PECG Media Briefing

December 6, 2018

Opinion: Pensions are promises California must keepSan Francisco Chronicle
Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, writes, “As the state Supreme Court considers two cases that raise important retirement issues, there is much legal wrangling over the narrow issues being litigated. Unfortunately, it is being accompanied by political rhetoric challenging the wisdom of the legal principle that underlies these cases — a principle known as the California Rule.”

Promised pension benefits in California can be cut, Jerry Brown’s attorneys argue, union says no – The Sacramento Bee
Attorneys representing Cal FIRE Local 2881 and Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration debated Wednesday before the State Supreme about whether the opportunity to purchase “air time” is a vested pension benefit or subject to change or elimination, even for current employees. Air time allowed employees to buy up to five years of service credit to boost their pensions.   The Governor’s lawyer argued the opportunity to buy air time, which a 2012 law now prohibits, can be changed prospectively by the Legislature. The union’s lawyer cited decades of case law that has been consistently interpreted as protecting promised public pensions – including the option to buy air time – from any reductions.  The court will return a decision within 60 days.

My turn: California must keep its promise to our public servantsCALmatters
CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost explains what the retirement fund is doing “to strengthen the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, on behalf of all Californians.”

Disneyland cooling tower was likely source of all 22 Legionnaires’ cases – Los Angeles Times
Christopher Casteel, a Department of Industrial Relations associate safety engineer – and PECG member – testified during a hearing on Tuesday that cleaning records showed Disneyland did not follow guidelines to disinfect its cooling towers, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.  State and local authorities said one of the towers was the likely source for a 2017 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that made 22 people ill.  Earlier this year, Cal-OSHA cited and fined Disneyland $33,000 for the cleaning violation. Disneyland appealed the citation at a two-day hearing this week that included Casteel’s testimony. A Cal-OSHA administrative law judge will rule within 60 days.

Yuba-Sutter-Colusa bridge projects completed with Senate Bill 1 funding – Appeal-Democrat
Several bridge improvement projects were completed in the region with funding from Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.  According to a news release, Caltrans completed nine bridges in five counties. Several of the improvements were made in Yuba, Sutter, and Colusa counties.

December 3, 2018

Public employees won’t recover union fees after court ruling The Sacramento Bee
A Washington judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force public employee unions to give back “fair share” fees contractually collected from non-members. The anti-union Freedom Foundation, which has filed similar suits around the country, hopes to exploit the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to end government union fees from employees who benefit from union representation, such as collective bargaining.  Robert Bryan, the judge who heard the case in the U.S. district court in Tacoma, ruled that unions collected the fees in good faith in keeping with state and federal laws.

Huge Delta water deal backed by Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Brown, Kevin McCarthyThe Sacramento Bee
California’s most senior Democrat and most powerful Republican in Washington are teaming up to extend a federal law designed to deliver more Northern California water south, despite the objections of some of the state’s environmentalists.

Post-Fire Restoration Work Will Prompt Closures Along PCH In Malibu Area CBS Los Angeles
Work to stabilize hillsides and repair infrastructure damaged in the Woolsey Fire will prompt the closure, beginning Monday (today), of segments along a 20-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in the Malibu area, Caltrans announced Friday.

How Vulnerable Are Bay Area Bridges to a Major Earthquake?NBC Bay Area
While California’s Department of Transportation has retrofitted thousands of bridges across the state to better withstand a major earthquake, NBC Bay Area’s investigation found thousands more at potential risk should the earth start shaking significantly. “For years we have not properly funded our transportation system and we’re seeing a lot of the effects of that,” says Caltrans Director Laurie Berman.

Caltrans re-opens Hwy 1 in Big Sur – KSBW
After two days of significant storm activity, State Route 1 re-opened at Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide in Big Sur. Caltrans crews assessed damage at both locations Friday morning and re-opened the roadway at noon.

PECG Media Briefing Archive

November 2018

November 30, 2018

Caltrans Officially Kills 710 Extension Project After Decades Of DebateCBS Los Angeles
The 710 Freeway extension project is officially dead after six decades of debate over lengthening the busy interstate route from Alhambra to Pasadena. Caltrans announced Wednesday that it had finalized a report endorsing local street improvements instead of a freeway tunnel.

Caltrans looks at future of Route 1Point Reyes Light
Caltrans has presented possible strategies to address the increasing difficulty and cost of keeping Highway 1 in Marin and Sonoma Counties open in the face of climate change.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger Proposes ‘Emergency Plan’ After 5 Freeway TrafficKHTS
During Tuesday’s Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, Barger proposed a partnership between agencies, including Caltrans, involved in the 5 Freeway improvements and suggested they report back monthly to identify traffic patterns and an emergency plan.  The emergency plan would be implemented if the I-5 shut down for accidents, weather or construction.

Trump Administration Ponies Up $449M for New California DamCourthouse News Service
In an effort to boost California’s water infrastructure and alleviate the state’s perpetual drought worries, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday his department will spend more than $449 million to help fund projects to increase the reliability and efficiency of the water supply across the state.

November 26, 2018

Cal Expo cop’s lawsuit targets union lock on state worker paychecks – The Sacramento Bee
A state fair police officer is suing his union because it won’t let him quit paying dues, challenging a common provision in California public employee contracts that forbids workers from leaving their labor organizations while contracts are in effect. Terry Cooley of Galt filed the case in federal court this month with help from a pair of attorneys who have sued several California public unions since the Supreme Court in June handed down a ruling that bans labor organizations from collecting fees from workers who don’t want to join them.

Latest phase of the 5 Freeway widening project completed in Norwalk – Whittier Daily News
Another milestone in the ongoing widening of the 5 Freeway was completed Wednesday: Caltrans opened a new Norwalk Boulevard off-ramp from the northbound side of the freeway. It’s part of the $1.8 billion, 6.7-mile 5 Freeway project to add a carpool and regular lanes on each side of the existing six-lane freeway from the Orange County border to the 605 Freeway.

Big Sur: Soil “settling” behind the cracks on new highway projectMercury News
Soil settlement rather than continued sliding is behind the cracks forming along newly repaired Highway 1 at Mud Creek, where a spectacular washout had closed the scenic cliff-hugging roadway for 14 months, according to geologic experts. Caltrans engineers have been monitoring the road since the cracks appeared in August and began unnerving local residents. Both Caltrans and independent experts insist the southern gateway to Big Sur on Highway 1 is safe but to expect further cracking as the soil under the fresh asphalt continues to settle.

Editorial: Newsom should pay down California’s huge pension debt – Mercury News
If credit card payments were squeezing our budget and our wealthy aunt suddenly left us money, most of us would use the windfall to pay down our debt. That would certainly be the responsible thing to do. California government should be no different.

November 21, 2018

Bullet-train land acquisitions are moving so slowly a judge hearing the cases calls it a ‘lifetime job’ – Los Angeles Times
Once a month, Judge Edward M. Ross packs his car and drives 200 miles to preside over the biggest government taking of private land for one project in recent California history. His workload — much like the commute — seems to drag on.

Fate of Highway 1’s Last Wooden Trestle Bridge Spurs Fight on North Coast – NBC Bay Area
Albion River Bridge was built in 1942 during World War II, constructed of Douglas fir lumber hauled in from Oregon due to a wartime shortage of concrete and steel. While some 20 other wooden bridges along Highway 1 have since been replaced, Albion River Bridge survived — carrying 3,200 cars a day. Yet the wooden timbers that make the bridge unique, are also why Caltrans believes it now needs to be replaced.  Albion residents, however, say the bridge is an indispensable iconic feature that reflects the region’s spirit.

November 19, 2018

Failure of Prop 6 Allows Caltrans to Continue Work on Bay Area Road Projects – KCBS
Road projects in all nine Bay Area counties can continue as planned now that Prop 6 has been voted down. This 55-second audio report features Caltrans District 4 Director Tony Tavares.

Sensitive to smoke? State workers can ask to work from home or take vacation The Sacramento Bee
State workers who are sensitive to the smoke that has settled in downtown Sacramento can ask their supervisors to work from home, CalHR spokesman Andrew LaMar said. If that’s not possible, public employees can use vacation hours and stay home.

Key design flaws found in FIU bridge that had deadly
Designers overestimated the strength of a critical section of a Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed, killing six people, and they underestimated the load on that same section, federal investigators reported.

As CalPERS rates climb, how high can they go? – Calpensions
A new report shows a third of local governments in CalPERS will have police and firefighter employer rates next fiscal year that are at least 50 percent of pay, a level that a former CalPERS chief actuary believed a decade ago would be “unsustainable.”

November 15, 2018

DWR: Camp Fire poses no threat to Oroville DamWestern Farm Press
Northern California’s deadly Camp Fire poses no immediate threat to the Oroville Dam, state Department of Water Resources officials say. Crews are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of other water infrastructure, including power plants and power lines, the agency reported in a press statement.

