PECG Media Briefing

June 21, 2018

Bay Area: What happens if the gas tax is repealed?Mercury New
From Oakland to San Jose, pavement crews are already at work repairing roads and tackling long-deferred maintenance. All the work is partially funded by Senate Bill 1, but now, with polling showing more than half of California voters would repeal those taxes and fees, it’s looking more likely that many of the newly funded projects are at risk of being delayed or eliminated.

Group calls Caltrans freeway signs political adsABC10 / KGTV
Government transparency, or a sign with a subtle political agenda? Department of Transportation officials say the former. Those trying to repeal Senate Bill 1 contend the latter. The subject of the debate: new Caltrans signs popping up along San Diego’s freeways near projects funded by SB 1.

Should Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels be immune from judicial review? OC water district votesRed, Green and Blue

The Municipal Water District of Orange County Public Affairs & Legislation Committee voted 3 to 0 Monday to support a resolution backing a rider banning the judicial review of lawsuits against the  Delta Tunnels project. The resolution will go before the District’s Board of Directors today.

Authorities investigate viral video of boulder causing slope damage at Emerald BayNews 4

The Tahoe Planning Agency and Caltrans are investigating a Facebook video that appears to show a highway contractor allowing a boulder to roll down a slope and cause environmental damage at Emerald Bay near South Lake Tahoe.

Three Caltrans Projects honored in national transportation competitionLake County News
Three Caltrans projects received top honors this week from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The 11th annual America’s Transportation Awards competition recognizes transportation projects in three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development, Best Use of Technology and Innovation and Operations Excellence.

June 18, 2018

DWR raising standards, adding staff in response to Oroville Dam spillway reportChico Enterprise Record
The state Department of Water Resources has beefed up its response to the independent forensic report on what caused the Oroville Dam spillway failure last year. A revised dam safety policy, which will “further define roles and responsibilities” of the executive-level engineer, the chief dam safety engineer and other related State Water Project divisions, should be released by the end of the year.

Senators insist on judicial review of California water tunnels project E&E News
California’s two Democratic senators have committed themselves to opposing a controversial House provision that would block judicial review of the state’s WaterFix tunnel project. While backstage discussions have occurred, opponents of the $17 billion tunnel project recognize the judicial review ban is all but certain to pass the House as part of a fiscal 2019 Interior and EPA appropriations bill.

With new bridge toll, Hwy. 101 project fully fundedArgus Courier
Money from the $4.5 billion measure is earmarked for Bay Area transportation projects including $120 million to widen Highway 101 from the Sonoma-Marin county line to Novato and $100 million to improve Highway 37, although officials are unclear on those projects’ timelines.

Audi CEO Arrested in Diesel Emissions Scandal – Washington Post
The Chief Executive of Audi, the luxury automaker owned by Volkswagen, was arrested Monday on suspicion of fraud in relation to the German car maker’s emissions-cheating scandal.

June 14, 2018

California eyes July for reopening iconic Highway 1 stretchThe Associated Press
California transportation officials have targeted July for reopening an iconic stretch of Highway 1 in the scenic Big Sur coastal region that was blocked last year by a massive landslide. The road that connects Los Angeles to San Francisco was projected to open in mid-September but the California Department of Transportation announced Tuesday it will open to all travelers by the end of July.

Butte DA’s suit against DWR moves forwardEnterprise Record

A lawsuit filed by Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey against the state Department of Water Resources over environmental damages resulting from the Oroville Dam spillway crisis is moving forward in court. Butte County Superior Court Judge Stephen Benson overruled DWR’s demurrer, which is essentially a plea to have a case dismissed.

Dozens of Water Systems Consolidate in California’s Farming HeartlandNews Deeply

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, one of the most productive farming regions in the nation, an estimated 150,000 people are stuck living with contaminated drinking water. When they open a tap to fill a cooking pot or take a shower, the water that gushes out is contaminated with nitrates, hexavalent chromium, arsenic and other nasties from polluted wells.

