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Road accountability

The state Legislature is working to bring in more revenue for transportation

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In the first week in April, the California Legislature was supposed to vote on a transportation funding package that would generate $5.2 billion a year for the next 10 years. The proposed bill, known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 or Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), would provide funding to the state, counties, and cities for road maintenance, traffic safety projects, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian projects. SB 1 would generate more than $1 million per year for street and road maintenance in the city of San Luis Obispo alone and enable the city to meet critical transportation needs and enhance safe driving, walking, and cycling.

In the average American city, roughly 25 percent of the total land area is dedicated to roads and streets. That large asset has traditionally been maintained by local funds (which compete with parks, public safety, and other needs) and the state gas tax, which has not been raised for years and does not grow with inflation. Consequently, the funds to adequately maintain roads, bridges, streets, and highways across the state fall short of annual needs.

Recently the California Streets and Roads Report noted that the state’s 58 counties and 482 cities spend $3.5 billion to maintain the transportation network. According to the report, the annual maintenance needs exceed that, and another $1.5 billion per year is required to prevent further system deterioration. The report also indicates local agencies require about $5 billion per year to bring the system up to acceptable standards.

Approximately three decades have passed since there was a significant transportation funding package in the state of California. Recently, the governor and leaders of the Assembly and Senate announced SB 1 to address these critical needs. Over the next 10 years, $5.2 billion per year would be generated via a 12-cent increase to the gas tax, a 20-cent increase to diesel, a transportation improvement fee based on the value of a vehicle, and other sources. In addition, the bill authorizes several measures to assure accountability, transparency, and efficiency; $1.5 billion of the annual amount would be allocated directly to cities and counties in the state of California.

SB 1 would enhance the city of SLO’s ability to maintain its transportation network and would add more than $1 million to the $1.6 million per year the city allocates in its capital budget for road maintenance. In addition, the county would also receive a significant increase in road funding. The transportation package would provide Caltrans funds for highway improvements on the Central Coast, increase funding for local transit agencies such as SLO Transit and our local RTA (Regional Transit Agency serving the county), and increase money in the state’s Active Transportation Program (ATP), which provides grants for bike and pedestrian projects.

The SLO City Council believes these benefits can enhance public health, build community, and reduce congestion.

The state Assembly was scheduled to vote on SB 1 April 5, followed by a Senate vote on April 6. If you agree that our city and region would benefit from this additional transportation funding, please join me in contacting your legislator this week.

Heidi Harmon is the mayor of San Luis Obispo. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter to the editor at letters@newtimesslo.com.

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