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Op-Ed: Road funding Must Include Construction and Maintenance Costs

March 4, 2015

By: Secretary Brian Kelly

Once the concrete dries on a new transportation project, the hard work begins: maintaining and preserving the infrastructure for decades of use by commuters, freight and businesses. Unfortunately, those maintenance costs are not typically included in the financing when construction work begins. As a result, there’s a multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog on California’s streets and roads.

For years, Caltrans has built the projects that local communities want and those projects are typically new construction. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies may be more exciting than routine maintenance, but its unwise to build something new without a commitment to maintain it.

Fifteen years after building a new road, the pavement will have deteriorated 40 percent and begin to worsen exponentially in the next several years. That’s why every $1 spent now to keep a road in good condition avoids having to spend $6 to $14 later to rebuild the same road. In short, prioritizing maintenance saves hundreds of millions of dollars in the long term.

But new money alone will not fix California’s worsening transportation infrastructure: We must get smarter about where the money is spent. States, on average, spend about 55 percent of their transportation money on new construction, which creates an ever-growing backlog of infrastructure that lacks sufficient funding for maintenance. Building new infrastructure without funding for the upkeep is unsustainable.

That’s why the State Transportation Agency recommends a “fix it first” approach to transportation infrastructure that prioritizes the preservation of our existing highway system. California does better than the national average when it comes to prioritizing maintenance and rehabilitation of the existing system. Of the $5.5 billion in state funds spent on highways last year, 76 percent went to maintenance and rehabilitation, and 24 percent to new capacity.

Still, the outstanding maintenance backlog includes major reconstruction projects that are laborious and much more expensive than preventive maintenance. Most of California’s 50,000 highway lane miles were built more than a half a century ago. Through a one-time cash infusion under Proposition 1B, about 59 percent of California’s pavement is in excellent condition and 25 percent requires routine maintenance to stay in good condition, while the remaining 16 percent is in poor condition. Reaching our goal of 90 percent healthy pavement will not only require substantial commitments to preventive maintenance on about 12,000 miles of existing pavement, but also reconstruction of nearly 3,000 miles of pavement that suffers major structural distress.

For decades now, Caltrans has lacked a comprehensive inventory of its existing assets and the precise conditions of state infrastructure. Contractors bid on maintenance projects without adequate information about existing road condition, sometimes tearing up pavement to figure out how much work needs to be done deep below the surface. This poor past practice is changing. Caltrans is designing a comprehensive asset management plan that includes a detailed infrastructure inventory. State engineers are also embracing a first-in-the-nation program that involves literally scanning every mile of state highway with radar to measure the rates of deterioration and make better decisions about where and how to make repairs.

It’s time to include the total cost of building new transportation infrastructure: the price of construction and the cost of long-term maintenance  that will stretch out for decades. Working with our local, state and federal transportation partners, it’s time to prioritize these life-cycle infrastructure costs and commit revenue to new construction with a funding plan in place to maintain it.

Brian Kelly is the Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, which oversees state transportation-related departments including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, and high-speed rail.

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Caltrans Seeks Public Input on Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan

March 4, 2015

SACRAMENTO – With seven workshops and a webinar slated for March, Caltrans invites the public to help shape the state's transportation future by offering their input and comments on the California Transportation Plan 2040 (CTP 2040), which lays out a vision for California's transportation future to support a vibrant economy and our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

"We are creating a long-term vision for California's transportation system, and the public will play a key role in that," said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. "We are looking at innovative ways on how to best improve the sustainability of the state's transportation system through strategies such as more transit service, safer bicycling and walking facilities and reduced congestion through less single occupant vehicle use."

The CTP 2040 is a statewide policy plan designed to meet California's future transportation needs and to support achieving a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It envisions a fully integrated, multimodal and sustainable transportation system.

The interactive workshops will include a short overview presentation, maps and exhibits, and activities to share information about transportation concerns. They will also help shape the final CTP 2040 document, which will help inform how California transportation dollars are invested. Caltrans is also seeking the public's input to help insure that the CTP 2040 is fully consistent with the department's mission, vision and goals to reduce single occupant vehicle use, promote active transportation to reduce emissions and improve public health and support the "Complete Streets" principle.

Caltrans has scheduled these events throughout the month for public comment. The public can also review and comment on the plan, in addition to doing so via these events, at www.californiatransportationplan2040.org. The deadline for comments is April 17, 2015.

The CTP 2040 scenarios also support the Governor's goal to reduce petroleum use in vehicles by up to 50 percent by 2030.

For an opportunity to review and comment on the draft plan, please attend any of these seven public workshops:

Sacramento:
4-7 p.m.
March 10
North Natomas Library, 4660 Via Ingoglia

Redding:
4-7 p.m.
March 12
City of Redding Community Room, 777 Cypress Ave.

San Diego:
4-7 p.m.
March 17
San Diego Valencia Park/Malcolm X Public Library, 5148 Market St.

Riverside:
4-7 p.m., March 18
Riverside City College, 4800 Magnolia Ave.