 With all eyes on Janus, a similar case in California meets quiet defeat — for nowLA School Report
The case dismissed Monday, Bain v. California Teachers Association, raises similar but distinct legal challenges as the Janus case. While Janus is focused on teachers who opt out of unions but are forced to pay agency fees, Bain dealt with teachers who wanted to remain union members but didn’t want to pay to support their union’s political efforts.

June 11, 2018

California drinking water tax dies in budget compromise – The Sacramento Bee

Lawmakers and Brown’s office scrapped the “Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act,” which would have taxed residents 95 cents a month to raise millions for cleaning toxic wells. Instead, legislative leaders agreed to spend $5 million from the general fund to deal with lead in drinking water at child care centers. They also plan to allocate $23.5 million from the general fund for “safe drinking water actions later in this legislative session.”

California bullet train authority ordered part of a flawed bridge torn downLos Angeles Times

Engineers have built about 24,000 bridges in California over the last century, but a new one under construction in Madera County for the state’s bullet train project shows that they can still lead to serious blunders. In a statement, the authority said the Avenue 8 bridge design did not meet its “level of quality for a work product” and showed “signs of distress.”

Bridge toll hike is ‘first step’ in solving Bay Area’s traffic woes, experts sayThe Mercury News

Voters in the Bay Area have agreed to raise bridge tolls by $3 over the next six years, but that’s just the first step in what they’ll likely be asked to pay as business leaders and transportation planners sketch out a fresh series of new measures to solve the area’s traffic gridlock.

Why Southern California is calling for a do-over on its vote to bankroll the Delta tunnelsThe Sacramento Bee

A historic vote on the Delta tunnels project is getting a do-over. Southern California’s powerful water agency — the Metropolitan Water District — said Thursday its board will vote again in July on whether to pay for the lion’s share of the project, known officially as California WaterFix.

June 7, 2018

Sexual harassment in state workforce would get new scrutiny from Brown proposal –The Sacramento Bee
Gov. Jerry Brown’s final budget includes a down payment on a program intended to prevent state workers accused of sexual harassment from moving from job to job within the government.

‘Janus’ and Its Supreme Court Enablers – Capital & Main
The stacking of the U.S. Supreme Court with anti-union justices has allowed the right-to-work movement to circumvent, and undercut, pro-union state policies.

Caltrans Plans to Reopen Highway 1 by Mid-September – Construction Equipment Guide
Caltrans plans a mid-September reopening of a stretch of Highway 1 near Big Sur that has been blocked nearly a year by a huge landslide following strong winter storms in 2017.

Voters favor Bay Area bridge toll hikes for transit upgradesPress Democrat
Voters in the Bay Area’s nine counties appeared to show support for a proposal to use bridge toll hikes to raise $4.45 billion and fund infrastructure projects across the region. Regional Measure 3 was favored with 54 percent of the vote throughout the region, according to election results posted Wednesday.

June 4, 2018

State considers tackling highway bottlenecks in Yolo and Solano counties with new lane project paid with peak-use tolls  – The Sacramento Bee
State highway officials are discussing a 16-mile widening of Interstate 80 through Yolo and Solano counties – and financing the project with tolls collected during hours of heaviest use.

Gavin Newsom warns of threats to unions at campaign stop in OaklandMercury News
Public-sector unions are facing an existential threat and need stronger support from elected officials, candidate for governor Gavin Newsom argued at a firefighter union’s block party Saturday, three days before the primary election.

360,000 Californians have unsafe drinking water. Are you one of them?The Sacramento Bee
The state’s water problem, however, is far more pervasive than that number indicates. At least 6 million Californians are served by water providers that have been in violation of state standards at some point since 2012, according to McClatchy’s analysis. In some areas, contaminated water is such a common occurrence; residents have almost come to expect it.

May 31, 2018

Voters hold key to complete Highway 101 widening through Sonoma-Marin NarrowsPetaluma Argus-Courier
For more than 20 years, crews have worked to expand a congested stretch of Highway 101 between Sonoma and Marin counties. Motorist have one shared question: When will the roadway expansion between Petaluma and Novato be finished?  The answer depends on a few financial and political factors, including what looks to be a looming fight at the ballot box over the future of California’s new gas tax to support transportation upgrades.

