Riverside Press Enterprise: Riverside County road improvements coming soon, state transportation chief promises

October 13, 2017

October 13, 2017
By: Imran Ghori

Riverside County and the rest of California will start seeing new transportation projects funded by the gas tax increase moving forward quickly in the coming months, California Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly said Friday, Oct. 13.

Speaking before the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, Kelly said the area benefited in particular from what he called a “historic” $427 million for transportation projects earmarked for Riverside County.

Those projects include $48 million for a rebuilt 15 Freeway/Limonite Avenue interchange serving Eastvale and Jurupa Valley and $180 million for a connector ramp between the new 91 freeway express lanes and northbound 15 Freeway in Corona.

The agency is looking at expediting delivery of both projects, Kelly said.

“We’re not waiting for the revenue to show up before we start moving projects forward,” he said.

Kelly lauded Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, who was in the audience, and state Sen. Richard Roth, both D-Riverside, for what he called “courageous votes” in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s transportation bill SB 1, which provides $52.4 billion over a decade. Both cast crucial votes needed to win passage and negotiated the local funding as part of their support.

“I appreciate the difficult votes to pass that bill,” Kelly said. “The benefits from that bill I think are immense.”

In addition, the state expects to make more than $5 billion available by the end of the month for maintenance projects across the state that include modernizing 60 bridges and repaving numerous freeways, he said.

About half of that will go to cities and counties for local road projects, which Kelly said will be identified by the end of the month.

In the spring, the California Transportation Commission will make funds available for projects expanding freeway capacity and reducing congestion that will be awarded through competitive grants. Counties with local transportation sales taxes in place, such as Riverside County, will get matching funds from the state, Kelly said.

Overall, the gas tax will provide $5 billion a year, which he said will allow the state to address transportation needs while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Kelly also addressed the possible repeal of the gas tax that Republicans are trying to get on the November ballot.

Opponents have not offered a credible alternative as to how they will meet the state’s transportation needs, he said.

“It’s do or not do,” he said. “This administration, we try to be doers. I don’t see an alternative.”

While the gas tax was passed mainly on a party-line vote with Democrats in support, Kelly said the use of gas taxes has been passed by both parties in half the states in the country including those with Republican leadership.

He quoted former President Ronald Reagan calling it a “fair concept” to use gas taxes to pay for transportation when he approved a hike in 1983.

“The point here is this is not a California-only thing,” Kelly said. “It’s not a blue-state-only thing. State after state across the country are reacting to the lack of action on the federal level to address transportation needs.”

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