Red Church intersection: $722,000

Washington Street Improvements Project: $810,000

Stockton-Washington Transit: $2 million

State highways: $30 million per year

Local roads: $5 million per year

Jamestown Highway 108 widening: $13 million

Greenley Road Extension: $20 million

Groveland sidewalk improvements: $2 million

Peaceful Oaks interchange: $3 million

Old Priest Grade left turn: $900,000

Tens of millions of dollars per year in additional funding for road maintenance and transportation projects in Tuolumne County will be on the line when California voters head to the polls for the Nov. 6 general election.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced last week that a citizen initiative qualified for the ballot to repeal gas tax and vehicle fee increases implemented through Senate Bill 1, which has already provided the county with millions in funding needed to improve the county’s deteriorating road system.

“It doesn’t solve the problem 100 percent, but it certainly takes us in the right direction,” said Darin Grossi, executive director of the Tuolumne County Transportation Council.

The legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2017, was intended to raise an estimated $54 billion in revenue over the next 10 years for fixing roads, highways and bridges across the state through increasing the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, adding a $100 annual fee for zero-emission vehicles, and raising the annual registration fees by $25 to $175 depending on the vehicle’s value.

Tuolumne County is expected to receive more than $2 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year and as much as $5 million per year by 2027, roughly doubling the county’s historical budget for road work.

Caltrans is also expected to get an additional $30 million per year for maintaining state highways in the county, according to Grossi.

“The focus of SB 1 is road maintenance,” Grossi said. “That’s what most of the money goes for.”

The infusion of money from SB 1 has also bumped up some major projects that were 20-plus years from becoming a reality within the next 5 or 10, unless voters repeal the legislation.

One of the projects that could be completed within 10 years because of SB 1 funding is a $13 million widening of Highway 108 through Jamestown aimed at reducing congestion in the corridor, especially when tourists come to visit.

Grossi said he’s heard from tourists who say they’ve started to avoid coming to the county on busy holiday weekends because of the traffic congestion on that particular stretch.

Another project that could happen earlier is the first phase of a bypass of downtown Sonora known as the Greenley Road Extension.

Originally proposed in the 1970s at a cost of less than $1 million, the now $15 million to $20 million project would reduce the number of vehicles on Washington Street, a section of Highway 49 that cuts through downtown Sonora, by about 5,000.

About 18,000 vehicles are estimated to travel on the two-lane street each day, creating congestion from about 8 a.m. to after 5 p.m.

The project wasn’t expected to be funded by Caltrans until at least 2040 prior to SB 1, but Grossi said construction could begin as soon as five years from now if everything goes as planned during the design and environmental review phases.

The Sonora City Council and TCTC recently pledged $125,000 in their respective budgets for the 2018-19 fiscal year to begin project development on the long-dormant extension of Greenley Road, which includes surveying, mapping, meeting with public stakeholders and identifying environmentally sensitive areas.

Grossi said he was told by people who work for Caltrans that the agency is actively looking for rural projects to fund with SB 1 money and the extension would have a good shot at getting approved.

“Big projects like that don’t get done without major revenue sources,” Grossi said.

Other projects that have or are expected to be funded in the next several years thanks to SB 1 money include a $2 million project in Groveland to construct new sidewalks and bicycle paths along Highway 120 from Ponderosa Lane to Tenaya Elementary School, $3 million to complete the partial interchange at Peaceful Oaks Road, and nearly $1 million to construct a left-turn lane at the top of Old Priest Grade.

The City of Sonora is also due to receive more than $700,000 for intersection improvements near the Red Church that are in the design phase and will be applying for an additional nearly $4 million to fund two other projects intended to improve pedestrian safety on Washington Street and construct a transit stop near Washington Street and Stockton Road.

Duke York, deputy director of county roads, said the 2018-19 operating budget includes additional funding from SB 1 for hiring three more road workers, though the county now wants to see what happens with the repeal initiative in November.

“If you go out and hire them right now and it gets overturned, then you have to cut them loose, so you’re kind of in limbo,” he said.

The county’s road-maintenance crews once had a total of 40 people at its peak, which comes out to one worker for about every 15 miles of the 610 in the county-maintained road network, but that number has since dropped to about 22.

Caltrans, by comparison, has one maintenance worker for every 6.4 miles of state-maintained roadway.

“If you fall behind on ditching and drainage because you don’t have enough people, you run the risk of that road getting damaged by storms,” York said.

Prior to SB 1, York said there was little hope of improving the overall condition of pavement in the county-maintained road network. The network’s overall rating has dropped from 46 out of 100 in 2012 to 33 last year, which is considered poor condition.

The issue is also highly politicized, with Republican gubernatorial candidates largely supporting the repeal.

Conservative groups in Tuolumne County also held a rally earlier this year at Courthouse Square in downtown Sonora to gather signatures for the effort, which required at least 643,948 to qualify for the ballot.

Padilla announced on Friday that the initiative will be Proposition 6 on the November ballot.

Prior to SB 1’s passage in the state Legislature, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors wrote a letter to local representatives expressing support for some provisions of the legislation and opposition to the tax and fee increases.

The board urged the lawmakers to consider an alternative proposal that would allocate money to fixing roads from other existing sources, such as revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade that’s meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

District 4 Supervisor John Gray, who serves as board chairman, didn’t want to reveal how he plans to vote on the SB 1 repeal initiative come November and wanted to let individuals decide for themselves, but he did give people something to consider.

Gray said he likely drives more than any other elected supervisor because the County Administration Center in Sonora where the board meets is more than 25 miles from his home in Groveland.

He estimated that the 12-cent-per-gallon increase will cost him an additional $300 over the course of year, though he added that it recently cost him $475 to replace a strut on one of his vehicles that was damaged while driving on poorly maintained road.

“Am I going to benefit more by paying that 12 cents than if I don’t? That’s how people need to think about it,” Gray said. “Although I don’t like paying the tax, I think the benefit will be more if I have a better road to drive on.”

It’s estimated that the county will need more than $1 million in additional funding on top of the boost from SB 1 to improve conditions on just 10 percent of county’s road network over the next decade.

The Tuolumne County Civil Grand Jury recently suggested putting a tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot for a sales tax increase that would specifically be used for roads, though that would require approval from two-thirds of voters to pass.

A previous effort in the late 2000s to pass a local sales tax specifically to benefit the county Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department failed to gain enough support.

“Taxes in Tuolumne County don’t process well,” Gray said.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.