Jerry Brown has weak argument for ‘large’ prison guard raises, analyst says – The Sacramento Bee
The Legislative Analyst’s Office assessment of the Bargaining Unit 6 tentative agreement concludes that there is “no evidence of recruitment or retention issues to justify” the one-year, 5 percent general salary increase.  (Click here for the LAO’s take.)

Newsom, Cox, likely to advance in California governor’s race, poll says Sacramento Bee
A new poll shows San Diego Republican John Cox holds a seven-point advantage for second place among likely voters in the governor’s election Tuesday, signaling that voters prefer him and Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to face off in the November general election.

May 29, 2018

California Sued Over Delta Tunnels Project Changes Courthouse News
Environmental organizations sued the California agency in charge of managing the massive WaterFix project Friday, saying the state illegally altered the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta management plan to favor the project over ecological restoration.

Battle over gas-tax hike intensifies – CalMatters
The attempt to repeal SB 1 via a statewide vote is not only an important issue unto itself, but it is intertwined with larger conflicts, including the nationwide jousting over control of Congress. As the stakes rise, the campaign to counter the GOP-backed repeal ballot measure also is shifting into high gear. Gov. Jerry Brown is leading the charge.

Voters like high-speed rail, if they don’t have to pay for it – Los Angeles Times
A new poll of 835 voters found that respondents were pretty equally divided over the high-speed rail line, with 48% expressing at least some support and 43% opposed.

May 24, 2018

Independent governance eyed for State Water Project  –  Capitol Weekly
A measure in the Legislature, AB 3045, would create a new State Water Project Commission under the state’s Natural Resources Agency to run the project. DWR, which was created in 1956 to manage planning, construction and operation of the 700-mile-long water delivery system, would no longer control it.

This California agency has so many new employees that it’s installing smaller cubicles  The Sacramento Bee
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration found a solution that will sound familiar to any longtime traveler squeezing his knees into tight airplane seats: His agency wants to slash the size of standard cubicles in the EPA headquarters.

VIDEO: Explosions, repaving part of on-time Phase 2 reconstruction of Oroville Dam spillways – KCRA

The California Department of Water Resources said it is on track to meet the Nov. 1 deadline for its second phase of construction on the Oroville Dam. Crews have conducted controlled blasts to remove temporary concrete on the primary spillway. Concrete is also being poured on the emergency spillway.

A Washington bomb set to go off in California’s delta tunnels water war – The Los Angeles Times
Rep. Ken Calvert inserted a rider into an Interior Department appropriations bill that would exempt the so-called California WaterFix project from all judicial review. If passed by the House (likely) and Senate (possible) and signed by President Trump (probable), the rider would open a gaping hole in California and federal law.

Majority of Americans say Trump needs to give infrastructure more attention – The Hill
More than half of Americans say the president is not giving infrastructure adequate attention, according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday. The poll also found that a majority of Americans, 62 percent, say the federal government is not spending enough dollars on infrastructure projects.  (Click here to see the survey questions.)

May 21, 2018

On his way out, Gov. Jerry Brown offers prison guards a big raise  – The Sacramento Bee
The one-year tentative agreement with CCPOA gives a 5 percent across-the-board salary increase to Unit 6 employees on July 1, 2019. It would expire the following day.

Video: A year after Highway 1 landslide, work on new road continues 24/7 – KSBY
Sunday marked one year since a massive landslide wiped out a portion of Highway 1, closing the iconic road to traffic north of San Luis Obispo County. Here’s a progress report on the road-replacement project.

Letter: Prop. 69 ensures funds go where rubber meets the road – The Mercury News
The agency is looking to hire for maintenance, administration, operations, engineering and more. Caltrans says it’s experiencing a workload increase due to the passage of SB 1.

Blue states strike first against awaited anti-union court ruling  – Politico
Blue state lawmakers are waging a preemptive strike against an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision that could decimate the power of public-sector unions across the nation. The play by these states is pretty simple: Beef up public-employee union’s ability to recruit and retain members in an effort to counteract the chunk of revenue loss these unions expect.

