May 30, 2019
Nearly half of state-owned office buildings outside Sacramento would be up for sale under new plan – The Sacramento Bee
The department in charge of California’s state-owned buildings wants to sell or get rid of nearly half its office buildings outside Sacramento, according to a newly published plan. State workers in San Jose, Fresno and San Diego would be affected soonest, according to a Department of General Services proposal that calls for disposing of nine of 21 state-owned buildings around the state.
California infrastructure rated 10th worst in the nation – U.S. News & World Report
California’s state transportation infrastructure ranks 41st among the 50 states, according to a recent U.S. News & World Report assessment. The publication considered 2019 and 2017 data on average commute times (California ranked 46th), public transit usage (9th), road quality (48th), and bridge quality (19th). Nevada’s infrastructure ranked 1st, followed by Utah and Delaware.
Some California Officials Worry State Can’t Train Every Employee On Sexual Harassment Prevention – Capitol Public Radio
California’s top state human resources official worries that agencies will struggle to comply with a law requiring nearly every private and public employee in the state receive sexual harassment training starting next year. “What concerns me is the logistics of the Herculean effort to get 220,000 [state workers] trained,” said Eraina Ortega, director of the state Department of Human Resources. Ortega says she’s most concerned about large agencies, like the California Highway Patrol and the state Department of Transportation, that have many employees across the state.
May 28, 2019
Why California’s air board won’t ban gas-powered cars yet – CALmatters
Mary Nichols, the powerful head of the California Air Resources Board, didn’t even need to explicitly threaten a ban on gas-powered cars last week to get the attention of carmakers. The warning was only in her prepared statements for a workshop with the state Transportation Commission. But the remarks, obtained by Bloomberg, hit headlines and the industry took notice. That was the point.
Butte County concerned over lake levels – Chico Enterprise-Record
Butte County leaders, worried that Lake Oroville will receive a record snow runoff this year, say that the Department of Water Resources should now release water from the Oroville Dam. The department says it doesn’t anticipate the need to do so, citing an operations plan formed in consultation with federal authorities that takes the snow melt and weather forecasts into account. That plan allows the lake’s water level to rise during late spring and summer.
California retirees are facing another hot election over who manages their pensions – The Sacramento Bee
In the last two years, a former CalPERS board member known for his sharp criticism of the nation’s largest public pension fund worked to unseat two of its leaders in tense elections. Now, J.J. Jelincic is running his own campaign to return to the board that manages the $360 billion fund. He’s challenging Henry Jones, an incumbent who is the first African American man to lead the CalPERS Board of Administration as its president. He’s a former chief financial officer of Los Angeles Unified School District.
Using California gas tax to reduce traffic lanes? Not how it should be spent, some say – Los Angeles Times
Two years after state lawmakers boosted the gas tax with a promise to improve California streets, some cities have raised the ire of drivers by spending millions of the new dollars on “road diet” projects that reduce the number and size of lanes for motor vehicles. Projects have touched off a debate as taxpayer advocates and motorists complain that the higher gas taxes they are paying for smoother trips will actually fund projects that increase traffic congestion.
May 23, 2019
On high-speed rail, Newsom cuts deal to protect federal grant while lawsuit proceeds – Los Angeles Times
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday he had reached an agreement with the Trump administration not to redirect funds from a high-speed rail grant while California’s lawsuit against the federal government proceeds.
Death by consultant – The Week
Last month, the Los Angeles Times published a devastating exposé of one of the problems dragging down the California high-speed rail project: consultants. Now 13 years behind schedule and $44 billion over budget, the story demonstrates a fundamental problem with modern American governance — lack of basic state capacity. A government must have in-house expertise if it is to undertake difficult, complicated projects. The first step to getting some is to stop this reliance on private companies to do the state’s job for it.
Transit agencies in Orange, Riverside counties headed for showdown over 241, 91 toll lane connection – The Orange County Register
Caltrans recently received a 23-page letter from Riverside County transportation officials about all the things they think are wrong with plans for bridges that would let toll road drivers bypass lanes of traffic to get between the 241 and 91 freeways. The state agency and toll road officials say they’re taking seriously those concerns – also shared by Orange County’s transit agency – as they decide whether to start designing the $180 million ramps, but “as of now we are moving forward with the project,” department spokesman David Matza said.
Sonoma Coast erosion forces Highway 1 lane closure, with a long-term fix years out – The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa)
A stretch of southbound Highway 1 on the Sonoma Coast at risk of failure from coastal erosion for two decades has finally been abandoned — the cracked and sagging western-most lane shut down for good last week. Abundant winter rainfall and regular wave action undercutting the deteriorating bluffs at Gleason Beach have finally made the affected lane too dangerous for traffic, triggering the emergency closure and switch to a single, shared lane for all travelers, Caltrans said.