Los Angeles:
4-7 p.m.
March 19
Southern California Association of Governments, 818 West 7th St., 12th Floor

Fresno:
4-7 p.m.
March 24
Fresno City College, 1101 East University Ave.

Oakland:
4-7 p.m.
March 26
Joseph P. Bort Metrocenter, 101 Eighth St.

Webinar:
2-3 p.m.
March 5
Visit: www.californiatransportationplan2040.org

The development of the CTP is an open and collaborative planning process that includes governmental agencies, the private sector, advocacy groups, community organizations, and the public. To view the draft plan, informational materials, and to receive more details on the public workshops, please visit: www.californiatransportationplan2040.org

Those unable to attend a meeting in person, can comment via an email to ctp2040@dot.ca.gov or by sending a letter or a completed comment card to: California Department of Transportation, Division of Transportation Planning, Office of State Planning, 1120 N St., MS 32, Sacramento, CA 95814. Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m., April 17.

Providing safe mobility for all users—including pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists and motorists—supports the mission of Caltrans to "Provide a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California's economy and livability." The CTP 2040 helps support this mission while furthering an ongoing conversation about California's transportation future. Each year, Caltrans conducts numerous community and public outreach events and workshops to solicit public input and comment, including on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transportation. Last year, Caltrans also hosted multiple community meetings across California about how to improve transportation between regions of the state as part of the "Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan." To keep up on current information about the department, follow Caltrans on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CaltransHQ or visit http://www.dot.ca.gov/.

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Report Highlights Caltrans’ Commitment to Improve Travel for Non-Motorized Users

February 27, 2015

SACRAMENTO - Caltrans’ jump into the nation’s top ten bicycle-friendly states and the creation of the nation’s largest active transportation program are just a few of achievements highlighted in Caltrans’ annual Non-Motorized Transportation Facilities Report.

The report is an in-depth look at Caltrans’ successes that emphasize the department’s mission to provide a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability. 

“California has always been a transportation leader, and this report reinforces that hard-earned reputation,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Transportation is a vital part of our daily lives, and increasing the diversity of travel options is something the public wants. We are committed to making walking and biking safer.”

The report provides an overview on the state’s Active Transportation Program (ATP), the largest of its kind in the nation. In its first call for projects in May 2014, Caltrans received 771 project applications requesting more than a billion dollars. The California Transportation Commission has adopted the first program of projects for the ATP, which includes 265 projects using $368 million in ATP funds. Of this amount, $311 million is dedicated to 220 projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.

The report also highlights program activities and completed projects, as well as other state and federal partnering programs to establish and improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Among the completed projects highlighted in the report is the Oak Manor Trail in the city of Ukiah. The project improved cross-town connection to schools, shopping centers and employments centers. It also gave pedestrians and cyclists a new off-street travel alternative. Southern California saw its first “Bicycle Boulevard” in the city of Pasadena—an area with a high concentration of cyclists. The project improved bicycle safety and advanced the vision of commuting in Pasadena without a car.

“Caltrans’ has historically been known as a highways agency, but we are shifting our focus to creating a California transportation system that links communities and is safe for all travelers, including those who chose to travel by biking and walking,” said Dougherty. “We couldn’t accomplish this without our partners at all levels, from the federal government to grassroots organizations and the public.” 

The state’s jump in 2014 from 19th to 9th in the nation in The League of American Bicyclists annual report is due to notable progress in legislation, funding and policy that will make it easier to build bike lanes and mandate drivers to give cyclists three-feet of space when they pass.

Also, as part of its effort to streamline construction of multimodal local streets and roads, in April 2014, Caltrans became the third state to endorse National Association of City Transportation Officials guidelines that include innovations such as buffered bike lanes and improved pedestrian walkways.

Caltrans also released its 2010–12 California Household Travel Survey Final Report that showed residents used walking, biking, transit and other non-motorized sources for 23 percent of trips. That was more than double the amount in the 2000 survey. This underscores the rising demand for non-motorized transportation.

You can read the full report at http://www.dot.ca.gov/docs/Non-Motorized_Transportation_Facilities_Report_FY_2013-14.pdf

You can read more about The League of American Bicyclists report cards at: http://bikeleague.org/content/report-cards.

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Old Bay Bridge Demolition Focuses on Environmental Sustainability, Safety and Efficiency

February 20, 2015

OAKLAND – Caltrans today announced that it is meeting with key environmental regulators to discuss options for safely removing the old Bay Bridge's underwater piers. Caltrans is considering the least environmentally impacting alternative, including the potential for controlled underwater charges that would reduce impacts to the environment compared with a traditional underwater demolition.

"Removing the old Bay Bridge is essentially an environmental project and our top priorities are efficiency, safety and environmental sustainability as we take down the old structure," said Chief Bridge Engineer Dr. Brian Maroney. "We could mechanically remove the underwater piers bit-by-bit using large saws or jackhammers over many months, but that has prolonged impacts on marine life and generates rubble that would have to be sent to a landfill. One option is to remove the underwater piers using carefully controlled underwater charges – an innovative, safe and potentially more environmentally-friendly option.”