May 17, 2018

Ending ‘fair share’ fees will cost state workers $2,000 a year, study says The Sacramento Bee
A new study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute predicts that a Supreme Court decision forbidding public sector unions from collecting so-called fair share fees will drive down public sector union membership in California by about 9 percent and cost public employees $2,079 a year in income.

 Auto mileage and emissions: Will Washington and California be negotiating? – CALmatters
The standoff between California and the Trump Administration over automobile emissions standards continued this week, despite reports that the president ordered two federal agencies to begin negotiating with the state. No one from the Administration has yet contacted the California Air Resources Board, which regulates automobile emissions.

Help Wanted: Caltrans Seeing Workload Increase After SB-1 – CBS Sacramento
The agency is looking to hire for maintenance, administration, operations, engineering and more. Caltrans says it’s experiencing a workload increase due to the passage of SB 1.

The bullet train is California’s biggest infrastructure project — but it’s seldom discussed in governor’s race – Los Angeles Times
It’s the biggest infrastructure project in state history, but the California bullet train gets hardly any attention on the campaign trail. The leading candidates for governor have said little, if anything, publicly about how they would fix dire problems in the $77-billion mega-project that has already overrun its initial cost estimate by $44 billion.

California High-Speed Rail Board Approves 2018 Business PlanCBS
The board tasked with overseeing California’s ambitious high-speed rail project approved a new business plan Tuesday and pledged to keep pushing forward even as the plan faces stark financial challenges.


A ban on Delta tunnels lawsuits slips into federal spending planThe Sacramento Bee
With the California Delta tunnels proposal facing an uncertain future, a California congressmen has come up with a way to help the multibillion water project reach completion: ban environmental lawsuits.

May 14, 2018

Caltrans Accelerates Repairs on State Route 1 in Santa Barbara County Due to SB 1 Funds – Santa Barbara Independent
Caltrans will repave more than 40 lane miles of State Route 1 from the Las Cruces Interchange (U.S. Highway 101 Separation) to south of the State Route 246 Junction in Santa Barbara County due to the funds from Senate Bill 1. SB 1 funds will enable Caltrans to fix more than 17,000 lane miles of pavement, 500 bridges and 55,000 culverts by 2027.

Brown Faces California Budget Fight As Surplus Grows –  KPBS/Associated Press
California Gov. Jerry Brown faces a bruising fight with the Legislature over funding for welfare, health care and higher education after producing a revised budget proposal that shows a lot more money but not a lot more spending..

California’s Brown Says Cities on Their Own as Pension Tab Rises – Bloomberg
As California’s cities flounder under the rising cost of public pensions, they shouldn’t expect the state to extend a hand. While Governor Jerry Brown noted in his revised budget Friday that local governments face “even greater pressures” than the state in dealing with the expense, he said it’s not up to the state to help

Musk says underground tunnel to offer free rides soon –  Los Angeles Times
Angelinos may be able to hitch a ride through town on Elon Musk’s first underground tunnel in just a few months — at least for a very short distance.

May 10, 2018

Brown’s Delta tunnels get $650 million boost from Bay Area water agency – The Sacramento Bee
A Bay Area water agency agreed Tuesday to pump $650 million into Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels project, providing a meaningful boost for the controversial $16.7 billion plan. The 4-3 vote by the Santa Clara Valley Water District brings the tunnels project, which would overhaul the troubled heart of California’s aging water delivery network, a step closer to being fully funded.

Senators unveil bipartisan water infrastructure bill – The Hill
California’s worker-centered A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a water resources and infrastructure bill on Tuesday that aims to localize the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 along with Sen. Tom Carper (Del.).

Huckabee Sanders: ‘I don’t know’ if infrastructure bill will happen this year – The Hill
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that she isn’t sure there will be an infrastructure bill this year, dealing another blow to lawmakers clamoring for a sweeping infrastructure package.

