Gas tax, fees expected to bring in $6M annually

Wilder Ridge Road in Southern Humboldt was severely damaged by storms this year. A gas tax approved last week by the state’s Legislature will go toward funding much needed road repairs.
Wilder Ridge Road in Southern Humboldt was severely damaged by storms this year. A gas tax approved last week by the state’s Legislature will go toward funding much needed road repairs. Photo by Jason Short, Submitted by Ronald Garton

The increased transportation tax and vehicle fees passed by the state Legislature are expected to provide $6 million a year in revenue for Humboldt County road maintenance, Public Works Director Tom Mattson said Friday.

“[Senate Bill 1] will fund about one-third of what we actually need to fix our roads, which is a heck of a lot more that what we have,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see less pot holes and less of our roads falling apart and less money and time fixing cars.”

Mattson said that although the county does not expect to receive funds from the tax until three years after it goes into effect, the revenue would partially fund Humboldt County’s massive road reconstruction needs which were estimated in February to total over $36 million — and those costs are just those associated with this season’s winter storms. There is another $200 million backlog in road maintenance for the county.

Passed Thursday night by the state Senate (27-11) and Assembly (54-26), SB 1 will raise gasoline taxes 43 percent to 47.3 cents per gallon beginning Nov. 1. Diesel taxes will more than double to 36 cents a gallon. Vehicle owners will be charged a new annual fee, paid along with vehicle registration, beginning Jan. 2018. There is also a new $100 registration fee for zero-emission vehicles built after 2020. According to the bill’s text, the fees are subject to inflation adjustments.

The total state revenue, more than $52 billion over the next 10 years, will pay for repairs to state highways and local streets, along with improvements to bridges, public transit, and biking and walking trails.

The amount of funding for each city, created by the tax revenue, would depend upon the population size, according to North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), who co-authored the bill. A larger city like Eureka would receive approximately $935,000, while a smaller city like Trinidad would receive around $12,000.

“Our communities are home to some of the worst roads in the state, we can’t keep kicking the can down the crumbling road. [Thursday night’s] vote to approve this critical transportation funding package was a long overdue step,” McGuire said in a news release. “Advancing a tax increase is never easy, especially for California residents who have to foot the bill, but we have a transportation funding crisis. Our roads, highways and bridges are literally falling apart and tens of millions of California commuters, businesses and travelers have literally been paying the price for the lack of action.”

Les Schwab Tire Center assistant manager Adam Gray said he’s noticed more and more people come in for replacements because of rough roads.

“We had a lady come in a few days ago to replace three out of four of her tires that she had just paid for about two months ago,” Gray said. “Cars come in with cracked wheels and damaged tires because of the broken down roads. We had another couple come in who hit a pretty good sized pothole going up and down [state Route] 299.”

He said it was hard to say if all the shops in Humboldt County had an increase in tires sales, but that as roads deteriorate, it can definitely take a toll on cars.

Natalya Estrada can be reached at 707-441-0510. Hunter Cresswell contributed to this article.

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