The controlled charges would simplify the underwater demolition process and spend less time potentially impacting marine life. Caltrans is meeting with a consortium of environmental agencies to start the process of obtaining permits to allow controlled charges as an effective and environmentally sensitive method of safely removing the underwater piers. 

Underwater controlled implosion technology has improved considerably over the past decade. Today there are controlled charges that quickly dissipate and do not generate harmful chemicals. A quick, controlled implosion could mean that construction crews are not working underwater for many months, which means fewer disturbances to marine life.

These controlled ballistic charges would happen underwater and would likely not be heard or seen by nearby motorists. In addition, a heavy protective mat would be placed on top of the pier during the operation to prevent flying debris from being projected. Caltrans would also temporarily provide a rolling traffic stop strictly for sound to ensure motorists were not distracted.

The mechanical method for removing the pier would be to use a cofferdam, a temporary watertight structure that’s pumped dry to enclose an area underwater and allow for construction on the pier. A wire saw, ram hoe and other demolition equipment would likely be necessary with the cofferdam. Building and operating a cofferdam in the Bay, given the depth and dynamic waters, could take longer, increase risk to worker safety, as well as harm marine species over a prolonged period of time.

If environmental regulators grant the necessary permits, Caltrans is planning to remove one pier using the controlled charges in November 2015. Further removals may require additional approvals from the regulatory agencies.

Here is a link to a video simulation of the underwater removal methods currently under consideration: http://youtu.be/KnmbvBXUopI

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Transportation Agency Seeks Applicants for Transit & Intercity Rail Program

February 10, 2015

SACRAMENTO--The California State Transportation Agency today announced it has begun accepting applications for the new Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, a nearly $125 million competitive grant program that helps modernize and integrate California’s bus and rail systems to increase transit ridership and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. 

Eligible applicants include public agencies that operate existing or planned intercity rail, commuter passenger rail, urban rail transit service, or bus services. Applicants may also partner with other transit operators to better integrate with bus or ferry service.  

All projects must demonstrate that they will achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Grant recipients must also show benefits such as improved transit ridership, integration with other rail and transit systems, including high-speed rail, and improved rail safety. The program has a goal of providing at least 25 percent of benefits to disadvantaged communities in California.

Applications must be submitted electronically to tircpcomments [at] dot.ca [dot] gov by April 10, 2015. The Transportation Agency will announce the grant recipients in Summer 2015. 

The Transit and Intercity Rail Program was created and funded by Senate Bills 852 and 862. SB 852 included the first appropriation of the greenhouse gas reduction fund including $25 million for low-carbon transit, $25 million for transit and intercity rail, $130 million for affordable housing, $200 million for low-carbon transportation, and $250 million for high-speed rail. SB 862 included a continuous appropriation in 2015-16 and thereafter for the Transit & Intercity Rail Capital Program (10 percent), Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (5 percent), Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program (20 percent), and high-speed rail (25 percent).

The official Call for Projects, which includes detailed information about application requirements, is located here.

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Agency Releases Guidelines for the Transit & Intercity Rail capital Program

February 6, 2015

The California State Transportation Agency is pleased to publish the 2015 Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program Guidelines. Please click here to see those guidelines.

Next week more information will be posted here about how to apply for the grants, including an official call for projects.

This program will provide grants to fund capital improvements and operational investments that will modernize California’s transit systems and intercity, commuter, and urban rail systems to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by reducing vehicle miles traveled throughout California. The guidelines were developed in consultation with the Air Resources Board, the California Transportation Commission, the Department of Finance, the Department of Transportation, and the Strategic Growth Council, and informed by input received at workshops and meetings throughout the state.

Key changes from the draft guidelines published on December 19 are:

  • In the first programming cycle, allow eligible applicants operating multiple transit or rail modes (local bus, bus rapid transit, commuter bus, light rail, streetcar, heavy rail, commuter rail, or intercity rail including related feeder buses) to submit up to one project application per mode. (Section 7)
  • Clarify that the Air Resources Board guidance on the quantification of greenhouse gas reductions will be published with the program application form. (Section 9.1)
  • Revised the definition of committed funds for projects seeking federal discretionary funds such as New Starts or Small Starts. (Section 11)
  • For the procurement of rolling stock, allow the exercising of an option or the certification of funds for contract elements as meeting the milestone for contract award provided that the agency is under no contractual obligation to pay any funds or penalty if the option is not exercised or the funds not certified. (Section 12)

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Deputy Secretary for Transportation Chad Edison at (916) 323-5400 or tircpcomments [at] dot.ca [dot] gov or by using the below form which quickly and easily submits your comment directly to that same e-mail inbox.







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Caltrans' Reform Effort Continues

Department Announces Significant Progress One Year After Call for Sweeping Changes

January 30, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Caltrans today announced significant progress toward becoming a more modern, efficient, transparent and accountable organization one year after an external department review called for stronger management and performance and a better match between policy goals and transportation investments.

