thoughtful leadership.

September 9, 2019

Trump warns California that emissions deal with automakers may be illegal – Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription)
The Trump administration sent California a stern warning Friday that its agreement with four major automakers to reduce car pollution appears to violate federal law.  The letter from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation threatened “legal consequences” if California does not abandon the agreement, but did not say what officials might actually do.  It reiterated the administration’s long-held belief that only the federal government has the authority to set fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars.

Renovations in Store for 23 Freeway –  Thousand Oaks Acorn
The state says it’s investing $100 million over the next four years to upgrade the 23 Freeway between Thousand Oaks and Moorpark.  The job was listed this month along with 132 other projects Caltrans said will be paid for with $1.1 billion from SB 1, the state’s 2018 gas tax and vehicle registration hike.

Caltrans grants more than $34M for sustainable transportation planningTransportation Today
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced plans to award local agencies with more than $34 million in transportation planning grants for fiscal year 2020-2021.  This aid will focus on those planning more sustainable communities, reduce transportation-related emissions, and adapting to climate change.

See the ‘twin’ Bay Bridge that nearly happened despite outrage from SF – San Francisco Chronicle (tiered subscription)
The list of historic San Francisco infrastructure near-misses includes a freeway through the Panhandle, an airport on Treasure Island and a rotating restaurant atop what would become Sutro Tower. But nothing would have changed the look of the city like the 1940s “twin Bay Bridge” plan, a proposal for a second identical span entering San Francisco. It was an oddity that the future would confirm made little sense; it would have added a new hellscape of cloverleafs and off-ramps into downtown San Francisco that would have accelerated surface-street gridlock.

September 5, 2019

Hole found during inspection on Capital City Freeway bridge prompts emergency closuresThe Sacramento Bee (tiered subscription)
A hole was found on southbound Capital City Freeway on Wednesday evening, prompting the emergency closures of several lanes and ramps.  Caltrans crews were conducting a routine bridge inspection on the freeway at the junction of Highway 99 and Highway 50 when they saw a deteriorating area, and upon further inspection they discovered there was a hole in the bridge deck.

Making California’s Water Supply ResilientWater in the West
In this Q&A, two Stanford researchers argue that California needs to diversify its “water portfolio.”

Caltrans grants more than $34M for sustainable transportation planningTransportation Today
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced plans to award local agencies with more than $34 million in transportation planning grants for fiscal year 2020-2021.  This aid will focus on those planning more sustainable communities, reduce transportation-related emissions, and adapting to climate change.

California History: The Ridge RouteRicochet.com
An engineer explains his research into the predecessors of The Grapevine, the first of which was designed by the aptly named W. Lewis Clark, a State Highway Commission engineer and was considered “a marvel of its time.”

September 3, 2019

PFAS toxins found in drinking water throughout Southern CaliforniaOrange County Register
Wells of nearly two dozen Southern California water agencies have reportable levels of PFAS, a chemical family increasingly linked to cancer, liver and kidney damage, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low fertility, low birth weight and ulcerative colitis.  The state only this year began ordering testing for the chemicals, and a state law requiring that customers be notified about the presence of those chemicals won’t kick in until next year.

California’s fight over tailpipe emissions, explainedCalMatters
As global temperatures climb, the federal government is threatening to blunt a major weapon in California’s fight against climate change: the power to police tailpipe emissions.  Although the rollbacks aren’t yet official, California has leveled lawsuit after lawsuit at the Trump administration — and vowed to fight any finalized rollbacks in court.  The battle boiled over this summer when California and four major automakers went around the president and cut a deal to continue curbing greenhouse gas pollution.  Here’s the full history of the state’s battle to curb auto emissions, and what’s at stake in its fight with the feds.

An Era of Roadwork: Most Projects Bakersfield has Seen in DecadesBakersfield Now/Eyewitness News
In Bakersfield, it seems roadwork is everywhere. Bakersfield City Works tells Eyewitness News this is the most roadwork they have had at the same time in years.  They say Bakersfield roads haven’t got this much attention since the 1970s. But after years of under funding, the city has access to state gas tax money.

A Hot Job Market Is Causing Labor Pains for State GovernmentsNew York Times (tiered subscription)
In June, there were two public-sector job openings for every new hire, according to government statistics, a sign that state, local and federal agencies are struggling to quickly fill positions.  In South Carolina, the state officials last year turned to contracting peanut inspectors, a trend across governments as they look for more flexible staffing.  It resulted in fraud and inefficiencies, so the Department of Agriculture got raises approved for this year, which helped recruit enough new workers to satisfy the state’s needs.