LA transportation projects face cuts as gas tax revenues fall

While drivers are enjoying cheaper gas prices, falling gas tax revenues mean cuts in Los Angeles County road and transit projects.
While drivers are enjoying cheaper gas prices, falling gas tax revenues mean cuts in Los Angeles County road and transit projects. Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

The low gas prices that consumers are enjoying at the pump will mean cuts in Los Angeles County transportation projects.

Despite a surplus in the state budget, the projects will see cutbacks because their funding comes mostly from the state gas tax. As fuel prices go down, the revenue pot grows smaller.

California is cutting more than $750 million for road and transit projects statewide, including three in L.A. County, state officials said.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority will lose about $120 million that would have helped buy light rail cars, widen State Route 138 and build a new pedestrian bridge to connect the Burbank Airport with the Metrolink station.

The Metro board will have the final say on which projects take the brunt of the cuts; officials can move dollars between different funds and potentially find new sources to restore funding to the projects.

But with falling gas tax revenues, the future of long-term transportation funding is now in the hands of legislators. 

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown convened a special session of the legislature to address the transportation funding gap that has left projects backlogged.

Even before gas prices fell, revenues from the gas tax weren't keeping pace with construction costs and the state accumulated $59 billion in deferred repairs to roads and bridges.

The governor is pushing a package that combines an increase in the state gas tax with a flat road user fee of $65 and funds from California's cap and trade carbon market.

But Republican lawmakers have opposed any increase in fees, favoring instead a diversion of funds from the state's controversial $68 billion bullet train project.

The state also recently began testing a new road user fee program that charges users for the number of miles they drive, rather than the gas they buy, an option that is less vulnerable to gas price changes and variations in vehicle gas mileage.

The program will be tested and researched until December 2016 and wouldn't be implemented on a statewide level for several years.

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