“It was our hope that the January report would not [sit] on the shelf, and we have been gratified to be part of the initial implementation effort,” wrote external department reviewers from State Smart Transportation Initiative in a recent progress report on the status of Caltrans reforms. “These actions all are positive, potentially very powerful initial steps, and both department and agency staff who worked on them deserve credit and thanks.”

The Caltrans Improvement Project is the result of honest assessments that described significant challenges and issued a call for change. Caltrans is committed to working closely with the California State Transportation Agency as it seeks to modernize the department and enhance transportation options in California. Some of the key achievements to date include the following:

Performance Management & Human Resources 
Caltrans has adopted a new mission, vision, and set of goals that encompasses a larger set of outcomes around economy, livability, and environment in addition to the traditional goals of improving mobility. Further reform efforts focus on accountability, including the release of new management and employee handbooks and the launch of an ethics hotline for employees.

Smart Investment & Resource Alignment 
In an effort to increase the construction of multimodal local streets and roads, Caltrans endorsed National Association of City Transportation Officials guidelines that include innovations such as buffered bike lanes and improved pedestrian walkways. Last year, California made the list of the top 10 most bike friendly states in the nation. California also launched the $350 million Active Transportation Program. Meanwhile, Amtrak California is setting record ridership numbers, even as gas prices fall.

Strategic Partnerships & Communication
To improve communication and community outreach, Caltrans now publishes a periodic performance journal, The Mile Marker, which tracks how Caltrans is performing and where it needs to improve. Routine YouTube “News Flash” videos go behind the scenes to show how Caltrans is improving transportation in California. Caltrans is increasing partnerships in transportation by focusing on mutual goals and benefits. For example, Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments worked extensively with the Coastal Commission to receive one of the largest consolidated permits for multimodal improvements on Interstate 5. Caltrans is also supporting California’s high-speed rail project by integrating the system into state rail planning and working with the Air Resources Board on sustainable freight planning. Numerous outreach efforts to communicate the culture change process underway at the department have also been made, including at the 2014 National Association of City Transportation Officials conference.

Innovation & Sustainability 
In addition to promoting active transportation and public transit, Caltrans is also embracing sustainability and reduced greenhouse gas emissions strategies to fight climate change. Caltrans and the Transportation Agency are hosting public workshops on the state’s low-carbon transit programs, which are part of a statewide effort to invest cap and trade proceeds in ways that reduce emissions and improve air quality. Caltrans is also cutting greenhouse gas emissions by improving transit, increasing opportunities for active transportation, and embracing new technology in construction materials, alternative fuels, efficient lighting and renewable energy.

These policy changes are already improving relationships between Caltrans and transportation stakeholders. Caltrans is implementing a new state law that empowers local governments to establish their own standards for local bicycling facilities, rather than relying on a single statewide standard. This allows local agencies the flexibility to make innovative design decisions incorporating alternative modes of transportation, as well as the tools and support necessary to make the best planning and design decisions for their local area.

Caltrans is also working to address the safety and mobility needs for all modes of transportation by incorporating the “complete streets” principle into every aspect of what the department does, from the earliest stages of system planning through project delivery and maintenance and operations. This move to integrate this principle into all Caltrans functions and processes includes updating the state’s “Highway Design Manual” to incorporate the idea that streets and transportation systems are made “complete” when they address the needs of all users of the transportation system in a way appropriate to the local community. Caltrans engineers and attorneys are also working together to mitigate risk aversion when considering new, innovative designs.

These improvements are just the beginning. Director Malcolm Dougherty has hired Dr. Steven Cliff as Assistant Director of Sustainability who is helping incorporate sustainability into all programs, policies, and projects. The department’s forthcoming Strategic Plan will incorporate the department’s new objectives with performance measures to improve multi-modal transportation corridors and preserve existing assets with a “fix it first” approach. Caltrans is also testing a performance management method, known as Lean Six Sigma, which improves management by systematically fixing wasteful or unnecessary practices and processes.

For more information on the Caltrans Improvement Project, visit: http://www.dot.ca.gov/CIP. A copy of the Caltrans Improvement Project 2015 Report is attached. The SSTI follow-up progress report is also attached.

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California Transportation Infrastructure Priorities Workgroup Releases White Papers

January 12, 2015

SACRAMENTO--Today the California State Transportation Agency released three white papers, the culmination of a year’s worth of work by the California Transportation Infrastructure Priorities (CTIP) Workgroup. In February of 2014, the Workgroup released its interim recommendations, which were posted on our website. Moving forward from that point, the Workgroup focused on three main areas: Consideration of a road user charge as an alternative to the gasoline tax; tolling and pricing to manage congestion and fund infrastructure; and ways to improve the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The recommendations provided by the CTIP Workgroup on the road user charge and tolling and pricing enjoyed nearly 90% approval from voting CTIP participants, and hence these recommendations are considered supported by the group. The recommendations regarding the STIP enjoyed a lesser majority of 61% from voting CTIP participants, and are therefore not necessarily considered supported by the overall group.

