October 24, 2017
By: Tim Sheehan and Bonhia Lee
There’s a new gasoline tax that drivers will see at fuel pumps starting Nov. 1, and state and local transportation officials already have big plans for catching up on much-needed road repairs in Fresno County and around the state.
A stretch of Highway 99 from downtown Fresno to a mile north of the San Joaquin River in Madera County is in line for $5.2 million to repair and resurface the freeway – one of the most visible components of work to be funded by SB 1, a bill that adds 12 cents per gallon to the price of a gallon of gasoline. SB 1, approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year, also raises the tax on diesel fuel by 20 cents per gallon, and owners of electric cars will pay an additional $100 as part of their annual vehicle license fees beginning with the 2020 model year.
The new taxes are expected to provide about $54 billion – or a little more than $5 billion each year – over the next 10 years for road repairs on which Caltrans and local public works crews have fallen behind, including pavement resurfacing and pothole repairs on state highways and local roads, as well as backlogged maintenance on bridges and overpasses. Half of the money is going to Caltrans for state highway projects, and the other half is for cities and counties across the state to help catch up on their road work.
“What drivers are going to see is smoother pavement,” said Laurie Berman, acting chief deputy director of Caltrans. She joined other state and local officials for a news conference Tuesday along Highway 99 at Shaw Avenue. “You’re not going to see the potholes we see now.”
Marco Sanchez, manager for the State Highway Operations and Protection Program (SHOPP) at Caltrans’ District 6 office in Fresno, said Highway 99 represents the state route in greatest need of maintenance in Fresno County. “Thirty percent of the vehicles on it is truck traffic, so it takes a pounding,” he said.
The freeway work is scheduled to begin next summer and be finished in the winter of 2018. In Caltrans District 6, which includes Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties, nearly $422 million in road work is planned in 2017-18 on state highways 41, 46, 58, 63, 99, 168, 180, 198, Interstate 5 and others.
City and county public works departments in the five counties are in line to get an extra $1.4 billion for repairs to local streets and roads over the next 10 years. Of that, $517 million is coming to Fresno County and its cities, including $148.6 million in the city of Fresno.
But for California and Valley drivers who have seen gasoline prices seesaw up and down in recent years, the taxes represent another bite from the pocketbook.