Gas tax to jump another 6 cents a gallon to pay for road and bridge repairs

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Last month, a driver said a brick-sized piece of concrete shattered his windshield when it fell inside the Yerba Buena tunnel on the Bay Bridge. 

When he reported the incident to Caltrans, he said a worker told him he was the fourth person in recent months to report falling concrete in the tunnel. 

In April, a driver on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge reported to police that her windshield was chipped by two pieces of baseball-sized falling concrete. 

And a few months earlier, an expansion joint failed on that bridge, sending concrete flying from the upper to the lower deck of the bridge and damaging a car.

It’s no secret that California’s aging bridges need to be replaced and repaired, and work is well underway. 

Two years after former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that raised the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon to pay for road and bridge repairs, the state has spent more than $121 million of the revenue repairing and replacing dozens of bridges and fixing culverts. 

But more money is needed. Starting July 1, California drivers will again feel a bump at the pump when the gas tax goes up another 6 cents. The tax will again go up roughly 2 cents per gallon next year. 

And critics of the gas tax aren’t pleased. 

 “When it comes to basics, like road infrastructure, Sacramento continues to fail,’’  Assemblyman Vince Fong, a Republican representing Bakersfield, wrote on Facebook. “As you sit in miserable traffic congestion, it’s because Sacramento has neglected our roads for decades."

"When Sacramento Democrats passed the largest gas tax in state history in 2017, they did not tell the public that the millions of additional gas tax money will actually be spent on reducing the number of lanes, thus making traffic congestion even worse," Fong wrote. 

The law's fine print did promise to add bicycle lanes in many cities and the city of Sacramento, for instance, has built wider, protected bicycle routes and removed the number of traffic lanes for safety reasons.  

The city realized "the primary collision factor on the streets was unsafe speeds," Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a news report. "And one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce the speeds is to reduce the number of travel lanes."

Meanwhile, 2018 data from the Federal Highway Administration shows the number of California bridges in “poor” condition has gone up since the gas tax increase. More than 1,800 California bridges are considered to be in “poor” condition and more than 9,000 bridges are said to be in “fair” condition. 

So, about that falling concrete from the Richmond San Rafael Bridge: just this week, Caltrans and the Bay Area Toll Authority issued an update on work underway to replace 61 joints on both the upper and lower decks of the bridge.

“Each of the original 1950-era joints is being replaced by a new joint that features a rubberized seal designed to shrink and expand with changing temperatures. This will prevent cracking of the surrounding concrete road deck,” the update said. 

As far as the concrete that allegedly fell from the Bay Bridge onto a man’s truck windshield, Caltrans told KTVU that they believe that it’s possible that something could have fallen from the ceiling, but they can’t find any evidence that it did.