|New Federal Highway Plan Promises $3.5 Billion Per Year for California|
|Thursday, 12 July 2012 13:27|
Congress has passed and the President has signed a 27-month federal transportation funding bill, after 33 months of wrangling (that’s 1,010 days) and ten extensions, but what does it mean for California contractors and suppliers?
According to the figures from the Department of Transportation, about $3.54 billion for 2012 and 2013 and $3.57 billion for 2013, for highways and an additional $1.24 billion for transit every year. The money doesn’t come in one big fat check, but is spread through a series of programs, each with its own set of rules, conditions and red tape.
Fortunately for us, the California bureaucrats at Caltrans are talented at untangling the web of red tape and snares set by the bureaucrats at the federal DOT. You can see the entire list of funding by category on our web site at www.calcontrk.org/forms/doc_download/270-state-by-state-appointment-tables
Plus, there is the opportunity to snatch another chunk of change from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) for Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, if the MTA follows the plan approved to extend Measure R at a recent meeting.
Four years ago Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, a half-cent sales tax which pays the local share for new transit and highway projects. The tax sunsets in 2039 and has already resulted in about a dozen projects completed or under construction, including the second phase of the Expo Line light-rail link that will bring trains into the congested Westside.
L. A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has made accelerating the Measure R projects a top priority with his 10/30 plan, unveiled two years ago, to accelerate 30 years-worth of projects in 10 years. He was successful in getting the plan inserted in the new highway bill where it is called “America Fast Forward.”
Villaraigosa has proposed a ballot measure in November to extend the sunset date on Measure R -- meaning the tax would continue to be levied until 2069. This would allow the MTA to borrow against expected future tax revenues to spend money for construction now so it could accelerate more projects, using the future proceeds for federal loan guarantees under TIFIA.
The legislature has to approve the plan and so does the L. A. County Board of Supervisors, which may be a sticking point. Right now, three of the five supervisors are expressing varying degrees of disagreement with the plan.
Villaraigosa, who championed the extension, used a press conference with Senator Barbara Boxer on the 405 freeway called the move a “game-changer’’ that would create around 400,000 jobs.
But the extension was opposed by county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe, who called the move premature since the current tax still has about 27 years remaining. Ridley-Thomas said the extension has a high risk of failing because of state tax increases that will be before voters in November. Knabe has criticized the effort because it runs counter to the MTA’s conservative approach to financing. Antonovich is saying it amounts to handing transit planners a blank check.
The construction industry is split as well and is watching closely to see how the legislature and the supervisors vote before they will decide to endorse the measure if it were placed on the ballot in its current form.