ECA Newsletter 4-11-19
Taxation or Fee? I Don’t Care! Oxygen is What I Call It!
When the ECA came out and supported the passage of RM3 in June of 2018, we basically were supporting charging ourselves to build infrastructure that will relieve current transportation problems and build long lasting projects that future generations will benefit from. You all know that I am not usually a “tax and spend” guy but I also recognize that transportation infrastructure has been woefully underfunded for decades and just in the last 5-6 years is getting the funding needed to fix our roads and bridges.
RM3 is a fee that raises bridge tolls (all Bay Area bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge) and tolls started being collected a few months ago. The Howard Jarvis folks filed a lawsuit challenging the bridge toll hike as a tax rather than a fee and their lawsuit made many of us nervous as to whether the RM3 dollars would actually be collected and allocated to our North Bay region ($800 to $900 million worth!!).
Last week, Judge Ethan Schulman dismissed the lawsuit which effectively frees up the RM3 toll increases to fund (to the tune of $4.5 billion) much needed projects around the Bay Area. Judge Schulman agreed with the drafters of RM3 that the toll increase is a fee, not a tax. I cannot believe I am applauding a local Judge’s ruling around here, but I am!
This is great news for all of us that need to travel, and at least partially, make our living from road and bridge construction projects. Between this good news and the defeat of the Gas tax repeal in June, this solidifies our income stream needed to fix our roads and bridges. link
What does this all mean to our local firms whether you bid on those projects or not? It means that local Agencies will now be able to count on tax help from fuel tax and toll help from the bridge toll increases to get some of their City and County roads fixed. Also, we have a tremendous list of bridges that are in need of repair in Sonoma and the Contiguous Counties and those tax and toll funds will enable local Public Works folks to prioritize and start getting some of them repaired or replaced. By funding transportation projects, the Cities and Counties can focus on much needed housing projects. None of us want to see our beautiful area changed by “sprawl” of housing developments, but we all recognize the need to build 30,000 plus homes so our young workers have a place to live rather than drive from Lake and Mendo and Solano Counties.
Highway 37 is one of the main roadways that has had its share of problems recently. Between high rains, the lack of a comprehensive levee program, and the increased commuter loads, this road between Novato and Vallejo is a problem searching for short term and long-term solutions. With the “smackdown” of the Howard Jarvis lawsuit, both short term and long-term solutions should get designed and out to bid very shortly. At the recent meeting of Solano, Marin, Napa and Sonoma County Transportation Authorities, the group made several important decisions but none more important than assigning responsibility and authority for the three main segments of Highway 37.
A new memorandum of understanding assigns responsibility for overall project management coordination to the Bay Area Toll Authority (which is the group that collects the bridge tolls) with local transportation authorities having a role for the road portion in each county.
- • Segment A: (Highway 101 to SR 121) assigned to Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA), Caltrans, Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) and Transportation Authority of Marin.
- • Segment B: (Sears Pt. to Mare Island Bridge) assigned to BATA, Caltrans, SCTA, Solano Transportation Authority and Napa Valley Transportation Authority.
- • Segment C: (Mare Island Bridge to I-80) assigned to BATA, Caltrans and SCTA.
Segment B is the most critical section by all accounts. As I have reported to you earlier, an interim solution being considered would employ a movable barrier system and one additional lane to be utilized heading West in the morning hours and heading East in the afternoon. It is estimated this could relieve up to 75% of the waiting time for commuters. This work should come out in 2019 and be completed in 2022.
Relief is on its way!
To read more about this, click on the link –
To me, the “oxygen” is actual projects that will enhance safety and relieve congestion. The defeat of the Howard Jarvis lawsuit provides that oxygen. That is why I do not care if you call the bridge toll increase a toll, or a tax-it is oxygen to me!
That’s All Folks!