Sen. Josh Newman in fight for his political life over vote to raise California’s gas tax – Los Angeles Times
A week after voting with fellow Democrats to raise California’s gas tax, state Sen. Josh Newman found out the GOP had targeted him through a news alert on his phone.  Now the Fullerton Democrat is engaged in the political fight of his career.

California’s would-be governors play it safe in the last real debate before June’s primary – Los Angeles Times
Four Democrats and two Republicans fielded questions including how to solve California’s crisis of homelessness, their views on healthcare and dealing with the high cost of a college education. They were quizzed about the role that character plays in elected office. They were asked to name a sacrifice they had made in their lives. And yes, they were asked about California’s future in the era of President Trump.

May 7, 2018

In his bid to be California’s next governor, John Chiang touts his battles with a previous one – Los Angeles Times
A retelling of  the former State Controller’s fights with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger over putting state employees on minimum wage and enacting furloughs – and how the bouts endeared Chiang to labor. Story features quotes from former PECG Executive Director Bruce Blanning.

Op-ed: California’s most powerful voice on Wall Street? Its pensions – Los Angeles Times
California’s worker-centered pensions have played an extraordinarily important role as investors over the last 20 years. Moves to dismantle these pension systems could surrender the state’s market power at exactly the wrong time, when it needs it most.

These Sacramento area water storage projects just got a boost in state bond money – The Sacramento Bee
Two water-storage projects in the Sacramento region are closer to becoming a reality after getting another bump in state bond funding. The California Water Commission announced Friday that the Sites Reservoir project was eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1 funds, up from $933 million the commission had said it might receive last month.

Senator Dianne Feinstein to Secretary Chao: Release Funding for California Infrastructure Projects – Sierra Sun Times
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday called on Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to release funding for infrastructure projects in California and end delays implementing the Capital Investment Grants program.

May 3, 2018

Gas tax critics turn in signatures for California initiative, efforts mark Republican strategy – KTVU
The signatures were submitted days after California transportation officials pre-emptively fought back, announcing billions of dollars in mass transit improvements funded in part by the tax hikes. It sets up an election showdown over the condition of California’s roads and its high gas prices.

Did Gov. Brown promise the Bay Area a new reservoir in exchange for Delta tunnels support? – The Sacramento Bee
The timing of Wednesday’s vote — so soon after the Water Commission’s favorable score for Pacheco Pass — has foes of the Delta tunnels project alleging Brown’s office worked behind the scenes to deliver a quid pro quo: funding for a new reservoir in exchange for Santa Clara’s full support for the tunnels.

Measure X, SB1 contribute to a Monterey County transportation infrastructure boom – Monterey Herald
With a combination of Measure X and state Senate Bill 1, a gas tax and bump in vehicle licensing fees meant to boost transportation infrastructure, Monterey County will be making use of around $4.5 billion of the money allocated in the regional plan.

State commission recommends $311 million for transportation improvements – Fox 5 San Diego
The San Diego Association of Governments later this month will divvy up $311 million in SB1 funding for local transportation projects that include adding carpool lanes, improving rail lines, and building biking and walking paths.

New proposed east-west rail project unveiled by Humboldt Bay working group – Times-Standard News
Pacific Charter Financial, based in Newport Beach, says it wants to privately develop a rail connection between Humboldt Bay’s port and terminals to the east that already plug into the national rail network.

April 30, 2018

His dad died working on a California highway. Now he works for Caltrans, too. – The Sacramento Bee
PECG member Ryan Stiltz is featured in a bittersweet story about his relationship to his father, Perry, a Caltrans employee who was killed by an errant driver on Route 29 in 1973, when Ryan was about 1. Decades later, he followed his dad into Caltrans and now works for the department as a senior bridge engineer.

Silicon Valley Water Agency May Help Fund Delta Tunnels – CBS
Silicon Valley’s largest water district is showing renewed interest in California Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two massive tunnels to ferry water to the southern part of the state. The Mercury News reports the Santa Clara Valley Water District is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to commit up to $650 million to the project.