May 20, 2019
Trump administration cancels $929 million contract for California bullet train – The Sacramento Bee
In a dramatic move, the Trump administration announced Thursday it has canceled a nearly billion-dollar funding contract with the California bullet train, throwing the state’s troubled high-speed rail project further in doubt.
Risk level raised on integrity of dam in Southern California – San Francisco Chronicle
Engineers are raising alarms that a “significant flood event” could compromise the spillway of Southern California’s aging Prado Dam and potentially inundate dozens of Orange County communities from Disneyland to Newport Beach. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost roughly $600 million in federal funds to upgrade the Whittier Narrows facility, which has been reclassified as the agency’s highest priority nationally because of the risk of “very significant loss of life and economic impacts.”
Caltrans to Replace Hat Creek Bridge in Shasta County – CBS 12
Caltrans is working with Steelhead Constructors, Inc. to replace the Hat Creek Bridge in Shasta County, starting in June. The $6.2-million project is funded in part by Senate Bill 1.
Bill aims to secure funding for Coronado Bridge suicide barrier – Fox 5
A bill that looks to secure funding for a suicide barrier along the Coronado Bridge is expected to go before the full California State Senate this week.
May 16, 2019
CalPERS health insurance rates could climb as much as 24 percent next year – The Sacramento Bee
The premiums state workers and retired public employees pay for CalPERS health insurance are projected to go up 7.2 percent on average next year, with premiums for specific plans increasing as much as 24 percent, according to preliminary estimates published Tuesday.
One less tax. California lawmakers move to reject Gavin Newsom’s water fee – The Sacramento Bee
A Senate budget subcommittee rejected Gov. Gavin Newsom’s water tax plan on Wednesday, instead recommending finding $150 million elsewhere to finance a safe and affordable drinking water fund. Newsom proposed the tax in his January budget to help communities clean contaminated water systems. His May budget revise also included a fee to address the statewide problem that affects one million Californians.
Oroville Dam spillway concerns? DWR says no – The Mercury News
The California Department of Water Resources released a Lake Oroville community update on Monday afternoon amid rumors of ongoing safety concerns regarding the Oroville Dam’s main spillway. These rumors have been circulated mostly on Facebook, according to DWR Public Information Officer Elizabeth Whitmore. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said in a statement, ““Based upon (meeting with local officials) I don’t believe there is a current imminent threat.”
5 Freeway project, hampered by winter weather, has new finish date – Los Angeles Times
Caltrans is slowly but surely making progress on its 5 Freeway improvement project, specifically the Empire Avenue underpass that will connect Empire to North San Fernando Boulevard. In September, Caltrans officials anticipated the Empire interchange project would be partially open by January and fully completed in July. However, rainstorms caused delays and have pushed the timetable back several months.
May 13, 2019
Caltrans Breaks Ground on Interstate 5 Project – CBS
Caltrans broke ground Thursday, for the Redding to Anderson six-lane expansion project. “It is a very big project in District 2, one of the biggest projects ever designed and built north of Sacramento,” said PECG member Travis Gurney, a project engineer.
How California Is Fixing Angeles Crest Highway After Its Worst Landslide in Decades – The Drive
In February, about 10 million pounds of the San Gabriel Mountains came crashing down on Angeles Crest Highway, where it became Christopher Harris’ problem. Harris, a Caltrans Senior Geologist and PECG member, is tasked with protecting State Route 2, which means he is locked in an endless battle with a mountain range that is actively trying to destroy the 66-mile highway.
SANDAG Completes Trio of Road, Bike and Rail Projects in Encinitas – Times of San Diego
The San Diego Association of Governments, Caltrans, and other state and local agency partners have completed a trio of projects in Encinitas spanning three modes of transportation. The projects, funded by the TransNet half-cent sales tax, are part of the larger North Coast Corridor program, which includes widening of Interstate 5.
DOT-California Relationship on Bullet Train Is Crumbling – Government Technology/Los Angeles Times
The California bullet train project, for much of the last decade, enjoyed no more important partner than the U.S. Department of Transportation. For nearly two years after he was elected, President Trump did not actively target the California bullet train, and actually supported the concept of U.S. high-speed rail. But the “switch flipped” last fall on the state project, according to one official close to the matter, when the Federal Railroad Administration rejected invoices, including those for the state’s chief consultant, WSP.
ASCE Releases Infrastructure Grades for Iowa and California – Transport Topics
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ newly released infrastructure report cards for California and Iowa reveal the condition of those states’ underlying frameworks are just average. California earned an overall C- on its May 7 report card, marking a slight drop from the C received previously in 2012. The state’s roads, however, earned a D.