California Tunnels Project Circling the Drain After ElectionsBloomberg
This month’s elections may have mortally wounded California’s chances for a long-delayed $23 billion water tunnel project. The project’s biggest cheerleader, Gov. Jerry Brown (D), is leaving office because of term limits and his successor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), lacks’ Brown’s enthusiasm for the tunnels.

After voters keep gas tax, plans for 15 Freeway toll lanes from Corona to Lake Elsinore move aheadPress-Enterprise
Inland officials are taking a first step toward building more toll lanes on the 15 Freeway. Express lanes are already being built on the 15, between the 60 Freeway and Cajalco Road in Corona, at a cost of $471 million, and are expected to open by mid-2020. Now transportation officials are laying the groundwork for extending those lanes — two in each direction — 14 miles farther south to Highway 74 in Lake Elsinore.

Investors With $4.8 Trillion, Including CalPERS, Push Gun Industry for ReformBloomberg
CalPERS and 12 other investors and money managers with more than $4.8 trillion in combined assets are banding together for the first time to pressure gun manufacturers and sellers to make firearms “safer, more secure and easier to trace.”

Bay Area ‘hidden freeways’ that were never builtABC 7
As long as cars have been on our streets, California highway planners have seen the need for a network of roads to move cars faster and more efficiently around the Bay Area. Decades later, a lot of that network is in place. But many of the roads envisioned by planners years ago were never built.

November 13, 2018

Trump approves major disaster declaration for California as fires rage onUSA Today
In a Monday night tweet, President Trump said he approved an expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration, which followed a state of emergency declaration on Nov. 8. Fires continue to burn throughout the state and so far have killed more than 40 people and burned more than 6,000 structures and around 200,000 acres. A Major Disaster Declaration provides funds to affected communities for everything from crisis counseling and housing to public assistance for state and local governments to repair and replace disaster-damaged facilities and infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities.

California Supreme Court Sets Oral Arguments on Public Pension RightsChief Investment Officer
The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Dec. 5 in a case with potential national implications as to whether pension benefits can be reduced for existing public employees.

Cost of building Southland section of bullet train could jump by $11 billion, documents showLos Angeles Times
The cost of constructing the Southern California section of the state bullet train could jump by as much as $11 billion over estimates released earlier this year, though rail authority officials caution that their new numbers assume a more expansive design than is likely to be built.

Opinion: Incoming Gov. Newsom Will Have to Clean Up Jerry Brown’s LeftoversCALmatters
Gavin Newsom will not begin his governorship in January with a budget deficit, but nevertheless, Gov. Jerry Brown will leave him a stack of knotty managerial and policy issues. The two most obvious are Brown’s two pet public works projects, twin tunnels to carry water beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a north-south bullet train.

November 8, 2018

California voters reject gas tax repealMercury News
“California voters are smart, and they don’t like to be deceived,” said Carl Guardino, a member of the California Transportation Commission. “The more it became clear what was at risk — the safety of our highways and bridges, the loss of funding for traffic relief and transit alternatives, the ongoing frustration of potholes and a lack of road and street maintenance — the more people saw through it.”

Effort to Kneecap Gas Tax Revenue Fails in CaliforniaRoute Fifty
California voters rejected a ballot measure that would have repealed an increase in the state’s gas tax and upended funding sources for needed repairs to roads and bridges. According to vote tallies as of 12 midnight PST Wednesday, Measure 6 failed on a 45 percent to 55 percent vote. As Los Angeles Times transportation reporter Laura Nelson observed Tuesday night, there was a pronounced geographic split in support for and against the measure.

Calif. High-Speed Rail Agency Tries to Stay on TrackEngineering News-Record
Despite uncertainty about the next governor’s support and the passion of critics who want it canceled, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is carrying on for now with $3 billion worth of work on three sections. Viaducts are rising, trenches are being built, salamanders relocated.

 Trial date set for Oroville Dam lawsuits against DWRChico Enterprise-Record
A June 1, 2020,  trial date has been set to hear several lawsuits against the state Department of Water Resources over the Oroville Dam crisis. Plaintiffs include: PG&E, Butte County, the city of Oroville, Bains Properties, LP, and Bains Farming, LP; Goose Club Farms, LLC; the South Feather Water and Power Agency and the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority; JEM Farms, LP, et al; and residents forced to evacuate when officials feared mass flooding from the failing spillway was eminent.

Caltrans Executive Director Laurie Berman Speaks of Changes Afoot at the State DOT Streetsblog
Streetsblog sat down recently to talk with the Caltrans Director Laurie Berman about her job. The conversation ranged widely, covering the shifting culture at Caltrans, the department’s goals to get more people using environmentally benign transportation modes, climate change, induced demand, and changing California’s built environment.

November 5, 2018

Gov. Jerry Brown bashes gas tax repeal in rare campaign stop The Sacramento Bee
California Gov. Jerry Brown made a rare appearance on the 2018 campaign trail Friday, joining a final push against an effort to roll back a gas tax hike he championed to pay for highway repairs.  Brown said the initiative was cooked up by “shady politicians” who want to fool Californians.

Oroville Dam repairs aren’t enough, feds warn. Should state be forced to plan for a mega-flood? The Sacramento Bee

Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a mega-flood.  That finding could mean public agencies that store water in Lake Oroville will have to spend millions of dollars to upgrade the dam.

Caltrans, SANDAG Kick Off I-5 North County ExpansionKPBS
Local, state and federal transportation officials Friday held a press event marking the start of construction on eight miles of new carpool lanes on Interstate-5 in Carlsbad and Encinitas.  The project is part of the larger North Coast Corridor program to add 13 miles of carpool lanes, seven miles of bike and pedestrian paths and 1.5 miles of rail corridor double tracking in North County.  Most of the state’s $250 million contribution to the project comes from SB 1, the law passed in Sacramento last year that raised the gas tax and vehicle fees.

$1 billion lawsuit over CalPERS insurance rates moves forward with trial date The Sacramento Bee
A class-action lawsuit that could cost CalPERS $1 billion is headed to trial in June, and many of the 122,000 retirees who bought an insurance plan at the center of the case are receiving small checks from an agreement that settled a portion of the claims.  The lawsuit alleges the pension fund carried out a contract-breaking rate hike on their long-term health care plans five years ago.

Skanska Books $100M Write-Off On P3s As US Civil Chief Exits That Role  Engineering News-Record
Sweden-based contractor Skanska A.B. is quitting its U.S. markets for privatized infrastructure development, after accumulating large losses on major contracts.  Under new U.S. leadership, the company also seeks to divest its U.S. power construction business, but will still pursue infrastructure design-build work.

November 1, 2018

Gas tax is needed to meet key freeway projects, California emissions goals, bipartisan group saysRedlands Daily
A bipartisan group of elected officials gathered in Diamond Bar Wednesday to argue for continuation of gas tax and vehicle license fee hikes imposed by state lawmakers last year, saying the monies from SB 1 are earmarked for key freeway and light-rail extension projects that would be left undone without the extra dollars.

Why You Should Keep An Eye On The Effort To Repeal California’s Gas TaxHuffington Post
Improving California’s bad roads ― by fixing potholes that damage cars and correcting poor highway design that causes congestion, for example ― is expected to save drivers more money on gas and repair costs than they’re paying in gas taxes.

Officials: California dam spillway will be ready for rainThe Associated Press
California water officials said Wednesday that the $1.1 billion spillway at the nation’s tallest dam will be in full working order if it’s needed this winter, nearly two years after it was damaged and thousands were forced to flee. Crews have finished pouring concrete on the main spillway at Oroville Dam, though it still needs to cure for a month and other work is necessary before it can be used.

Privatization or Not, Governments’ Responsibilities Never EndGoverning
The bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy illustrates that government can never abdicate its responsibility to provide reliable infrastructure.

October 2018

October 29, 2018

Proposition 6: Rough Roads Ahead If California Repeals Its Gas Tax – Capital & Main
Beyond jeopardizing road repairs and mass transit, Prop. 6 would strike at the very nature of governance itself in the Golden State.

Protect road safety, vote No on Prop. 6 – Napa Valley Register
A measure on the November ballot puts the safety and quality of our roads and bridges at risk.

$1B freeway planned in California – ABC7
The new 16-mile freeway will start at an interchange on I-215 at Placentia Avenue and stretch eastward, eventually taking over the thoroughfare currently traversed by the Ramona Expressway. It will provide an alternative to State Route 60 to the north and State Route 74 to the south.

