Breathe Easy

April 12, 2017

The California state legislature recently passed a major infrastructure bill that would raise $52 billion over 10 years to repair the state’s roads and bridges. The bulk of the funding will come from a 12-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, as well as additional vehicle registration fees. There will also be an excise tax on diesel fuel increasing by 20 cents per gallon, to 36 cents.

There’s no argument over the need for infrastructure improvements. But there was opposition to the new legislation coming from a number of agricultural associations who felt the increase in diesel fuel costs would place a massive burden on family ranchers and farmers.

And then there was this section of the law:

“Existing law imposes various limitations on emissions of air contaminants for the control of air pollution from vehicular and non-vehicular sources. Existing law generally designates the State Air Resources Board as the state agency with the primary responsibility for the control of vehicular air pollution.

“This bill would prohibit, except as specified, the requiring of the retirement, replacement, retrofit, or repower of a self-propelled commercial motor vehicle during a specified period.”

The provision basically keeps the state from requiring trucks to be upgraded as part of anti-pollution regulations. Trucks were supposed to be upgraded within their first 13 years on the road or before they reach 800,000 miles to meet emission standards.

“Move LA”, a coalition of transportation and environmental groups, opposed the new law as it made its way through the legislature. In a letter to State Senator Jim Beall, chairman of the Transportation and Housing Committee, the coalition wrote in part:

Dear Chairman Beall,

The undersigned organizations have a strong interest in how California invests federal and state transportation dollars, and our coalition has actively participated in the transportation funding dialogue throughout the last two years. We will support a proposal that includes the five recommendations we outline in principle below, and hope to work with your staff and other transportation stakeholders to craft those solutions. However, since we have not made progress toward those amendments to date, we regretfully oppose Senate Bill 1 at this time.

We appreciate the importance of maintaining our road infrastructure, and the urgency to find a funding solution as maintenance costs continue to climb. We also support your proposal for up to $150 million to the Active Transportation Program and 3.5 percent diesel sales tax to State Transit Assistance. In addition, we support investments to electrify freight trucks and equipment and reduce burdens on communities by the goods movement sector as proposed in SB 4, and want to see those provisions accompany additional infrastructure investment to the Trade Corridor Improvement Fund.

However, we still strongly believe that funding for our roads must be balanced with investments in a future transportation system that protects our environment, promotes social and economic justice, and improves our communities.

The legislation, in its current form, doesn’t appear to have addressed any of Move LA’s concerns.

Where should the lines be drawn between infrastructure versus the environment?

What sacrifices should be made in the name of crumbling roads and bridges…or in the name of clean air?

What are your answers?

And speaking of infrastructure, join Forester’s Infrastructure Photo Contest!

If you see infrastructure you feel is in need of repair, rehabilitation, or replacement, take a picture of it and email it to [email protected]. A winner will be determined at the end of Infrastructure Week, May 15–19, 2017.

The winning photo will be published in Forester magazines and on the Forester Network website. (Please submit photos at least 4” x 6” and 300 dpi.)