Major Bay Area transportation projects to receive state funding – SFGate
Nearly 20 of the Bay Area’s biggest transportation projects — BART to downtown San Jose, express lanes on the Peninsula, the widening of the Novato Narrows on Highway 101, and a new train-control system for BART — scored big in competition for state funding Wednesday and Thursday. But the victory could be short-lived: About half of the transit funding and all of the highway funding comes from SB1 money that could be repealed by voters in November.

‘Seemingly dysfunctional’ CalPERS leaders spar over documents, access – The Sacramento Bee
A new policy, a locked office door and a You Tube video are the latest signs of escalating tensions among members of CalPERS’ Board of Administration.

April 26, 2018

Cost-of-Living Adjustments for California State Worker Pensions are Safe, for Now  – The Sacramento Bee
Future state workers will receive cost-of-living adjustments when they retire, just as current retirees do, and they won’t have to choose between a CalPERS pension and a 401(k) plan anytime soon after both proposals were shot down on Monday. PECG opposed those measures and others that would have weakened the state’s retirement system and diminished retiree benefits.

Republicans Hope to Ride a Gas-Tax Repeal to Victory – Los Angeles Times
Republicans are on the verge of turning in at least 830,000 signatures for an initiative to repeal the tax increase. Democrats say they are not worried, because the gas tax is paying for much-needed road and bridge repairs. The thinking is that President Trump’s policy decisions will be a bigger factor for voters. The initiative targets a law approved as SB 1 in April 2017 by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. It is expected to raise $5.4 billion annually for road and bridge repairs and improvements to mass transit.

Oroville Dam Without DWR? It’s a Possibility – Chico ER
A bill proposed by Assemblyman James Gallagher which would take the State Water Project out of the hands of the state Department of Water Resources passed unanimously on Tuesday through a legislative committee. Assembly Bill 3045 passed 15-0 through the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

City Officials Split on Who Should Pay for $17B California Delta Tunnels – Construction Dive
Both Los Angeles and San Diego have reduced their Metropolitan Water District usage, and those against the financing plan have said levying fees not in proportion with what customers use could be at odds with the state constitution and might open up the MWD to legal challenges.

$1.5 Billion Calif. Bridge Construction Reaches Milestone – Long Beach Press-Telegram
Workers have begun installing the super structure on the $1.5 billion Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement in Long Beach, Calif., preparing for an initial surface of concrete slabs. Construction of the second-tallest cable-stayed bridge in the US started in 2013, and it has faced cost overruns and delays.

California State Workers Will Keep Monthly PaydaysThe Sacramento Bee
Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, pitched a proposal to help lower-paid state workers better manage their finances by giving them two checks a month instead of one. Vidak’s office heard from state workers in Caltrans and at the Department of General Services who said they’d have a better handle on their budget if they were paid their wages more frequently.

April 23, 2018

California Announces Tentative Funding for New Giant Dams – SF Gate
California officials said Friday that eight major water projects qualify for a share of billions in state drought funds, an announcement that breathes new life into plans for two reservoir expansions in the Bay Area and two new massive dams in the Central Valley.

High-Speed Rail Project Vastly Underestimated Cost of Relocating Utility Lines Beneath Fresno Los Angeles Times
Buried beneath Fresno were some costly surprises for the California bullet train authority, which disclosed last week that the price of utility relocations along a 29-mile section of railway has surged from a 2013 estimate of $69 million to $396 million.

Can California Fix Its Sexual Harassment Problem? State Workers Are Trying  – The Sacramento Bee
This week, the state will begin providing mandatory, three-day training sessions for EEO officers, covering sweeping topics right down to the nitty-gritty of writing reports as it grapples with tracking and uniformly handling workplace sexual harassment cases.

Three sexual harassment lawsuits later, he’s still working for the state of California  – The Sacramento Bee
Dennis B. Kellogg has spent nearly three decades as a California state employee. He has moved nine times around six different departments in his tenure as a labor relations specialist – and he has been the focus of three sexual harassment lawsuits, two of which settled in the last 10 years for $841,500.