Judge tentatively rules against opponents of California high-speed rail project – ABC7
A judge has tentatively rejected arguments by the opponents of California’s high-speed rail project that the state is improperly spending voter-approved bond money. The lawsuit centers on a 2016 law passed by the California Legislature that allows some bond money to be spent on projects such as electrifying existing rail lines.

Why is Caltrans closing Tower Bridge? It’s sagging and needs new suspenders – The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento’s iconic Tower Bridge is 82 years old. With age, there’s sagging. Bridge inspectors last year noticed the cables that help lift the main span for tall ships have stretched 14 inches longer than they once were – a sign that time, weather, and stress have taken a toll. So the golden span is getting fitted with new suspenders.

October 25, 2018

Sweet contracts, tricky rules help California unions hold on after court loss – The Sacramento Bee
California public employee unions can celebrate a little good news in the months since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that stripped them of millions of dollars in revenue and threatened their influence in the state: So far, workers are not leaving their unions in high numbers. In fact, some labor organizations are gaining members.  Professional Engineers in California Government, for example, gained about 340 members, according to state payroll data. “PECG delivers,” said Ted Toppin, the union’s executive director. The union negotiated a two-year contract with a base raise of 8.5 percent and some sweeteners that included longevity pay for longtime workers. “PECG does deliver competitive pay, pension protection, the best health care in the state and job protection from outsourcing.”

Which California state worker unions gained members after Supreme Court’s Janus ruling? – The Sacramento Bee
PECG is among the state employee unions that have gained members since a key legal ruling ended so-called “fair share” fees last summer. Overall, unions that represent California state employees defied expectations and notched a slight increase in total membership after the Supreme Court in June handed down the Janus decision that dealt government labor organizations a serious financial blow.

Gas tax repeal lacks ‘momentum’ in new poll of California voters – Merced Sun-Star
A high-profile initiative to repeal the recent increase to gasoline and diesel taxes continues to lag with likely California voters. Just 41 percent plan to vote for Proposition 6, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, while 48 percent are opposed. That result is similar to a PPIC survey last month, when the measure trailed 39 percent to 52 percent among likely voters.

A wake-up call for investment in America’s transportation infrastructure – The Seattle Times
Recently, the world learned yet again that inadequate investment in infrastructure — roads, bridges, tunnels, and railways — can have tragic consequences. This time, those consequences befell the people of Genoa, Italy, where the collapse of a 51-year-old bridge killed 43 people.  Polling shows U.S. taxpayers want money invested to restore the nation’s public transit systems to a state of good repair would create 162,000 new jobs and generate over $180 billion in economic activity over a six-year period.

October 22, 2018

Sacramento’s roadways are in bad shape and getting worse, study says – The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento has some of the worst urban roadways in the nation, a recent study shows. About 41 percent of the Sacramento area’s roads are rated in “poor condition,” according to a report on urban road quality released Wednesday by nonprofit research group TRIP. That ranks No. 12 among the 20 large urban areas (population 500,000 or higher) with the nation’s most deteriorated roads and highways.

Will Brown get chance to defend pension reform? – Calpensions
A case challenging part of Gov. Brown’s 2013 pension reform law — which some think could result in a major ruling allowing unprecedented public pension cuts — will not be heard by the State Supreme Court until the first week of December, at the earliest. With a new governor taking office on Jan. 7, time is running out for the Brown administration to make oral arguments in the case.

California, U.S. environmental agencies are in talks with Volvo over emissions issue – Reuters
An issue with catalytic converters are causing some of Volvo’s vehicles to exceed nitrogen oxide emission limits. Over the last few weeks, the California Air Resources Board and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have been communicating with the car manufacturer about the problem to develop plans to quickly address the situation.

Redondo Beach officially opposes Prop. 6 – The Beach Reporter
Redondo Beach city council has taken a formal stance against Proposition 6, the November 2018 statewide ballot measure to repeal transportation funds generated by fuel and vehicle taxes implemented by legislature in 2017. Redondo is set to receive $1.2 million in state funding from the bill during fiscal year 2018-2019 and more than $19.3 million over the first ten years of the program, Public Works Director Ted Semaan said in an administrative report.

October 18, 2018

Vote ‘no’ on Prop. 6 — funding needed for California roads, transit San Francisco Chronicle
On Nov. 6 you will face a choice: A choice between a future of clogged and worsening roads or one that offers relief from endless traffic jams and bridges in need of repair. This future hinges on the outcome of Proposition 6, an initiative that seeks to repeal the $54 billion in transportation improvement projects that have been made possible due to the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2017. This landmark law is responsible for 6,500 projects in California moving forward, offering safer travel, reducing gridlock and improving transit operations.

Industry Fuels Battle to Stop California’s Anti-Tax Prop. 6 –  Engineering News-Record
More than 500 groups and organizations have united through the group California Alliance for Jobs to defeat Prop 6, says Associated General Contractors of California CEO Peter Tateishi. “It’s a huge coalition of people who don’t usually come together on issues.” Prop 6 is a “grave threat” to transportation infrastructure funding, says Emily Cohen, executive vice president of the 300-member United Contractors, which contributed $9 million to opposing it. “These projects would be fighting for general monies or relying on bonds to fix our roads forever.”

Redondo Beach officially opposes Prop. 6 The Beach Reporter
Redondo Beach city has taken a formal stance against Proposition 6, the November 2018 statewide ballot measure to repeal transportation funds generated by fuel and vehicle taxes implemented by legislature in 2017.

High-Speed Rail moves forward in Bakersfield KGET
Another portion of the high-speed rail project was voted on in Bakersfield Tuesday. Folks from the High-Speed Rail Authority calling it, “a major step forward.”

October 15, 2018

9 Months after Montecito Disaster, 7 Key Bridges in Various Stages of Rebuilding – Noozhawk
The flash flooding and debris flows that thundered through Montecito early on Jan. 9 destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes while killing 23 people. Now roads and bridges in the area are getting priority attention from Caltrans and its contractors.

Major projects at risk if voters kill California gas tax hike, officials say – San Francisco Chronicle
With the clock ticking toward the Nov. 6 election, state and local officials are frantically battling Proposition 6, a measure to repeal the 12-cent per gallon gas tax increase that state legislators passed last year as Senate Bill 1.  At risk, they say, are more than 400 transit infrastructure projects with plans shelved, construction frozen in place and millions of taxpayer dollars vaporized.

Prop. 6 is an attack on our roads and highways  – Ventura County Star
The first factor in keeping our roads safe is a driver who is alert, sober and completely engaged in the rules of the road. The second safety factor is well-maintained local streets, highways and railroad crossings. We can each take care of the first factor by driving with no distractions. But the second factor — the condition of our roads and highways — is under attack from Proposition 6 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Caltrans warns road improvement projects could be delayed, canceled if CA’s gas tax is repealed – ABC 7
There’s a dire warning from the state of California to just about anyone who owns a car: major road repair and improvement projects could be in jeopardy if voters repeal California’s gas tax in November.

Bridge shake test is part of earthquake engineering research for Caltrans – Nevada Today
The massive “shake table” at the University of Nevada, Reno, symbolizes a partnership with Caltrans to test innovative bridge designs that are quick to construct, stand up better against big earthquakes and, when damaged, can be easily repaired.

October 11, 2018

Prop 6 Mailer Made to Look Like Official Ballot ‘Correction’  –  NBC 7 San Diego
Reform California, the group that wants to repeal the gas tax, sent out millions of leaflets, which some believe are deceptive. Critics are calling it misleading and deceptive – a new Prop 6 political ad “pretending” to be an official correction to the sample ballots. Two million ads were sent by mail in the past few days.

SPUR Talk: Prop. 6 Would Make State Fall Apart – Streetsblog SF
Is California poised to bankrupt its transportation system? A host of projects across the state, from basic road repairs to Caltrain electrification, could screech to a halt if voters approve Proposition 6, an attempt to repeal Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1), last year’s 12-cent gas tax increase.

45,000 state workers will get a new family medical benefit next year – The Sacramento Bee
Tens of thousands of California state employees are expected to gain a new benefit next year that will let them take paid time off if they have a baby or must care for a family member experiencing a medical emergency. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is expanding paid family leave to about 45,000 managers and supervisors who are not represented by unions, according to a Sept. 24 memo from state Human Resources Director Adria Jenkins-Jones.

Gavin Newsom says he would scale back the bullet train and twin tunnels if elected – Los Angeles Times
If Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is elected governor as expected, he’ll keep building the state’s two contentious public works projects: the bullet train and twin water tunnels. But he’ll scale back both. Newsom will concentrate on completing a high-speed rail line from the San Joaquin Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area. As for the beleaguered water project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Newsom will try to reduce its size to one tunnel.

