Tuolumne County and the City of Sonora will receive the first significant chunk of money from California’s new gas tax and vehicle fee increases in the next fiscal year and have outlined projects to be completed with the additional funding.
The county expects to receive about $2.3 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins July 1 from the state’s Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account, created through Senate Bill 1 passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April last year.
Counties and cities are required to submit a project list for maintenance to the state by May 1 in order to receive the additional funding.
On Tuesday, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors approved a list of projects to begin construction in 2019 that includes street overlays, culvert replacement and the installation of new traffic-safety cameras.
Tanya Allen, supervising engineer for the county, said the cameras do not catch people speeding or running red lights through intersections, but rather are innovative new detection equipment that helps control traffic.
Allen said they are easier to maintain than traffic loops installed under the pavement and one is currently being used at Rawhide Road and Highway 108/49.
The project list includes the installation of such cameras at the Junction Shopping Center in East Sonora, Hess Avenue, Peaceful Oak and Standard roads, Fir Drive and Sanguinetti Road, Standard Road, and Cherry Valley Boulevard and Tuolumne Road North.
Other projects to be completed include overlays on Parrotts Ferry Road and Kewin Mill Road, chip-seal on Tuolumne Road North, and culvert replacements on Tuolumne Road North, Algerine Road and Lime Kiln Road.
District 3 Supervisor Evan Royce emphasized the importance of replacing culverts and improving drainage on local roads.
“Surface maintenance is important, but drainage maintenance is even more critical,” Royce said, to which Allen responded that her goal is to develop a culvert program that will assess the conditions of culverts throughout the county with help of the additional funding.
District 5 Supervisor Karl Rodefer said the county should work with Tuolumne Utilities District and Groveland Community Services District on a stormwater capture system.
“When water is running uncontrolled, it takes a lot of things with it, roads being one of them,” Rodefer said. “Not only is the lack of a good stormwater capture system damaging our roads and plugging up our system, we’re also losing the opportunity to capture some water.”
Rodefer also stated he believed it would be naive to think that a ballot initiative to repeal SB1 won’t be put to voters this year. An effort that’s underway requires at least 585,407 signatures by May 21 to get the initiative on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election.
In 2016, the board declined to endorse SB1 when it was introduced by State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose.
The board also recently declined to take a stance against a potential ballot initiative to repeal the legislation, though it unanimously supported a separate initiative called Proposition 69 that will be on the June 5 primary ballot to constitutionally protect the funding from SB1 from used for purposes other than roads.
“I don’t like SB1,” Rodefer said. “I think this board was on record as to not liking the way it was funded, but we owe it to the public to let them know what that means to our local roads program if that thing goes away.”
The legislation increased the state’s base gasoline tax from 18 cents to 30 cents per gallon and imposed a surcharge to the state’s $53 annual base registration fee ranging from between $25 to $175 per year depending on the vehicle’s value.
Additionally, the base diesel fuel tax was increased from 16 cents to 36 cents per gallon and the diesel fuel sales tax increased from 1.75 percent to 5.75 percent. An annual $100 fee was also imposed on zero-emission vehicles as a result of the legislation.
California’s combined state and federal taxes on gasoline ranks as the second highest in the United States at about 73 cents per gallon behind Pennsylvania at about 77 cents per gallon, according to a report by the American Petroleum Institute released on April 1.
In total, the legislation is expected to generate $52 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.
The board has also recently discussed the possibility of proposing a local sales tax to further improve road conditions, as funding from SB1 is expected to fall short by about $1.2 million annually to perform preventative maintenance on just 10 percent of the 610 miles in the county’s road network.
The Sonora City Council also recently supported Proposition 69 while declining to take a stance on a potential SB1-repeal initiative.
The city, which has a population that’s less than one-tenth of the county as a whole, expects to receive $86,993 from SB1 in the next fiscal year. At a meeting on Monday, the council approved using the money for street overlay projects.
City Administrator Tim Miller did not define a specific list of roads to receive overlays, but said the projects would be done based on those in the worst condition or the length of time since they last received an overlay.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.