California Legislature approves road bonds

September 25, 2020

Keith Goble


A California bill approved by the state Legislature is intended to fast-track road work.

The Senate has voted to advance a bill to the governor’s desk to sell $5 billion in bonds over two years to boost the state’s roadwork program. Assembly lawmakers already approved the road work bond bill on a 58-17 vote.

The bill, SB1351, would create a subaccount in the State Highway Operation and Protection Program. The program is used to manage a four-year, $18 billion list of repair and maintenance projects.

The newly created Transportation Improvement Fee would use existing transportation improvement fee revenues to pay for bonds. The funds come from vehicle registration renewals.

Senate Bill 1

The vehicle registration fee that will be tapped to pay off the borrowing for road work is available from a 10-year, $52 billion transportation funding deal. Approved in 2017, SB1 included a mix of higher vehicle taxes and vehicles including a 20-cent diesel tax increase.

The funding deal is estimated to raise $5.2 billion annually for state and local roads, trade corridors, and public transit.

Moving forward on road work funding

Advocates say the registration fees that would be used to pay for the bonds would otherwise eventually be allocated for SHOPP projects.

Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, adds that SB1351 would allow the state to move forward with road projects at a time when existing funds are below projections. They cite the economic slowdown and fewer miles driven during the pandemic.

Otherwise, road work projects would need to be deferred until the state is able to recover from lost transportation revenue.

Caltrans would make a list of projects eligible to be accelerated for construction within 90 days of the bill becoming law. Eligible projects must already be approved via SHOPP and have completed environmental clearance and project design.

“SB1351 is an economic stimulus proposal to get people back to work and also expedite the accomplishment of the performance goals set forth in SB1,” Beall said in prepared remarks. LL

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