California High Speed Rail’s Plan for the Future – Streetsblog SF
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is striving to get some kind of starter service — from Silicon Valley to the San Joaquin Valley — operational by 2029, and maybe even a service that connects with Amtrak’s San Joaquin lines as early as 2026. The hope is that once a useful service is operational and heavily used, it will be easier to realize the completion of the entire project from Los Angeles to the Bay Area.

October 9, 2018

California candidates for governor clash over transportation issues – KTVU
With less than a month before the November election, transportation issues, such as how to pay for repairs to California’s crumbing roads and bridges, and the value of the state’s high-speed rail project, have put gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom and John Cox at odds.

Anti-gas tax mailer ‘corrects’ ballot question – ABC 10
A new political ad could be masquerading as an official correction to the sample ballots that hit mailboxes across San Diego.

CalPERS President Loses Her Board Seat – Chief Investment Officer
The president of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System board has been unseated by a Southern California police officer who ran an election campaign questioning the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment policies of the nation’s largest retirement plan.

Why did road under FIU bridge stay open? Federal judge blocks release of records – Miami Herald
A federal judge Friday blocked the release of documents that could shed light on why a busy road outside Miami was not shut down before a brand-new bridge developing severe cracks collapsed and killed six people.

October 4, 2018

California releases infrastructure report card – KTVU
In the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest report card, California’s bridges and transit receive C- grades and its roads received a D. In the introduction to the California report, ASCE urged residents to vote against Proposition 6 in the upcoming November election, asserting that passage would hurt the state’s ability to fund infrastructure.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao formalizes Interstate 5 grant. SB 1 funds still needed. – The Signal
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao came to the Santa Clarita Valley on Monday to present a $47 million federal grant to Metro to build truck lanes and extend carpool lanes running through the Santa Clarita Valley.  But a local official says that if California voters approve Proposition 6 – the November ballot measure that would cut off $5 billion in annual state infrastructure funding – the project would be dead despite the federal money.

Garcetti urges voters to reject Proposition 6 – Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined business and labor leaders Wednesday to urge voters to reject Proposition 6, saying a repeal of the state’s new gas tax could force years-long delays for dozens of transportation projects across Southern California.

A Race to the Finish on Oroville Dam Spillway Fix– Engineering News-Record
Seemingly chaotic but actually highly choreographed and sequenced, the $1.1-billion Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project moves at an ultra-fast-track pace for one important reason: to repair the structures in time to protect cities, farmland and hundreds of thousands of people downstream of Oroville Dam before Northern California’s rainy season begins in November.

October 1, 2018

Editorial: Vote no on Prop. 6 and yes for roads – Ventura County Star
The latest polling on Proposition 6 reveals much about the gas tax and registration fee increases that the measure seeks to rescind. Asked generally about the gas tax increase, 50 percent of those polled by the Public Policy Institute of California said they support repealing it, while only 46 percent oppose it. But when pollsters read the actual ballot title to folks, the results flip — only 39 percent support Prop. 6 and 52 percent oppose it.  Why? Because the Prop. 6 title begins, “Eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding.”

Editorial: Prop. 6 would put traffic solutions in reverse – Monterey Herald
If you drive a vehicle, you already know how bad our roads are. California’s roads are ranked as some of the worst in the country. Traffic congestion is driving many local residents crazy.  That’s why last year, state lawmakers approved SB 1, a 12 cents per gallon increase in the gas tax. Proposition 6 is a November ballot initiative that would repeal the gas tax increase — and would send efforts to finally deal with our crumbling roads, highways, bridges and transit alternatives into a jolting reverse.

What could derail ACE’s arrival in Modesto? Prop 6 and those backing it The Modesto Bee
The Altamont Corridor Express started 20 years ago backed by a joint powers authority and funded by a sales tax increase in San Joaquin County, whose residents suffer from some of America’s longest commutes. ACE ridership has doubled in the last six years to 5,000 a day, 1.3 million annually. It’s one of the fastest-growing train lines in the country.  But if Proposition 6 passes, much-needed expansion of the ACE line will be threatened.

Campaign to repeal gas tax short of cash as California Republican leaders focus funds on other contests – Los Angeles Times
Top Republicans in California appear to be shifting resources away from an issue they hoped would lure voters to the polls in November: repealing the gas tax. Construction firms, organized labor and Democrats have raised more than $30 million to defeat Proposition 6, while the main campaign committee in favor of the measure had just $83,291 in the bank as of Sept. 22, according to campaign finance statements made public Thursday.

Deadline nears for Oroville Dam spillway concrete placement – Chico Enterprise-Record
The state Department of Water Resources still expects to meet its quickly approaching Nov. 1 deadline to have all concrete placed on the Oroville Dam’s main spillway.

Trump signs bill requiring independent inspection of Oroville Dam – Chico Enterprise-Record
The U.S. Senate pushed forward a bill on Thursday that would require an independent risk analysis of the Oroville Dam, following a meeting last month between Butte County supervisors and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

September 2018

September 27, 2018

California ballot: Rent control loses, gas tax stays in new pre-election pollEast Bay Times
Two of the most contentious measures on the November ballot — repealing California’s gas tax and empowering cities to expand rent control — are struggling to gain traction with voters six weeks before the election, according to a new poll. About half of likely voters say they would reject both measures, while a little more than a third would support them, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Gas tax repeal means a ‘grim’ future for Yuba CountyAppeal-Democrat
Yuba County stands to lose out on about $37 million over the next 10 years if state voters approve Proposition 6. One department head said the county would not be able to follow through on a number of road projects and there likely would be layoffs if the revenue source ceased to exist. “I cannot express enough how grim the situation would be for our department if indeed that proposition passes,” said Mike Lee, director of Public Works in Yuba County.

Long Road Still Ahead to Fund New California Water Storage ProjectsNews Deeply
California recently promised billions of dollars in bond funds to new water storage projects. But it remains to be seen if these projects can obtain water rights and regulatory approval to actually start construction. Proposition 1’s storage provisions were driven by the still common notion that expanding surface storage is the major way to end water problems.

Autostrade rejects ministry’s findings over Genoa bridgeReuters
Italy’s Autostrade, the private operator of the bridge that collapsed last month in the port city of Genoa killing 43 people, rejected on Tuesday the findings of a ministerial inquiry that blamed the toll road firm for the disaster. Autostrade said the report did not clarify the causes of the collapse or how it happened.

September 24, 2018

It’s hard to overstate how destructive Proposition 6 would be for California.  Vote no — Los Angeles Times
There is bipartisan agreement that California needs to fix its deteriorating transportation infrastructure, but even though everyone agrees on the need, some people don’t want to pay for it. The most logical way to fund these critical transportation improvements is the way California, and the federal government, have always done it: through “user fees” imposed on drivers.

Editorial | Proposition 6: Vote no because gas tax-funded improvements are much-needed — San Diego Union-Tribune
There’s one reason to reject the measure that deserves more attention: It’s that in a state in which many environmentalists believe cars are evil, the 2017 tax legislation amounts to an affirmation that our roads and freeways are and will be hugely important for many years to come.

Hating Caltrans isn’t a good enough reason to repeal the gas tax — The Sacramento Bee
If Caltrans weren’t such an easy target for criticism, the decision on Proposition 6 would be clear.  Despite those misgivings, voters should reject the Nov. 6 ballot measure – and keep the gas tax increase that is paying to repair crumbling bridges and roads, including busy commuter routes such as Highway 50 and Interstate 5 in Sacramento.

Economic Analysis Shows Value of Investing in WaterFix: California Water Users Will See Benefits Far Exceeding Costs, DWR Reports — Sierra Sun Times
Last week, the Department of Water Resources released a Benefit-Cost Analysis for California that finds WaterFix could bring billions of dollars in benefits to Californians who obtain their water from participating State Water Project contractors. These benefits include improved water quality, more reliable water supplies, enhanced disaster preparedness, and climate change resilience.

Amid Investigation, Architect Offers Design To Replace Collapsed Genoa Bridge — Engineering News-Record
As investigations continue into the cause of last month’s Polcevera viaduct collapse, with consequences of possible criminal liability, the Italian government has taken steps to replace the structure in Genoa and safeguard infrastructure around the country.

September 20, 2018

More Than $1B Has Gone Into Opening Up the Border – Here’s What It’s Done So Far – Voice of San Diego
The federal government and local agencies have been investing millions of dollars in recent years in border infrastructure to facilitate the efficient, legal flow of goods and people across the U.S. -Mexico border.  Here is a rundown of the expansions, upgrades and new border infrastructure that has come online in the past few years, including Otay Mesa East, which began among regional transportation planners of Caltrans, SANDAG and the state of Baja California more than 10 years ago. Those regional entities continue to lead the project.