May 9, 2019
Caltrans manager commuted from San Diego to Sacramento for 2 years. Taxpayers paid the bill – The Fresno Bee
The state paid for a Caltrans manager to commute from San Diego to Sacramento for work for two years, according to a California State Auditor’s report published Tuesday. The manager, who isn’t named in the audit, was reimbursed for about $30,000 in airfare and car rentals plus $12,000 for meals, lodging and other costs from 2016 through 2018, according to the audit.
Don’t panic, but California has yet another water problem – Los Angeles Times
A recent study notes high levels of arsenic, plus numerous other contaminants that may be more toxic in combination than they are separately, in California tap water. According to the report, the tainted water could cause more than 200 cases of cancer a year. The problem is very serious — but not necessarily statewide. The so-called water tax would provide enough funding chiefly for those water systems with more pollutants than government standards allow.
Plan to widen Hwy. 101 too risky for giant redwoods on North Coast, court tells Caltrans – The Sacramento Bee
A controversial Caltrans plan to widen a stretch of Highway 101 through a popular state park on California’s North Coast and home to ancient stands of old-growth redwoods was blocked again by a federal judge last week who said the project would threaten the mighty trees.
California high speed rail project cost grows to $79 billion – The Hill
The estimated cost of California’s high-speed rail project has grown to $79 billion, according to the latest High-Speed Rail Authority report. The segment already under construction in the Central Valley is now expected to cost $12.4 billion, up from $10.6 billion.
May 6, 2019
California Governor Makes Big Change to Giant Water Project – Associated Press
California Gov. Gavin Newsom scrapped a $16 billion plan last week to build two giant water tunnels to reroute the state’s water system and instead directed state agencies to restart planning for a single tunnel.
Feds Step in, Make 10 Freeway Express Lanes in San Bernardino County a Step Closer to Reality – MSN
Building pay lanes along the 10 Freeway in San Bernardino County just got a step closer to reality. The county transportation authority last Thursday announced it was awarded a $225 million federal loan to be put toward the $929 million project.
Bullet Train has 4 Route Options Around One California Town as Foes Plan Court Appeal – The Fresno Bee
It’s been seven years since the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved its proposed bullet-train route between Fresno and Merced – except for a stretch of about 20 miles through or around Chowchilla. On Friday, the rail agency released a draft of its environmental analysis of four potential route options for its 220-mph trains to skirt the city. That same day, an attorney for high-speed rail foes in Hanford announced plans to renew a court battle against the rail agency over its use of bond money to build the rail line through the San Joaquin Valley.
‘Culture of Corruption’ Alleged at CHP’s East LA Station; Officers Fight Back – LAist
At issue is whether East LA officers fraudulently recorded their hours on the job when working voluntary overtime on Caltrans worksites – hours that were then billed to Caltrans. “We take this matter very seriously,” Caltrans said in a statement. “Once the criminal investigation [of CHP officers] is complete, any misconduct by Caltrans employees will be investigated.” Accused officers have hired their own attorneys, who contend there was “no criminal wrongdoing.”
May 2, 2019
Newsom says he has a fresh approach to California’s longtime water woes – Los Angeles Times
Newsom wants to reexamine practically everything the state has been working on — meaning what former Gov. Jerry Brown was doing — and piece together a grand plan for California’s future that can draw the support of longtime water warriors.
State Assemblyman Calling for Investigation into California High-Speed Rail Consultants – KRON
It’s billions over budget and more than a decade behind schedule and now, Assemblyman Jim Patterson is calling for an investigation into the state high speed rail project’s private consultants. The rail authority, he said, is “making it up as (they) go along, handing over the decisions to handle billions of dollars of public money to private consultants who had everything to gain by telling us they were doing just fine.”
Chunks of Concrete Fall From Interstate 80 in San Francisco – NBC Bay Area
Chunks of concrete on a sidewalk prompted San Francisco police and Caltrans to shut down a stretch of roadway underneath Interstate 80 near the Bay Bridge Tuesday. Police officers driving by noticed the concrete pieces around 6 p.m., immediately closed off the area and called for help. Caltrans inspected the portion of the overpass located over Harriet Street near the Hall of Justice in San Francisco and determined it was safe.
More Turnover at California Pension Board: Gavin Newsom Appoints Transgender Woman to CalPERS – The Sacramento Bee
A transgender California city councilwoman is joining the CalPERS Board of Administration, becoming the fifth new member leading the nation’s largest pension fund this year. Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Lisa Middleton, 66, of Palm Springs, to the seat representing local governments on the 13-member board, according to a Tuesday news release. Middleton was the first openly transgender person in the state to win election to a nonjudicial office.
Yuba Water Agency, DWR Launch Research to Enhance Reservoir Options – Water World
Yuba Water Agency launched an initiative with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography to improve storm and runoff forecasting, and significantly reduce flood risk though enhanced operations of New Bullards Bar and Oroville dams.