Q Mr. Roadshow, a recent column was full of legitimate complaints about the state of our roads. It is clear that Caltrans is underfunded and therefore undermanned. It occurred to me it might be useful if you asked your readers, when they forwarded a complaint, would they say yes or no to a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax dedicated to improving our roads. The money would not go into the general fund, basically just to Caltrans. It would make for an interesting and informative survey.
A It would indeed, but first this: The state gas tax will rise 3.5 cents a gallon, to 39.5 cents, on July 1 after a recent vote by the state Board of Equalization. The increase means California will have the highest gas tax in the nation, at 70.6 cents a gallon when federal taxes are included.
According to an AP report, the increase was necessitated by a $157 million shortfall in gas-tax revenue in fiscal 2012, plus a projection of lower fuel consumption by California drivers as we buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Three years ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created a new tax structure for gasoline and mandated that the board adjust the state gas excise tax rate by March 1 of each year. The change was proposed when the state sales tax rate was reduced in 2010, and the Schwarzenegger administration was looking for ways to free up money to balance the state budget.
Now to Nils' question: Would voters approve a 10-cent gas tax increase? I doubt it. The Metropolitan Transportation has legislative authority to place a 10-cent-a-gallon tax on the ballot in the Bay Area, but numerous surveys taken over the past decade show only about one in three voters would support such an increase.
Q With the work begun on the Interstate 280-880 interchange, what used to be a moderately nerve-racking merge from the south 280 flyover down onto 880 north has become terrifying. The lane is much narrower because of the concrete barriers added for the project. The lighting is terrible, you're looking back as you merge, and the barriers are inches from your car. Scary!
Any chance that they will give us back those few feet of safety and move the barriers back to the original roadway edge before the project ends two years from now?
A Yep, but not right away. The merge from southbound 280 to north 880 will get better in the second phase of construction later this year. The northbound 880 outside widening is expected to be finished this summer and the concrete barriers are in place where they need to be in order to protect workers in this very tight construction work zone.
Q There is a merge very shortly after eastbound Hamilton Avenue at Meridian Avenue in San Jose with a lot of traffic going in and out of the shopping center. Any chance to widen it there?
A Not anytime soon. The city says if and when the shopping center redevelops in the future and donates some land, it would consider realigning Hamilton. Until then, the current striping makes the best of what's available, balancing all the needs of drivers here.
Q For the past week the metering lights at the southbound Highway 87 onramp from Charcot have been off (totally dark). Why? Is this another case of vandalism like copper wire theft?
A Yep, thieves once again are to blame. Caltrans is uncertain when the meter will be repaired.
Q Is the LED light show on the Bay Bridge as wonderful as it looked on the national news? It seems magical and should be good for tourism in the area. I hear it was privately funded. It seems like a gift to all of us.
A Spectacular is a fitting description. The massive 25,000-light display on the nearly 2-mile bridge cost around $8 million and is being raised through private donations, with about $6 million collected so far.