My turn: Here’s where gas tax repeal would hurt the most – CALmatters
Poor, rural communities in the state cannot afford to repair these roads on their own. Due to a lack of funding and delayed repairs, the damage to many roads is so extensive that they cannot simply be repaved, they have to be replaced. Much of this needed work is paid for by Senate Bill 1, California’s so-called “gas tax” approved by the Legislature in 2017.  A national coalition of anti-tax advocates has funded Proposition 6 on the November ballot to repeal that legislation. If passed, Proposition 6 would hurt our state’s underserved communities the most.

No on Prop 6 campaign urges residents to vote against gas tax repeal – FOX 5 San Diego
San Diego public safety officers and local business and government leaders rallied Monday in opposition of Proposition 6, which would repeal a law that provides more than $5 billion annually to state and local infrastructure projects. The gathering of San Diego firefighters, civil engineers, construction workers and local leaders listed repairs to an estimated 600 miles of pavement on streets and highways around San Diego that Proposition 6 would put in jeopardy if voters pass it in November.

Bill to allow citizen oversight of Oroville Dam signed into law – KRCR-TV
A bill that will allow citizen oversight of the Oroville Dam, and the public safety issues that come along with it, was signed into law this week by Governor Jerry Brown. Governor Brown signed into law Senator Jim Nielsen’s legislation to create the Citizens Advisory Commission for Oroville Dam. The measure empowers residents to be involved in public safety issues relating to the dam.

September 17, 2018

Working group recommends steps to make California’s infrastructure climate-safe – Lake County News
A new report recommends that California begin to harden state infrastructure against the growing threats of climate change.  Paying it Forward: The Path Toward Climate-Safe Infrastructure in California, explains the challenges posed by higher temperatures, more frequent and intense storms, drought, wildfires and sea-level rise and recommends steps to design and build infrastructure to withstand those threats.  In 2016, PECG and the Union of Concerned Scientists co-sponsored legislation that created the working group responsible for issuing the report.  PECG members Bruce Swanger, Martha Brook, and Gurdeep Bhattal were among the engineering, design, and scientific experts who contributed to the report.

Our view: Prop. 6 is California’s road back to the past. Don’t take it – San Francisco Business Times
SB 1 will touch virtually every community in the state. It will help fund projects as grand as extending BART to San Jose, and as humble as repairing potholes or repaving thousands of local surface roads. More than 550 bridges, many overdue for renovation, would be repaired or replaced as well.

Caltrans Finds Vulnerabilities In At Least 70 Concrete Slabs On Interstate 5 – CBS
Caltrans inspections have revealed at least 70 concrete slabs in need of repair or replacement on Interstate 5 in the Sacramento area.  Caltrans says the problem is long-delayed work and quick fix projects in place of the road work that was needed due to funding issues.

More critical water storage is finally coming to California. It took nearly 40 years. – McClatchy
California officials have been pushing for more natural water storage since the last large-scale facility was built in 1979. Now they’re finally going to get it.

September 13, 2018

Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur competing for national transportation award – Paso Robles Daily News
A Caltrans’ Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge project is in the running for an award by the  American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). “The Big Sur community was cut off. We needed to make sure that the bridge was replaced as soon as possible — and we did,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman.  The project was completed in just eight months, a process that would normally take about eight years.

Del Norte County Supervisors oppose Proposition 6 – KIEM-TV
The 3-2 vote reverses the board’s prior public support of the November 6 California ballot measure, which would cut off more than $5 billion in annual revenue for California infrastructure projects.  The board changed course after state Sen. Mike McGuire and others pointed out that the county would lose funds for its Last Chance Grade highway project.

Lane Construction JV wins $673M California I-10 contract – Construction Dive
Lane Construction Corp. announced that it has won, as part of a design-build joint venture with Security Paving Co., a $673 million contract to build express lanes along Interstate 10 in Southern California. Lane’s portion of the contract is valued at $404 million.

Genoa Bridge Collapse: The Road to Tragedy – The New York Times
How and why the Italian bridge fell, from design flaws and maintenance failures to a blow-by-blow account of the collapse itself that draws on interviews and footage from the scene.

September 10, 2018

High-speed rail officials update public on Burbank-to-L.A. section of project – Los Angeles Times
The proposed route hasn’t changed since the last time it was discussed in Burbank and Glendale about two years ago. However, the train would travel underground using a proprietary railway as it approaches the north side of the Hollywood Burbank Airport, and it would have its station platform at that location below roadway traffic.

Caltrans demolishes piers from old Bay Bridge – ABC
Caltrans demolished the final two piers that held up the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge. The piers, buried deep in the bay mud, supported the old eastern span of the bay bridge. Once that span was torn down, the piers were no longer needed. Caltrans destroyed the first of them in September of 2015, about three years and one week before this final demolition.

Caltrans to improve safety, mobility of railways with help of grant – Lake County News
Caltrans will improve the safety, mobility, and efficiency of railways across the state thanks in part to an $11.3 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement. California’s CRISI grant application included matching funds totaling $6.3 million from funds provided by Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

September 6, 2018

California dam repairs hit $1.1 billion, could climb higher – Associated Press/SFGate
The cost of repairs and other improvements stemming from last year’s near-disaster at the nation’s tallest dam is $1.1 billion, a staggering total nearly $250 million over projections at the start of the year and that could go higher, California officials said Wednesday.

CalPERS Hits It Big with Infrastructure Returns – Chief Investment Officer
Infrastructure investments resulted in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s (CalPERS) best-producing returns in the latest fiscal year ending June 30, a 20.6% net return, but competition among institutional investors for infrastructure assets makes it difficult to grow the portfolio size. And CalPERS’ almost $5 billion infrastructure program is so small given the size of the largest US pension plan, that it represents just over 1% of the assets of the $352 billion fund.

Proposition 6: The Fight Over Last Year’s California Gas Tax Hike – Capital Public Radio
Californians will be voting on 11 ballot measures in November. One of the most contested  is Proposition 6, which would reverse last year’s fuel tax and vehicle fee increases.

September 4, 2018

California Moves to Regulate Wetlands on Its Own – News Deeply
The Trump administration is moving to weaken the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule, which protects wetlands and other waterways from development. California plans its own regulations to fill the gap, but progress is slow.

Opinion: Fixing Our Roads Will Save Lives, So Vote ‘No’ on Prop. 6 – Times of San Diego/CALmatters
Another harmful consequence is that bad roads lead to worse emergency response times for ambulances, law enforcement, and firefighters. That increases chances of fatalities.  The California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Professional Firefighters Association, and other public safety organizations oppose Proposition 6.  More than 250 public safety organizations, engineers, local transportation agencies, cities, counties, environmental groups, business and labor organizations have joined together to say No on 6.

Firefighters, local officials rally to oppose Prop 6 – CBS Local 2/ABC News Channel 3
Community groups joined together last week at Patriot Park to rally against Proposition 6, an upcoming November ballot measure that would repeal the Road Repair and Accountability Act.

CalPERS affirms confidence in CEO amid questions on educational background – Pensions & Investments
Top officials at CalPERS are confirming their full confidence in CEO Marcie Frost after published reports asserted that Ms. Frost, who does not have a degree higher than a high school diploma, made false or misleading statements about her educational background.

August 2018

August 30, 2018

Editorial: No on Proposition 6 — cynical political ploy would destroy California’s roads San Francisco Chronicle
California’s roads are ranked as some of the worst in the country. Roads, highways and traffic congestion are among Californians’ top complaints about quality of life in this state. So it’s critical for voters to understand how destructive Proposition 6, a November ballot initiative to repeal last year’s gas tax increase, could be for each and every motorist.

CalPERS voters choose between cop and pension board presidentThe Sacramento Bee
Longtime CalPERS Board of Administration member Priya Mathur has a challenger in her bid for reelection this fall, and it could be a close race.

Battered parts of 60, 10 freeways in Inland Empire are getting millions from California for fixesSan Bernardino Press Democrat
Plans to repair more than 30 miles of cracked and battered pavement on two of the Inland Empire’s busiest freeways are moving forward, following the award of hundreds of millions of dollars in state grants.  Those projects received a significant boost Aug. 17, when the California Transportation Commission awarded $690 million to projects from the state’s SB 1 funds.

Ceres, Turlock look to $272M project to secure their water futuresModesto Bee
The project comes as the State Water Resources Control Board seeks to require much more water from the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus rivers to flow into the San Joaquin Sacramento Delta, a proposal local officials say will devastate this region’s ag-based economy.

Temporary wall collapses on Oroville Dam spillway Chico Enterprise-Record
A 30-foot-wide section of temporary wall on the upper chute of the Oroville Dam spillway fell over late last week, the state Department of Water Resources confirmed on Monday. The collapse did not impact construction deadlines and resulted in no injuries, according to the department.