You can find the white papers here:

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Notice of Public Workshop: Capital Program guidelines

January 12, 2015

SACRAMENTO--The Guidelines for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, which invests proceeds of the Cap and Trade Carbon Allowance Auctions, were posted on December 19. The Administration will be soliciting feed back from the public on these guidelines at two public workshops this month. Below are the locations and times of these workshops.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Agenda Link
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Los Angeles County
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Board Room
One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Agenda Link
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
California State Capitol
4th Floor, Room 447
*Use historic elevators
10th and L Streets
Sacramento, CA 95814

In addition to comments presented in person at these workshops, the public is also welcome to submit their comments in an e-mail to the address tircpcomments [at] dot.ca [dot] gov or by using the below form which quickly and easily submits your comment directly to that same address inbox.







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High-Speed Rail Authority Hosts Official Groundbreaking Ceremony

FRESNO— Marking significant progress toward modernizing California’s transportation infrastructure, the California High-Speed Rail Authority today joined hundreds of supporters and government, student, community, transportation, business and labor leaders to break ground on the nation’s first high-speed rail system.

"What is important is the connection that we are rooted in our forebears and we are committed and linked to our descendants,” said Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. at a ceremony held at the site of the future high-speed rail station in downtown Fresno. “And the high-speed rail links us from the past to the future, from the south to Fresno and north; this is truly a California project bringing us together today."

In addition to the support of federal, state and local dignitaries, there was strong backing from Central Valley and California-based construction crews, small businesses, and local students who were eager to highlight how high-speed rail is positively affecting California today and will continue to into the future.

“We now enter a period of sustained construction on the nation’s first high-speed rail system—for the next five years in the Central Valley and for a decade after that across California,” said High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors Chairman Dan Richard. “This is an investment that will forever improve the way Californians commute, travel, and live. And today is also a celebration of the renewed spirit that built California.”

The ceremony included remarks from owners of a family-owned steel manufacturer already benefitting from high-speed rail construction. Student leaders from Fresno State and University of California, Merced also explained how high-speed rail is creating new local opportunities.

Although today represented the official groundbreaking ceremony, the event also showcased ground that has already been broken in the Central Valley. The Authority provided tours of nearby construction activity, including various demolition sites. Other achievements to date include finalization of project designs, ongoing right-of-way purchases, and workforce training and mobilization.

Local and statewide small businesses are completing a majority of this work. As of September 2014, 40 small businesses have active contracts valued at $296 million on Construction Package 1, a 29-mile stretch from Avenue 17 in Madera County to East American Avenue in Fresno County. This phase of construction includes 12 grade separations, two viaducts, a tunnel, and a bridge over the San Joaquin River. California-based Tutor Perini Zachry/Parsons (TPZP), A Joint Venture, is designing and building this first phase of the project.

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Agency Provides Updated Draft Guidelines for the Intercity Rail and Transit Capital Program

December 19, 2014

As announced on December 4th, the Transportation Agency is soliciting feedback on draft guidelines for two new programs, the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program and the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program. These new cap-and-trade-funded programs will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve mobility.

The guidelines for the Capital Program have been updated since their initial posting on December 4th.

The Updated Draft Guidelines for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program can be found here.

These draft guidelines officially start a statutorily required process. After these guidelines have been available for 30 days, two public workshops will be held to solicit more feedback.

In the meantime, before those public workshops, please feel free to comment on these updated draft guidelines by e-mail.

Comments can be submitted to tircpcomments [at] dot.ca [dot] gov.

The details for the public workshop are to be determined and will be noticed prominently here on this website.

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Caltrans Prepares for Massive Winter Storm

December 10, 2014

SACRAMENTO--Caltrans is preparing for one of the strongest storms Californians have seen in years with more than 1,500 pieces of storm-related equipment and over 3,000 maintenance employees ready for this week's major weather shift that is on track to impact several regions throughout the state.

"Caltrans' first priority is the safety of the motoring public and we will be working around the clock to keep roads open and clear," said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Crews have been busy checking pumping stations, readying equipment and clearing road side drainage ditches across the state. Generators have been checked and have plenty of fuel for operation throughout the anticipated storms, and crews have been busy filling sand bags. Poles measuring snow height are in and are being inspected and marked. Chain control facilities are operational and crews will be moved to where they are needed as conditions warrant. Sand sheds are fully stocked for the season, avalanche control measures are checked and operable and response crews are ready.

Traffic Management Centers throughout the state will be monitoring highway and weather conditions and are ready to dispatch crews and equipment to trouble spots and respond to traffic incidents. Caltrans will activate its Changeable Message Signs and Highway Advisory Radios to communicate to the public about highway conditions.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm is on track to be one of the strongest storms Californians have seen in years and motorists should be prepared for high winds, heavy rain, floods and snow and ice in higher elevations.

