California gas tax to provide $5.2 billion per year for upgrades, impact on Lake Tahoe roads unclear
By now, most Californians are aware that Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature pushed through a bill earlier this month that’s expected to provide $5.2 billion per year for transportation upgrades through a tax increase on gasoline.
The 12-cent, per-gallon gas tax, effective this November, is expected to raise $52.4 billion over the next decade for road repairs, which is only a fraction of the $130 billion needed to complete the state’s list of necessary road and bridge repairs.
But as transportation advocates and Democrats continue to laud the passage of Senate Bill 1, whether or not the bill will have any major impact on Lake Tahoe’s transportation woes remains to be seen.
“I don’t know any specifics yet,” said Placer County Department of Public Works Transit Services Manager Will Garner in an email to the Sierra Sun.
“By that, I don’t know exactly how much money SB1 will bring to Tahoe for transportation projects, transit, and road maintenance,” he said. “We will probably need to wait for some guidance from Caltrans on how the money will be distributed and what is eligible for funding.”
To get an understanding of the traffic problem plaguing the North Lake Tahoe region, one does not need to look any further than State Route 89 on a peak visitation day.
Skiers jam the road on bluebird mornings, competing for fresh powder. During the summer, campers, hikers, boaters, and mountain bikers galore make up the bump-to-bumper traffic clogging the two-lane highway along the west shore of the lake.
And while there are fewer cars during the week, delays continue as crews work to complete any repairs they can following the damage done by winter weather conditions each year.
Community members, developers and local decision makers have all presented ideas for improving Lake Tahoe’s traffic problems, and the environmental concerns they bring up. There’s no shortage of innovation, though the money to back such ideas is another story.
For example, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s draft 2017 Regional Transportation Plan, which sets forth a multi-year plan to link the different neighborhoods in the Lake Tahoe region, has only secured about $1.6 million of its estimated $40 million total cost to implement.
Like many other counties in California, Placer County voters saw and voted against a proposal to increase the sales tax by a half cent last November, in an effort to boost funds available for transportation improvements. Had it been approved, Measure M would have provided about $1.6 million directly to the Lake Tahoe region each year, as the Sierra Sun previously reported.
Though details are still being worked out, a document from California Assemblyman Brian Dahle’s office breaks down the estimated funding allocations of SB 1. While these are only estimates, it puts the State Transit Assistance for Lake Tahoe at about $5.5 million over 10 years, which is about $550,000 per year.
Placer County Transportation Planning Agency Associate Planner Aaron Hoyt also said the details of what projects around Lake Tahoe may be eligible to receive funding from the gas tax increase, as well as how much they may receive, are still being determined.
CalTrans District 3 Public Information Officer Steve Nelson said that while he could see some Tahoe-area projects coming out of the gas tax in the coming years, nothing was definite at this point.
Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.