August 24, 2018

SANDAG receives funding for I-5 improvements, new Otay Mesa Port of Entry – CBS 8
The San Diego Association of Governments announced it has been granted more than $300 million in state and federal funds for improvements to Interstate 5’s North Coast Corridor and the development of the future Otay Mesa East Border Crossing.  The majority of the funding is revenue from Senate Bill 1, which increased the state gas tax in November 2017. The federal government will match the state’s more than $202 million in SB1 funding with $97 million in federal funding.

Mullin letter: Proposition 6 promises potholes – The Daily Journal
The California Assembly Speaker Pro Tem writes: The passage of Proposition 6, which would repeal the 2017 law that raises $2.5 annually for state infrastructure projects, would reverse progress on local road improvements, creating disruptions and adding to already relentless traffic congestion.

California’s water wars heat up at Sacramento hearing over river flows – San Francisco Chronicle
Central Valley farmers and their elected leaders converged on Sacramento on Tuesday to accuse the state of engineering a water grab that puts the fate of fish above their fields and jeopardizes a thriving agricultural economy.  The allegations came at a meeting of the powerful State Water Resources Control Board, which recently unveiled a far-reaching plan to shore up the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

August 20, 2018

PD Editorial: No on Prop 6: California must repair its roads – Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Here in California, no one can credibly argue that the transportation network meets the needs of nearly 40 million residents. Indeed, we hear more complaints about traffic and potholes than practically anything else. Yet voters are being asked to cancel more than $50 billion in transportation improvements. That’s preposterous.

California water wars: State plans to cut SF’s Sierra supply to save delta – San Francisco Chronicle
The intent of the California Water Resources Control Board is to rescue the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The West Coast’s largest estuary and a vital water source for much of the state has become short on water and wildlife as thirsty cities and farms have squeezed the rivers that nourish the delta.

Infrastructure spending: Which state is falling apart the worst? – USA Today
A survey of all 50 states found that California has the 5th-worst infrastructure in the nation: Nearly 17 percent of its roads are in “poor condition”  (5thhighest) while it spends just $269 per driver on state highways (4th lowest).  Rhode Island has the worst infrastructure, according to 24/7 Wall Street’s survey, while Florida’s is in the best shape.

Bad roads are ‘beating up your car’ — and costing SLO County drivers $1,400 per year, study says – San Luis Obispo Tribune
Drivers in the San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara region are spending an average of $1,419 a year on costs related to poor road conditions, according to a TRIP transportation study.

August 16, 2018

14,000 CalPERS members and their families need to find a new 2019 health plan. Here’s why – Modesto Bee
Changes at California’s pension giant will force more than 14,000 CalPERS members and their dependents in the Sacramento region and Bay Area to find a new health plan for next year.

Study claims California’s roads are costing drivers – ABC 10
According to transportation research group TRIP, driving on California’s deficient roadways costs state motorists $61 billion per year in vehicle operating costs from driving on rough roads, time and gas lost due to congestion, and the costs of traffic accidents. Proposition 6, a measure on the November 2018 ballot, would repeal billions of dollars in funding dedicated annually to projects that would address California’s road issues.

10 Signs of California Water Progress – News Deeply
The extreme weather swings California has experienced recently, from a historic drought to record-breaking rain and snow, may become increasingly commonplace. A study from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests we will see more of this weather “whiplash” in the years to come. Fortunately, the state has been busy preparing for an uncertain future.

A Deadly Bridge Collapse in Italy Shines Light on California’s Aging Bridges – NBC
NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit reviewed the Department of Transportation’s 2017 National Bridge Inventory and found there are 13,721 bridges in California 50 years old or older. “I want to emphasize that if a bridge is not safe we shut it down,” Laurie Berman, Director of Caltrans, told the Investigative Unit in an interview earlier this year.

Calif. Pensions Reviewing Investments Tied to Border Enforcement – Bloomberg
California’s two largest public pensions are reviewing their investments in hedge funds and companies that have ties to the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement efforts at the U.S. Mexico border.

August 13, 2018

California’s Interstate 405 expansion to close bridge for a year – Construction Dive
The Orange County Transportation Authority announced that it will begin demolition and rebuilding of the McFadden Bridge, the first of an 18-bridge program to accommodate the $2 billion widening of a 16-mile portion of Interstate 405 through Orange County.

Caltech Animation Based on Satellite Data Shows Southern California “Breathing” Water – Pasadena Now
Using an unprecedented number of satellite radar images, geophysicists at Caltech have tracked how the ground in Southern California rises and falls as groundwater is pumped in and out of aquifers beneath the surface.

Caltrans defends SB 1 road signs as part of public accountability – Solano Daily Republic
The state Department of Transportation, under criticism for what some have called “election tampering,” defends putting up signs that tell motorists that Senate Bill 1 funds are being used for those local projects.

Can the EPA Roll Back California’s Clean Air Standards? – Capital & Main
The Trump Administration wants to argue that California has no special right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. But their case, experts say, is weak.

After ‘Janus’: Anti-Union Forces Target Representation Structure in New Suit – Rewire News
A case in federal district court in Minnesota shows that anti-labor forces are already marshaling to further harm public sector unions, mere weeks after the landmark Janus decision.  The next target:  government employee unions’ exclusive representation of workers at the bargaining table.

August 9, 2018

Editorial: From Carr Fire to Big Sur, one takeaway from disaster is how much we need good roads – The Sacramento Bee
Global warming is here. Its impact won’t be receding. Ever more volatile weather systems will be sink-holing roads, undermining bridges and sluicing boulder-filled mud down onto critical rail lines and transportation links. That’s something to keep in mind as the Nov. 6 election approaches, with its partisan debate over whether to repeal California’s recent tax increases for roads and transportation.

My Turn: The other side of the pension debate – CalMatters
School bus drivers, teachers, police, firefighters, nurses and other public employees are your neighbors, family, and friends. When they retire, they receive pensions they have earned over a lifetime of public service. Public pension haters want to paint a picture of greedy, overpaid public employees, always taking, never giving. They’d have a lot more credibility if they demonstrated some basic knowledge about who gets pensions and how they spend them.

“Crucial milestone” met at Oroville Dam with structural concrete placement – Chico Enterprise-Record
Crews have begun to place the final layer of concrete this week on the upper portion of the Oroville Dam spillway chute.

Opinion: Why You Should Care About Unions (Even If You’re Not in One) – New York Times
We should all be celebrating that last night voters in Missouri rejected a right-to-work law by a 2-to-1 margin. Why? The average person in the United States has essentially zero power in society. That’s why millions have organized into unions over the years. But the slow decline of unionism in the United States should concern you even if you’re not in one.

Congressional panel slates hearing on California high-speed rail project – Progressive Railroading
The House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials is holding a field hearing in Sacramento to review the status of the state’s high-speed rail project.

August 6, 2018

Passing Prop 6 will cost us more than a few extra pennies at the pump – The Modesto Bee
Can’t wait to vote Yes on Proposition 6 to roll back higher gas taxes? If you do, then you’re going to need a pair of really sharp scissors. That’s because you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. And your pocketbook.

Commentary | Why gas tax repeal would jeopardize safety – San Diego Union-Tribune
California’s poor road conditions play a contributing factor in vehicle collisions. CHP officers and other first responders hear it all the time: “I hit a pothole and blew out a tire.” “I ran into uneven pavement and lost control.”

California Groundwater Law Means Big Changes Above Ground, Too – News Deeply
California’s new groundwater management law is not a sports car. It moves more like a wagon train. The rules do not require critically over drafted aquifers to achieve “sustainability” until 2040. But 22 years from now, once they finally get there, lives will be transformed.

Carpool lanes not ‘efficient’ in reducing traffic, Caltrans says, so it’s pushing toll lanes – Daily Post
Carpool lanes don’t attract enough cars to reduce traffic congestion, so Caltrans will likely convert existing lanes to toll lanes on Highway 101 from Mountain View to South San Francisco, a spokesman for the state agency said.

Contractors claim Union Pacific is delaying bullet train project – Los Angeles Times
Contractors building a 31-mile section of the high-speed rail project in the Central Valley have complained that the Union Pacific Railroad is causing delays and significant cost increases. The allegation could lead to a delay claim by the contractor against the state.

August 2, 2018

Public-Employee Union Fees, Water Wars Are Key in High Court Rulings – Engineering News-Record
Officials from unions facing impacts from the Janus case say they have been gearing up for the decision – which eliminated public employees pay a “fair share” fee – and that membership is rising.  “Obviously the Janus decision wasn’t a surprise,” said Ted Toppin, Executive Director of Professional Engineers in California Government. “Our campaign has been built on that PECG delivers.”

Fix California roads without the new gas taxes? Here’s what it would take – The Sacramento Bee
Whether voters this November approve an initiative to repeal recent increases to California fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, its proponents are already planning a sequel: a 2020 ballot measure that would ensure fuel taxes, car sales taxes and truck weight fees are spent on transportation projects.  Opponents say it is unrealistic.