Severe weather can be alarming and hazardous for drivers. The best defense is not to venture out on the roads during stormy weather, but if you must drive, use caution, common sense and always be prepared, especially when traveling in high elevation areas.

Winter weather and road conditions can change rapidly and drivers should have their vehicle winterized by checking its brakes, coolant, tires, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust systems. If possible, have your vehicle checked by a professional mechanic. 

All vehicles, including those with four-wheel drive or snow tires, should carry correctly sized chains when travelling during snowy weather. Highway signs will indicate if chains are required. If motorists do not have chains in their possession, they may not be allowed to proceed and risk being cited or fined.

Motorists should check road conditions frequently. For state-operated highways this can be done in a number of ways: visit the Caltrans website at www.dot.ca.gov or quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ to get road conditions, weekly road reports and press releases by district. Check information through the automated California Highway Information Network (CHIN) by telephoning 1 (800) 427-7623 (1-800-GAS-ROAD) and following the prompts. Motorists can also tune to the Caltrans Highway Advisory Radio (HAR), which broadcasts road conditions on low-frequency radio transmitters located along some mountain highways.

During winter storm conditions, motorists should anticipate unexpected delays and closures. Caltrans strives to reduce the frequency and the length of unplanned closures on state highways. During major storms when traffic flow is heavy, Caltrans may meter traffic to ease congestion.

The following tips will assist you in making your winter driving experience safe and pleasant:

  • Allow enough time for your trip.
  • Be observant of everything going on around you.
  • Remember – black ice is nearly invisible!
  • Keep your fuel tank full and your windows clear.
  • Drive as conditions permit – slower acceleration, slower speeds and slower braking in winter conditions.
  • Reduce speed and leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Use headlights in rainy and snowy weather. During fog, drive with headlights on low beam; never drive with just parking or fog lights. Remember that you must have your lights on when using your wipers.
  • If you get stuck, stay with your vehicle and wait for help.

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Agency and Caltrans Seek Public Input on Intercity Rail and Transit Program Draft Guidelines

New Cap-and-Trade-Funded Programs Will Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Improve Mobility

December 4, 2014

SACRAMENTO—In preparation for two upcoming public workshops, the California State Transportation Agency today published draft guidelines for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, a new grant program for rail and bus capital improvements that integrate state and local rail and other transit systems. This program is funded initially with $25 million in the 2014-15 state budget, and starting in 2015-16, with 10% of annual auction proceeds going forward.

Earlier this week, Caltrans published draft guidelines for another new grant program, the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program, designed to support new or expanded bus and rail services, especially in disadvantaged communities. 

The workshops are an opportunity to discuss the draft guidelines for both these programs and offer comments:

December 10: Southern California
San Bernardino Associated Governments
1170 W 3rd Street
San Bernardino, CA 92410
9-11 am, Director’s Board Room
December 17: Northern California
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95812
9-11 am, Byron Sher Auditorium

Written comments can also be submitted to tircpcomments [at] dot.ca [dot] gov for the Capital Program and to lctopcomments [at] dot.ca [dot] gov for the Operations Program.

The 2014-15 State Budget provides $832 million to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund from Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds to support existing and pilot programs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit disadvantaged communities. This expenditure plan will reduce emissions through several programs, including ones modernizing the state’s rail system (including both high-speed rail and public transit), encouraging sustainable community development with an emphasis on public transportation and affordable housing, restoring forests in both urban and rural settings, increasing energy, water, and agricultural efficiency and creating incentives for additional recycling. And under SB 535 (De Leon) at least 25 percent of these funds will be invested for the benefit of California's most disadvantaged communities.

As part of the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, the Transportation Agency will administer $25 million in funding in 2014-15, via a competitive grant program, to rail and bus transit operators for capital improvements that integrate state and local rail and other transit systems. These will include projects located in disadvantaged communities and those that provide connectivity to the high-speed rail system. In subsequent years, the Capital Program will receive 10% of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The draft guidelines for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program are located here.

The Low Carbon Transit Operations Program allocates $25 million in 2014-15, distributed by the State Transit Assistance Program formula, for local transit agencies to support new or expanded bus and rail services. With an emphasis on disadvantaged communities, approved projects will support new or expanded bus or rail services, or expanded intermodal transit facilities. They may also include equipment acquisition, fueling, and maintenance and other costs to operate those services or facilities, with each project reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In subsequent years, the Capital Program will receive 5% of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The draft guidelines for the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program are located here.

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High-Speed Rail Authority Honors Senator Darrell Steinberg

November 18, 2014

SACRAMENTO--The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) Board of Directors today honored California Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) with a commendation at their monthly meeting. The Board adopted a resolution recognizing Senator Steinberg for his years of legislative leadership and continuous efforts in helping bring the nation’s first high-speed rail system to California.

From Left to Right: Vice Chair Jim Hartnett, Board Chair Dan Richard,  Senator Darrell Steinberg, CEO Jeff Morales, Board Member Richard Frank.
From Left to Right: Vice Chair Jim Hartnett, Board Chair Dan Richard, Senator Darrell Steinberg, CEO Jeff Morales, Board Member Richard Frank.

