Highland Community News: Highland goes after gas tax revenue to improve local streets

January 24, 2018

January 24, 2018
By: James Folmer

As Highland residents have been paying more for gasoline and diesel during the past three months, the Highland City Council wants to make sure they benefit from the higher state taxes.

The council voted on Tuesday to apply for more than $4.7 million in grants from Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, to help pay for two major projects: The $23 million Base Line Interchange Project and the $7 million realignment of the Third and Fifth Street Corridor.

Public Works Director Ernie Wong made the presentation, urging the council to approve the grant applications for SB1 Local Partnership Competitive Program funds.

There wasn’t much discussion by council members. Councilman John Timmer said the plan was encouraging and added, “Good job, Ernie.”

Mayor Larry McCallon said, “We appreciate all the hard work you’ve put into this.”

Both projects are part of the city’s 5-year capital improvement plan and 2-year budget, and are under design.

The Base Line project would widen Highland’s main thoroughfare between Buckeye Street to the west and Seine Avenue east of Interstate 210 and the bridge over the freeway.

Northbound and southbound on- and off-ramps also would be improved.

The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) — formerly known as SANBAG — is the lead agency. It plans to spend $13.4 million on the project. The city would save nearly $3 million, but won’t apply to the transportation authority’s share.

The Third and Fifth Street Corridor project will improve:

  • Third Street between Palm Avenue and Fifth Street.
  • The south side of Fifth Street between Victoria and Palm avenues.
  • Fifth Street between Palm Avenue and I-210.
  • Palm Avenue between Third and Fifth streets.
  • And Central Avenue between Third and Fifth streets.

If the grant is approved it would save the city, the transportation authority and the Inland Valley Development Authority about 58.7 percent in their contributions, dropping costs from about $1.36 million to $797,663 for each entity.

The council also approved the sixth and final piece of a puzzle of easements to improve the Third Street intersection with Palm Avenue/Alabama Street. Third Street would turn slightly north at that corner and connect to Fifth at Church Street.

The council agreed to pay a $9,020 title fee to acquire the easement.

On Wednesday, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands, announced that the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will receive an Economic Development Administration (EDA)

grant of $2.9 million as part of the Third and Fifth Street Corridor project.

According to an estimate from the EDA, the project will create nearly 400 new jobs and generate over $20 million in private investment.

The state raised the tax on gas by 12 cents per gallon, effective Nov. 1. The diesel tax went up 20 cents. It was California’s first gas tax increase since 1994, aimed to fix an estimated $130 billion backlog in road maintenance.

The federal government adds 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents on diesel. The federal tax hasn’t been raised since 1993. Inflation increased by more than two-thirds between 1993 and 2015, and more efficient cars have reduced gas consumption – also cutting into revenue.

California’s gas tax total is 58.83 cents per gallon, highest in the country.

Signatures are being gathered for the California Repeal Gas Tax and Fees Increase Bill Initiative to repeal last year’s increases, aiming for the Nov. 6 ballot. Polls suggest the measure will pass.

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Paid for by the Coalition to Protect Local Transportation Improvements, sponsored by business, labor, local governments, transportation advocates and taxpayers
Committee Major Funding from
California Alliance for Jobs
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
United Contractors
Funding details at www.fppc.ca.gov