April 19, 2018

Oroville Dam Phase Two of Construction Expected to Start May 8 – Chico Enterprise Record
While some construction continues at Oroville Dam, the bulk of work under phase two is expected to begin May 8, state Department of Water Resources officials said Wednesday in a monthly media update call.

Caltrans Releases Bicycle, Pedestrian Plan To Improve Transport – SF Gate
Caltrans has released its first-ever bicycle and pedestrian plan to improve and organize “active transportation” methods in California. The plan sets a goal of creating safe biking and walking conditions on California roads for people of all ages, abilities and incomes by 2040.

California’s Largest Pension Fund Sends Next Year’s Invoice to State Government: $6.3 Billion –  Los Angeles Times
The California Public Employees Retirement System voted to require an almost $6.3-billion payment from the state budget in the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The action received final approval on Wednesday, reflecting the board’s strategy to gradually increase annual contributions to public employee pensions by the state and from local governments across California while investing those funds more conservatively.

$1B in Emergency Road and Bridge Funds Awarded – Roads & Bridges
The Federal Highway Administration has announced that California will receive $241.6 million of more than $1 billion in Emergency Relief funds. The money will help 32 states, several U.S. territories and Federal Land Management Agencies repair roads and bridges damaged by storms, floods and other unexpected events. (To see the national list by state and event, click here.)

April 16, 2018

Feds Plan to Audit California High-Speed Rail Project – Associated Press
The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded $3.5 billion in grants for a high-speed rail line in California, and the US Department of Transportation plans to audit the project. Costs have increased since the project was first announced, and the California authority behind the rail line says it will cooperate with the audit.

Delta Tunnel Vote Will Raise Water Bills as State Improves Water Delivery Infrastructure – Long Beach Post
What does last week’s vote by the Metropolitan Water District – approving nearly $11 billion in funding for the Delta twin tunnels water project – mean for customers? An average $4.80 per month increase for water service. Here’s why.

White House, Congress Side With California Growers Over Raising Shasta Dam – San Francisco Chronicle
Congress and the Trump administration are pushing ahead with a plan to raise a towering symbol of dam-building’s 20th century heyday to meet the water demands of 21st century California — a project backed by San Joaquin Valley growers but opposed by state officials, defenders of a protected river and an American Indian tribe whose sacred sites would be swamped.

Cuomo Signs Bill That Gives Unions More Power to Recruit Members Despite Supreme Court Case – New York Daily News
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill last week to give unions a boost even if the Supreme Court rules against them in Janus v. AFSCME. The new law would make it easier for public workers’ unions to recruit members — and allow them to deny extra services to people who refuse to join.

April 12, 2018

Southern California Water Agency Votes to Fund Controversial Plan to Build Two Delta Tunnels – Los Angeles Times
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted Tuesday to shoulder most of the cost of revamping the system that delivers water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta to the Southland, committing nearly $11 billion to building two massive tunnels.

I-5 is ‘Falling Apart,’ and a Massive Fix is Coming – The Sacramento Bee
Tests show portions of I-5 in south Sacramento no longer provide minimal grip for tires. Other sections are cracked and cratered enough to knock car tires out of alignment, according to state engineers. Caltrans announced a three year project beginning next spring to overhaul much of the 43-year-old freeway from Elk Grove to downtown Sacramento.

California State Workers Would Get Paid Twice a Month If This Bill Passes – The Sacramento Bee
The proposal would require the state to pay state workers twice a month, but it would take at least $1 million and a year or more execute.

Caltrans Annual Tribute To Fallen Workers – KUSI
Two cones were added for Tuesday’s memorial in San Diego to represent Caltrans District 4 Bay Bridge Toll Collector Si Si Han and District 4 Structural Steel Painter Supervisor Annette Brooks, who lost their lives in 2017. Since 1920, Caltrans has lost 188 employees in the line of duty.

Commentary: States Likely Can’t Fund Trump’s Infrastructure Plan – The Hill
States probably won’t be able to raise the capital needed to implement President Trump’s infrastructure plan: Since 2012, 31 states, including California, have raised infrastructure spending through gas-tax increases, fees, tolling, leasing, bonding and transfers from general funds. Meanwhile, Trump’s plan provides federal seed money for up to 20 percent of a project’s cost; state and local authorities would have to come up with the rest.