“The California High-Speed Rail Authority and this Board are indebted to the Senator for all he has done to bring high-speed rail and its benefits to the people of California," said Authority Board Chair Dan Richard. “From his first days as Senate President pro Tempore to his last, Senator Steinberg championed high-speed rail and its positive effects on the state’s economy and environment.   We're especially grateful to Darrell Steinberg for his dynamic and sensitive leadership in shepherding the key high-speed rail appropriation through the Senate."

“Working on California’s world leading environmental legacy has been an honor,” said Senator Steinberg. “I have been a long-time supporter of California High-Speed Rail because the project reflects who we are as Californians: visionary, optimistic, industrious, and deeply concerned about the quality of our treasured environmental assets. Working closely with fellow California leaders, we were able to put together a long term investment strategy of future Cap and Trade revenue that will help cement California High-Speed Rail as a key tool in our fight to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions and improve California air quality.”

In his first year as Senate President pro Tempore, Senator Steinberg played a vital role in authoring and securing passage of Senate Bill 1029, (Budget Act of 2012), which authorized funds and laid out a vision for a statewide rail modernization program with high-speed rail as the centerpiece. In his last year as Senate President pro Tempore, Senator Steinberg defied skeptics and delivered SB 862 (Budget Act of 2014), which established a long-term expenditure plan for  Cap and Trade auction revenue that prioritized affordable housing, sustainable communities, and mass transit to further the climate change goals of Assembly Bill 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006). In addition, as part of the Budget Act of 2014, California’s high-speed rail system was allocated an ongoing source of funding to help in its effort to reduce greenhouse gasses emitted through transportation and help spur sustainable planning around high-speed rail stations.

Senator Steinberg was elected to the California State Senate in 2006 after having served three terms in the California State Assembly and six years on the Sacramento City Council. In 2008, he was elected by his fellow state senators to serve as President pro Tempore of the California State Senate.

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DMV Extends Office Hours and Adds Appointments For First-Time Driver License Applicants

November 12, 2014

SACRAMENTO—The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today announced that it is extending office hours and adding appointment opportunities to support the issuance of all original driver licenses, including licenses that will be issued under AB 60 starting on January 2, 2015.

“DMV is committed to providing excellent customer service to all Californians,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto. “Customers with appointments have much shorter wait times, and now all customers seeking new driver licenses will have extra appointment opportunities.”

DMV anticipates processing approximately 1.4 million additional driver license applications during the first three years after implementation of AB 60. Some of the additional services DMV will be offering include:

  • Extended Saturday office hours by appointment for all new driver license applicants at up to 60 DMV field offices across California starting Saturday, January 3, 2015.
  • Increased number of available appointments in many field offices that will hire additional staff.
  • New driver license applicants will be able to schedule appointments with the DMV up to 90 days in advance, double the current 45-day window.
  • Starting December 1, 2014, all first-time driver license applicants must make an appointment to visit their local DMV office. However, four new driver license processing centers will continue to offer walk-in (and appointment) service: Lompoc, Stanton, Granada Hills (all opening November 17, 2014) and San Jose (opening December 1, 2014). Appointments are recommended.

These additional services will be available to all customers seeking an original driver license—meaning the applicant’s first license received in California—whether under AB 60 or otherwise. Customers applying for an original driver license will need to do the following:

  • Make an appointment to visit a DMV field office up to 90 days in advance (or walk-in or appointment at the temporary driver license processing centers in Lompoc, Stanton, Granada Hills or San Jose)
  • Study for the driver license exam
  • Complete a driver license application form (DL 44) available at the DMV office
  • Provide DMV with either:
    1. Social security number and proof of identity and legal presence; or
    2. Proof of identity and California residency under AB 60. Last week, DMV posted the list of documents that applicants will need to bring to DMV to obtain a new driver license under AB 60. Details regarding these documents are available on the AB 60 webpage at http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/ab60/index.html.
  • Pass a vision test, TouchScreen knowledge (written) test, and if applicable, a road sign test
  • Give a thumb print
  • Have a picture taken
  • Schedule a future appointment for the behind-the-wheel driving test

Applicants under 18 applying for an original driver license will also need to submit proof of driver education completion. For further information about obtaining a new driver license, refer to the California Driver
Handbook or visit http://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/dmv/dl/driverhandbooks.

It is easy to make an appointment to come into a DMV field office; you can make an appointment online, use the DMV now app, or call 1-800-777-0133. Appointments are available up to 90 days in advance for new driver licenses and 45 days in advance for other services.

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Caltrans Director Dougherty Honored by NACTO for Leadership

October 23, 2014

Director Malcolm Dougherty Receives Excellence in Leadership Award (Credit: Tilly Chang)

Last night, The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) hosted their opening reception for their designing cities conference in San Francisco. The reception honored Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty with NACTO’s 2014 Excellence in Leadership Award for his vision for and support of innovative and flexible urban street design.