Oroville Dam independent review board releases first report Chico Enterprise Record
An independent review board hired by the state Department of Water Resources Oroville Dam has released its first report with an eye toward improving the facility’s operations.  Among the suggestions: a second gated spillway, improved monitoring, and clear operational planning that takes into account the impact of climate change on the dam’s functions.  (Click here to read the independent report.)

Though underway, $77B California bullet train still threatened – Construction Dive
The rail’s biggest hurdle, however, could come in the guise of a new governor who could oppose the project and pull the plug. Some onlookers say the reason that the authority is pushing so hard to finish portions of the bullet train line is so that it will be more difficult for the incoming administration to give up on it.

July 2018

July 30, 2018

Opinion: Why You Need to Vote No on the Gas Tax Repeal SPUR
Transportation advocates and local elected officials had for years tried to get the message across that over two decades without a gas tax increase had created a $130 billion backlog in needed repairs and improvements. It finally worked: SB1 passed in 2017 by more than 67 percent in both the Assembly and the Senate.  The measure that would repeal it, Proposition 6, appears designed specifically to generate greater conservative voter turnout for this fall’s heated congressional races.

State OKs $485M for new Pacheco ReservoirSan Benito Free Lance
The California Water Commission has approved $484.55 million to expand the Pacheco Reservoir for drinking water reserves and improved protections for steelhead salmon.  The money comes from the state’s Proposition 1 approved by California voters, and represents the full amount sought by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

$30 million roadway project aims to connect Highway 99 with UC MercedMerced Sun-Star
Money from Senate Bill 1, which dedicates more than $5 billion annually for public transportation and other infrastructure projects, will pay for the construction of a four-lane road includes a concrete overpass over the BNSF railroad line with an exit onto Highway 140.  Officials anticipate it will be finished in 2021.  “This would be a 20 to 30-year plan instead of a three to five-year plan” without SB 1 funding, Merced County Supervisor Lloyd Pareira.  The project, however, is threatened by a November measure that asks voters to repeal SB 1.

Calculations show bullet train can complete route within 2 hours and 40 minutes. Reality may prove slower  Los Angeles Times
When California voters approved construction of a bullet train in 2008, they had a legal promise that passengers would be able to speed from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes.  But over the next decade, the state rail authority made a series of political and financial compromises that slowed speeds on long stretches of the track.  The authority says it can still meet its trip time commitments, though not by much.

July 26, 2018

Open office plans are as bad as you thought – The Washington Post
A cubicle-free workplace without private offices is supposed to force employees to collaborate. But a recent study by two researchers offers evidence to support what many people who work in open offices already know: It doesn’t really work that way.

Column: Local Roads May Go From Bad To Worse Without Gas Taxes – Observer
Should Californians try to get a great road system without paying for it? Or do we grow up and realize there’s no free lunch? That was the message (in my judgment) delivered earlier this month by Fresno Transportation Authority Executive Director Mike Leonardo to an advisory group focused on local roads.

California Focus: Ballot misinformation on the ‘increase’ – Sonoma Index-Tribune
When Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox and other proponents like former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio take to their Proposition 6 campaign rally microphones, they almost always shout “Repeal the gas tax.” Only rarely do they include that extra word “increase.”

California drought legacy: State approves $2.5 billion to build new dams, water storage projects– The Mercury News
In a historic vote, the Administration of Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday approved spending $2.5 billion to help fund construction of four new dams and four underground storage projects — including two in the Bay Area.

Water still top enviro issue; Californians willing to pay more for gas; motor voter registers 250,000 more – The Sacramento Bee
An initiative calling for voters to repeal California’s gas tax, Proposition 6 is gaining much attention heading into November.  Although a new statewide poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) did not ask about Prop 6 specifically, it did provide findings that suggest voters are willing to pay more for gas to protect the environment. “People have factored in higher gasoline prices to the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and you have high levels of support,” PPIC’s Mark Baldassare said.

July 23, 2018

Grand Bayway design far-reaching, budget-busting — Argus Courier
A massive, two-decade, $1 billion project to widen Highway 101 through Sonoma County is wrapping up now that officials have secured funding for the last piece of the project in Petaluma. Transportation officials are now beginning in earnest to turn their attention to the next big regional infrastructure challenge: a redesign of Highway 37.

Interior Secretary Zinke visits reservoirs, signaling federal interest in California water fight — The Modesto Bee
The visit from a high-level official in the Trump administration raised hopes from local farmers and irrigation districts that federal intervention will stop a state Water Board proposal to allocate more water from New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

July 19, 2018

Living with Janus, unions adapt – Capitol Weekly 
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s split decision dealing a significant blow to public unions, California union leaders remain optimistic about their ability to stay viable. Ted Toppin, the Executive Director for the Professional Engineers in California Government, has faith in the organization’s ability to retain members. “You have to have collective action against employers, corporations, state governments and local governments,” Toppin said. “If you don’t have somebody defending you collectively and individually, you have little chance of getting a fair shake.”

Why a California department almost laid off 22 state workers it just hired – The Sacramento Bee
The 22 state engineers who received scary notices last month indicating they might be fired because their employer made a mistake in how it hired them can finally rest easy. All of them can keep their jobs, according to the state Human Resources Department. The safety engineers themselves did not do anything wrong in answering those questions when they applied for jobs at the Department of Industrial Relations. That’s why the state backed off its initial move to dismiss them less than a year after it hired them. “We put two attorneys on it and started asking questions because that’s what we do in a situation like this,” said Jon Ortiz, Research Director for their union, Professional Engineers in California Government. “And then we heard that the folks’ jobs were going to be saved.”

California’s scenic Highway 1 fully reopened for the first time in more than a year – Los Angeles Times 
On Wednesday at 9:45 a.m., Caltrans reopened Highway 1 at Mud Creek — the first time in more than a year the coastal route was fully open. Caltrans has spent $54 million to repair the road bed and reconstruct a quarter-mile stretch of new pavement.

 Jerry Brown to Supreme Court: Hurry up and hear my pension law case – The Sacramento Bee 
Before he leaves Office, Gov. Jerry Brown wants the State Supreme Court to resolve a lawsuit that could empower his successor to reduce or alter pension benefits for California public employees. Technically, the lawsuit seeks to undo only a small part of Brown’s Public Employee Pension Reform Act that prevents public employees from buying service time that is credited to their pensions. But both sides acknowledge the stakes are much higher.

Delta tunnels get ‘real’ as backers seek $1.6B loan from Trump administration – The Sacramento Bee 
Critical permits and legal challenges are still pending, and some farming groups still haven’t committed to paying for part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial $17 billion Delta tunnels project. But even with the uncertainty, backers of the project are poised to ask the Trump Administration for a $1.6 billion federal loan.

July 17, 2018

Why California business leaders are fighting to save the SB 1 gas tax increase. — The Sacramento Bee
It’s not often the California Chamber of Commerce endorses a tax increase. But when Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers last year passed a measure raising fees on transportation fuels and vehicle registration to pay for road repairs, it was because CalChamber, and the larger California business community, helped push it across the finish line.  “The economy depends on people being able to get to work in their cars and buses and being able to move goods,” said Allan Zaremberg, president and chief executive officer of CalChamber.

Oroville Dam: A tour of two spillways, phase two — The Mercury News
Phase two of construction on the Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways is speeding along, as the Oroville Mercury-Register got to see up close in a tour on Wednesday guided by state Department of Water Resources officials.

Gubernatorial candidate Cox was major donor of gas tax repeal — San Diego Reader
It’s well-known that San Diego radio host and former city councilman Carl DeMaio rallied Californians to gather signatures for the gas tax repeal. Not as well known is that California candidate for governor and Rancho Santa Fe resident John Cox was a major donor to the effort. He has a history of fronting unusual ballot ideas: One would have replaced the state Legislature with 12,000 “neighborhood legislators.”  Another would have given California lawmakers and statewide officeholders a new dress code requiring they wear vests with patches from their ten biggest donors, similar to what NASCAR drivers wear.

July 12, 2018

What happens to California road repairs if voters repeal the gas tax increase? –Sacramento Bee
A November ballot measure to repeal California’s recent gas tax increase threatens road improvement and maintenance projects that receive funding through the tax.

The Bill for the Ballot Battle Over California Gas Tax Might Reach $75 Million – New York Magazine
As one can tell from the frantic road repairs under way all over the state right, there are a lot of voters, and a lot of pro-construction interests (including the local governments who are sharing in the revenues), that are benefiting from the gas tax increase. These benefits will not be given up without a vigorous and expensive fight.

