November 30, 2017
By: Imran Ghori
Inland drivers now paying higher gas taxes will soon see something for their money — about $1 billion worth of road, bridge and other repairs.
That’s the price tag for long-needed fixes approved for San Bernardino and Riverside counties, said John Bulinski, director of Caltrans District 8, which covers both counties.
Bulinski, who appeared Thursday, Nov. 30, with other transportation officials at a Caltrans forum in Riverside, said the agency will be taking a more aggressive approach to address maintenance needs because of the passage in April of SB1, a transportation funding bill.
The 12-cent gas tax increase went into effect Nov. 1 and is expected to raise $5.4 billion over the next decade to repair highways and roads, build new freeways and pay for other transportation improvements.
In the past, Caltrans has had to take a more cautious “band-aid” approach to repairs, he said during the event at the Riverside Convention Center. But the new bill will mean long-lasting improvements on a large backlog of maintenance projects, Bulinski said.
The 10 Freeway in both counties will see major pavement repair work with four separate projects covering just over 300 miles of freeway lanes. Work will start between 2020 and 2023.
The biggest of those is a 116-mile project in the Riverside County desert. The work is from Highway 177 in Desert Center near Joshua Tree National Park to near the Arizona border and it will cost $399 million to improve shoulders, ramps and pavement. It could begin in March 2020.
One project, a $10.1-million repaving on 27 miles of the 10 Freeway and Highway 95 near Needles, already began in August. A $42 million pavement project on the 210 Freeway, from San Bernardino to Redlands, is set to start in March 2019.
Drainage improvements also are planned on Highway 18 between San Bernardino and Highway 138 to reduce flooding. Several bridges, including those near Colton and Rancho Cucamonga, will be rebuilt.
The money for Caltrans repair projects represents only one part of the pot of money provided through SB1.
The California Transportation Commission will also award $1 billion across the state in January and February for improvement projects on freeways that are considered congested or are part of a critical trade corridor.
Cities and counties will also get a share of SB1 money for maintenance and have put together their lists. Riverside County has budgeted $42 million worth of additional projects for the next two fiscal years that wouldn’t be possible without the dollars, said Patricia Romo, transportation director for the county and a panelist at the forum.
Construction contracts will be awarded starting in January with some work beginning next summer, she said. They include road repair projects in Riverside County on the Ramona Expressway between Perris and San Jacinto as well as near Hemet, Riverside and several desert areas.
“These are roads we’ve been struggling to patch them, potholes have been occurring (and) there’s lots of cracking,” Romo said.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, who provided a crucial vote to pass the bill, said legislators are working on a constitutional amendment that will go before voters next year to ensure that the money can only be spent on transportation work.
“It’s critical that all of us maintain the public’s confidence in the way those pennies, those dollars are going to be tracked and spent,” Roth said.
Roth and other forum speakers also addressed an effort underway to repeal the 12-cent gas through a ballot measure that could go to voters in November 2018.
Lucy Dunn, a California Transportation Commission member, said that, between now and then, Caltrans and other agencies need to demonstrate how the money is being used to fix potholes and ease traffic congestion.
“We have a window of opportunity to show some great progress — a one-year window,” she said.
THREE KEY PROJECTS
Inland area freeway work to be paid for by SB1 includes:
Project: Pavement replacement, shoulder and ramp improvements
Where: 10 Freeway in Riverside County, from Highway 177 near Desert Center to near the Arizona border.
Cost: $399 million
Timeline: Could start in March 2020
Project: Pavement replacement
Where: 10 Freeway, from the Los Angeles County border to the 15 Freeway
Cost: $91.8 million
Timeline: Construction starts in 2024
Project: Replacement of 63 culverts to reduce flooding and improve drainage
Where: Highway 18, from 48th Street in San Bernardino through the mountains to Highway 138.
Cost: $11.7 million
Timeline: Construction starts in December 2022