Earlier this year, Caltrans Director Dougherty announced the department's endorsement of the NACTO urban street and bikeway design guidelines.

NACTO’s press release follows in full. You can learn more about NACTO at their website: http://nacto.org/

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Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty Honored with 2014 NACTO Excellence in Leadership Award
Posted on October 22, 2014
By Corinne Kisner
Press contact: Corinne Kisner, 646-629-4165

SAN FRANCISCO (October 22, 2014) – The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) celebrated the vision and accomplishments of Malcolm Dougherty, Director of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), awarding him the 2014 Excellence in Leadership Award for his support of a flexible approach to urban street design in the nation’s most populous state. NACTO President and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin presented Dougherty with the award at the opening reception of the NACTO Designing Cities Conference.

Dougherty has positioned Caltrans as a national leader on street design, updating its Highway Design Manual in 2012 to facilitate the design of complete streets and, in April 2014, endorsing the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide and Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Caltrans’ endorsement allows cities and towns in California to use the Guides both for designing local streets and in planning city streets that coincide with the state highway system.

“NACTO is proud to honor Malcolm Dougherty for his inclusive, city-friendly approach to streets,” said Director Reiskin. “Under his direction, Caltrans is swiftly becoming a model of how states can help make city streets into great places.”

“Malcolm Dougherty has moved California to the forefront of the nation, paving the way for both Caltrans and the nearly 500 cities in California to design streets that serve everyone. We’re seeing more and more cities and states following his lead.” said Janette Sadik-Khan, NACTO Chair.

“I very much appreciate the recognition from NACTO acknowledging Caltrans’ efforts this past year to give appropriate consideration to all modes of travel when we implement transportation solutions,” Dougherty said. “Caltrans’ endorsement of these innovative street design options is an important part of modernizing our approach to improving transportation for all Californians.”

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About the National Association of City Transportation Officials
NACTO is an association of 38 cities formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues. Members include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, DC. Affiliate members of NACTO include Arlington (VA), Austin, Boulder, Burlington (VT), Cambridge, El Paso, Fort Lauderdale, Hoboken, Indianapolis, Louisville, Madison, Memphis, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Somerville (MA), and Ventura (CA). International members include Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Transportation Agency Releases CHP Bay Bridge Management Investigation

October 3, 2014

SACRAMENTO—The California State Transportation Agency today announced the conclusion of a California Highway Patrol (CHP) probe into Caltrans management activities during fabrication of Bay Bridge components in China, an investigation that found no violation of law.

“The California Highway Patrol investigators found no retaliation or retribution against employees or contractors or any other violation of law,” said Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly, who launched the investigation after hearing allegations of retaliation lodged against Caltrans during a Senate hearing in January. “While the California Highway Patrol found no violation of law, it identified past management shortfalls that must be addressed. I’ve asked Director Dougherty to review the document and its recommendations and make necessary changes to the management structure of the bridge to improve project oversight. I’ve asked for the new management structure to be in place by December 1, 2014.” 

The reorganization will focus on the recommendations made in the CHP report including improving communication, documentation, transparency and consistent adherence to policies. Mindful of budget pressures, the reorganization will also include right-sizing the operation to better comport with the remaining work on the project. 

The CHP’s investigation, titled “Inquiry Into Personnel Practices Associated with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Project,” probes management of Bay Bridge construction and component fabrication that occurred more than five years ago, primarily overseas in China. The report does not address the safety of the bay bridge, an issue which was not in question. Witnesses during Senate hearings expressed consensus regarding bridge safety, even those who questioned management practices.  

Earlier this year, the State Senate Transportation Committee alleged that employees suffered retaliation from management after voicing concerns about quality control. The CHP found no retaliation: “The totality of the evidence does not support the elements of a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act,” investigators wrote.

CHP also found nothing unlawful in Caltrans’ decision six years ago to allow new companies to bid for a quality assurance contract. “The investigation revealed there was insufficient evidence to support a claim of collusion, or an effort to select other than the most qualified firm,” investigators concluded.

Although CHP did not find retaliation or other violations of law, the report describes how poor internal communication and management practices created distrust and confusion, leading to speculation of improper activity by some employees. “While management personnel indicated that those concerns brought forward were considered, and a course of action selected, they failed to communicate this information to subordinate employees, resulting in a perception that management intended to suppress or ignore concerns,” investigators found.

Since January, Caltrans has been engaged in a department reform effort to improve performance, accountability, management and communication. The department’s new vision includes being a “performance-driven, transparent and accountable organization,” and many of the past management issues identified in the investigation were inconsistent with that new vision.  

“I’m working closely with Director Dougherty to improve Caltrans’ operations, with greater emphasis on transparency and accountability,” said Secretary Kelly. “The CHP report reflects the fact that we have more improvements to make—and we will.”

The CHP’s investigative report can be found here. The CHP does not list names in public reports of official investigations. To assist readers of the report, a list of the names and titles of witnesses who testified before the Senate can be found


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