April 9, 2018

SB 1 Funds Allow Caltrans to Add Many Overdue Road Improvements – SCV News
Caltrans submitted its 2018 State Highway Operations and Protection Program to the California State Legislature last week, anticipating nearly 1,000 projects totaling $18 billion.  That was $7 billion more than the 2016 SHOPP proposal and a sign that SB 1 money has allowed the department to accelerate projects previously held back due to a lack of funds.

After Heavy Rains, First Use of Partly Rebuilt Oroville Dam Spillway Now ‘Unlikely’ – The Sacramento Bee
Last week, the California Department of Water Resources said the storm might cause water levels in the Lake Oroville reservoir to rise to the “trigger elevation” of 830 feet. At that point, DWR officials planned to open the spillway gates and release water down the 3,000-foot-long concrete chute. But the lake level only reached 799.7 feet over the weekend.

Southern California Might Pay for Two Delta Tunnels After All – The Sacramento Bee
The Metropolitan Water District, in a memo Friday to its Board, said board members will vote on supporting one of two options for the controversial project: Spend about $5 billion to help pay for a single tunnel or spend nearly $11 billion to fund the majority share of two tunnels.

White House Seeks to Speed Reviews of Major Infrastructure Projects – Reuters
The Trump Administration is announcing a new effort to speed environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects.

News of Note

Caltrans is Desperate to Fill Thousands of New Jobs 
March 13, 2018 The Sacramento Bee

Landmark Infrastructure Funding Bill Spurs Major Job Creation in California
February 5, 2018 Engineering News-Record Spotlight on Labor

2017 News of Note Archive

Public Employees Should Control CalPERS Election, by Mark Sheahan
September 18, 2017 The Sacramento Bee Letters to the Editor

Don’t Waste Highway Money on Greedy Private Contractors, by Bruce Blanning
July 3, 2017 The Sacramento Bee

2016 News of Note Archive

2015 News of Note Archive

Blame Politicians, Not the Bridge Builders
by Roy Flores, PECG Past President
November 6, 2015 The San Diego Union Tribune Letter to the Editor

California State Engineers Ratify Contract
October 28, 2015 The Sacramento Bee

State Engineers Okay Contract That Requires They Pay for Retiree Benefits
October 14, 2015 The Sacramento Bee

Brown Signs Labor Agreements
September 22, 2015 Capital Public Radio

PG&E’s ‘Shady’ Conduct Hindered Probe, Investigators Say
September 12, 2015 San Francisco Chronicle

Deal Requires State Workers to Pay Ahead for Retiree Health Care
September 1, 2015 The Sacramento Bee

State Government Union Reaches Deal on Retiree Healthcare
September 1, 2015 Los Angeles Times

California State Engineers Reach Contract Deal With Jerry Brown
August 31, 2015 The Sacramento Bee

Despite Vehicle-Tracking System, Caltrans Employees Speeding More
Sacramento Bee

Breaking Trust,
by Art Duffy
August 21, 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Letters to the Editor

Letters: Taxes Wasted on No-Bid Contracts
August 15, 2015 Orange County Register

Brown’s Retiree Health Care Proposal Stalls
August 13, 2015 Capital Public Radio

CalPERS Investments Are Solid,
by Cathrina Barros
August 8, 2015 The Sacramento Bee Letters to the Editor

Pensions, Contracts on August Agenda
The Sacramento Bee

Jerry Brown, Employee Unions Set to Tangle Over Health Insurance
January 25, 2015 The Sacramento Bee

2014 News of Note Archive

Caltrans Outfits Fleet With High-Tech Devices
October 10, 2014 The Sacramento Bee

What California State Workers Earn: Engineers
June 26, 2014 The Sacramento Bee

Hearing Date Set for California Civil Engineers’ Furlough Case
June 23, 2014 
The Sacramento Bee