Local oversight group established for Oroville Dam – Chico Enterprise Record
A local oversight committee will get to have a say as long-term changes are considered for the Oroville Dam, after Sen. Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher recently came to an agreement with the state Department of Water Resources. The oversight group will meet with DWR and the board for the first time next week and the dam evaluation will be complete in December 2019.

Southern California water agency agrees to spend $11 billion on Delta tunnels – again – The Sacramento Bee
Southern California’s powerful water agency reaffirmed its commitment to the Delta tunnels project Tuesday, agreeing for a second time to spend nearly $11 billion on a majority stake in the twin tunnels. The board took a second vote after environmentalists and an open-government group charged that Metropolitan directors violated the Brown Act before they took their April vote.

July 9, 2018

After ‘Janus’: Labor’s Recommitment Campaigns Energize the Rank and File – Capital and Main
Anti-union forces are launching digital and door-to-door “drop your membership” campaigns targeting California’s government workers. Yet unions have been preparing for several years to combat those efforts and more that are coming — a response from organized labor that represents a paradigm shift that could transform public-sector organizing in the post-Janus world.

California isn’t the only state hiking gas taxes – Orange County Register
Just so you know, California isn’t the only state raising gasoline taxes. As 2018’s second half starts, seven states face just-raised taxes on fuel, and 27 states nationwide have increased gasoline taxes in the past five years. Missouri could become No. 28: A gas-tax hike is on their November ballot.

Billions of dollars at stake for transportation in California gas tax repeal effort – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

For Gov. Jerry Brown, who finishes his last term in January, the fight is for the future of one of his chief accomplishments — a funding stream to help modernize California’s aging transportation network. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democrat running to succeed him, opposes the repeal because it would defund safety upgrades to the state’s transportation infrastructure. Local government officials say a repeal would be “disastrous.”

Fresh Proof That Strong Unions Help Reduce Income Inequality – The New York Times 
New evidence shows that unions played a major role in reducing income inequality in the United States in the decades when organized labor was strong.

July 5, 2018

After ‘wake-up call’ from Supreme Court, California unions face tough political choices – The Sacramento Bee 
Union leaders say they have positioned themselves well to withstand the Janus v. AFSCME ruling, which bans charging nonmembers for the costs of collective bargaining and related activities. But facing potentially dramatic impacts in the years ahead if membership declines, and with it less revenue from dues, unions are also revamping their operations for the 2018 election cycle and beyond. “We have to be smarter with our money than we’ve ever been before,” said Steve Smith, communications director for the California Labor Federation, a union umbrella group.

Meet the New Entity in Charge of California’s Water Tunnels Project – News Deeply
Joint powers authorities, or JPAs, are common in California for various municipal purposes, but there’s never been one  like the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority that was formed at a meeting in Sacramento earlier this year.  Here’s how it will work.

‘This is their Hail Mary’: California GOP bets on gas tax repeal – Politico 
California Republicans are banking on a ballot measure that terminates billions of dollars dedicated to infrastructure improvements and repairs will stave off a Democratic wave in November and perhaps even spark a GOP revival in the run-up to 2020.

Hwy 1 to be fully open through Big Sur in two weeks – KSBY
Highway 1 at Mud Creek will reopen by 11 a.m. on July 20, 2018, Caltrans confirmed on Tuesday. The scenic ocean drive has been closed since a massive landslide wiped out the roadway a little more than one year ago.

July 2, 2018

Koch Brothers-Linked Group Declares New War on Unions. — Bloomberg
The conservative nonprofit Freedom Foundation, long tied to Republican billionaires opposed to labor unions, said that starting Wednesday it will deploy 80 people to California, Oregon and its home state of Washington. The canvassers were hired in March and trained this month, according to internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. The goal of the multi-pronged campaign is to shrink union ranks in the three states by 127,000 members—and to offer an example for similar efforts targeting unions around the country.

SLO County could lose millions for road upgrades if voters repeal SB 1 — SLO Tribune
San Luis Obispo County stands to lose millions of dollars in transportation funding if voters approve a referendum repealing a statewide gas tax, which recently qualified for the November ballot.

Oroville Dam: Senate passes bill to require independent risk analysis — The Mercury News
The U.S. Senate last week passed the 2019 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, which requires an independent risk analysis of Oroville Dam.

June 2018

June 28, 2018

Court case will cost California unions big money immediately. Then the real fight begins. — The Sacramento Bee
… Ted Toppin, Executive Director for the union that represents state engineers, said labor organizations going forward will have to make a case that they deliver for their members. The Professional Engineers in California Government “has a strong and healthy membership, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring that small percentage of (fair share payers) into the membership because PECG has delivered for them.”

California ballot will include gas tax repeal in November Los Angeles Times
Californians will vote in November on a ballot proposition that would repeal a new gas tax and vehicle fees, saddling Gov. Jerry Brown with a final challenge to preserve a key part of his legacy before leaving office. … Brown on Monday blasted the initiative and gave a preview of his campaign strategy. “This flawed and dangerous measure pushed by Trump’s Washington allies jeopardizes the safety of millions of Californians by stopping local communities from fixing their crumbling roads and bridges. Just say no,” Brown said in a statement.

Exam Error May Cost Some State Workers Their Jobs — CBS 13 Sacramento
A technicality on a civil service exam may cause big problems for 22 Cal-OSHA safety inspectors who over the last year have conducted hundreds of investigations in cities across California.

‘Female-dominated’ jobs erased in California state government The Sacramento Bee
Heading into his last months in office, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration worked up a few edits to state law that could make it easier for public employees to earn promotions and help disabled state workers retain their jobs.

Labor Unions Will Be Smaller After Supreme Court Decision, but Maybe Not Weaker  — The New York Times
… the more interesting question is whether the unions, whatever the blow to their ranks and finances, will be substantially weaker. Union leaders insist that they won’t — that the crisis posed by the case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has brought more cohesion and energy to their ranks.

June 25, 2018

What you need to know about California’s road-funding repeal initiative – Sacramento Bee
A Q&A about who is behind the effort to kill Senate Bill 1 and what will happen should they succeed.

California commission rejects plan to replace natural gas pipeline – Associated Press
The California Public Utilities Commission rejected San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison’s $639 million plan to build a 47-mile natural gas pipeline. The commission said the project is not needed and instead ordered testing on an existing pipeline to ensure its safety.

VIDEO: Fly over the Oroville Dam spillway and Lake Oroville area The Sacramento Bee 
The latest video images from the tallest dam in the nation after more than a year of repairs and upgrades.

Bigger Than Potholes: Why Fixing America’s Infrastructure Should Be a Priority – Wharton
Wharton finance professor Robert Inman makes compelling arguments for why state, local and national government officials need to make transportation infrastructure a priority – and why public financing through taxes is the best way to pay for it.

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 ads – ABC10 / 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 votes – Red, 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 Bay – News 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 competition – Lake County News
Three Caltrans projects received top honors this week from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The 11thannual 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 report – Chico 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 funded – Argus 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 stretch – The 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 forward – Enterprise 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 Heartland – News 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 now – LA 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 down – Los 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 say – The 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 tunnels – The 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 upgrades – Press 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 Oakland – Mercury 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.

News of Note

California state engineers say yes to 8.5 percent raise, other perks
September 12, 2018  The Sacramento Bee
The union that represents California state engineers announced on Wednesday that its members ratified a two-year contract that nets them a cumulative 8.5 percent general wage increase and delivers a number of other perks.

Professional Engineers in California Government reported that 98.4 percent of members who cast ballots favored the contract.

“It’s a fair and appropriate deal. It’s the right thing for the state and for PECG members,” said PECG Executive Director Ted Toppin.

You can get a job at Caltrans in two days. It still has 1,100 openings.
September 12, 2018  The Sacramento Bee
Motivated by a wave of retirements and an urgency to fill new positions created by the state’s gas tax increase, Caltrans has devised a bureaucracy-defying human resources program that has let it bring on hundreds of new employees at a time during hiring events.

It’s racing to add staff in a hot economy in which other engineering firms and local governments also are bulking up.

“They need design staff to deliver state highway projects,” said Ted Toppin, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government. “That’s what Californians expect. Right now they’re competing with other state and local departments and the private sector for engineers, so the need to on-board them is real or they’re going to lose them.”

Gas tax projects prompt Jerry Brown’s pay raises for California highway engineers
August 23, 2018 The Sacramento Bee
Gov. Jerry Brown’s last contract with the state’s highway engineers includes some sweet perks aimed at retaining the longtime road designers, planners and project managers who’d be charged with executing work funded by the gas tax he backed last year.  “The piece I like to call experienced pay is there to address a real problem. Those experienced folks are retiring and there isn’t really a cadre in the middle to deliver SB 1 projects,” said Ted Toppin, PECG’s Executive Director. “Hopefully this agreement will keep those people on the job…”

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