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California’s Gas Tax Jumps: Where The Money Goes

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Sonora, CA — Earlier this month, California’s gasoline tax went up 3.2 cents per gallon, bringing it to 50.5 cents.

Many may wonder where the money goes. During the economic downturn over a decade ago state lawmakers were criticized for borrowing, or to use the term of critics, “raiding,” local transportation funds to help close the budget deficit. In 2010, a ballot measure was approved to prevent the state from continuing that practice.

The Tuolumne County Public Works Department reports that the main revenue source for local road projects is gasoline tax revenue and vehicle registration fees. 50-percent of the gas tax collected goes to the state and the remainder is allocated locally. The local dollars must be spent on eligible transportation projects, like road maintenance/rehabilitation, safety improvements, railroad grade separations, complete street components, pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, transit facilities, drainage efforts, stormwater capture projects and traffic control devices.

Tuolumne County is currently receiving around $5-million in revenue, annually, from the gas tax. Asked if the money is enough to do all the projects they wish, Public Works Director, Kim MacFarlane, writes, “The available gas tax revenue varies from year to year but it is never enough funding to complete the required road maintenance throughout the county.  Add in a few disasters (five declared disasters in the last 8 years) and years of deferred maintenance due to a lack of funding, we have more road repair needs than ever. Our situation is not unusual to other rural counties.  Now with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, we anticipate significant gas tax revenue reductions, as well as a loss in our Local Transportation Funds.”

The gas tax revenue must be spent on county maintained roads.

Californians typically spend, in total, around 16-billion a year on fuel taxes and vehicle fees, according to the Department of Finance, with the majority of the revenue going to Caltrans. The state estimates that 59-percent of the money ends up going towards highway repairs/maintenance/public transit, 22-percent to enforcement and regulation (DMV and CHP), 7-percent to paying down debt, 7-percent for local law enforcement/general fund/department of parks/department of agriculture and 3-percent towards administration costs.  California currently has the highest gas tax in the country.

Below is a list of some of the bigger road projects receiving gas tax funding, locally, over the past couple of years, this coming year, and in the near future, per the Tuolumne County Public Works Department.

Other local funding mechanisms for roads include local permit fees, grants for capital projects and federal Secure Rural Schools revenue.

Recent projects:

Jacksonville Road Resurfacing (Hwy 120 Detour Improvements) (2019)

Ferretti Road Culvert Storm Damage Repair (2019)

Marshes Flat – Kelly Grade Storm Damage Repair (2019)

Kewin Mill Culvert Storm Damage Repair (2019)

Parrotts Ferry Road Reconstruction (2016 & 2019)

Hardin Flat Road Bridge Replacement (2018)

Fifth Avenue Signalization (2018)

Yankee Hill Road Resurfacing (2017)

Retrofit Regulatory & Warning Signs (2017)

Signalization of Tuolumne Road as Standard Road (2016)

Tuolumne Road North Resurfacing (2014)

Woodhams Carne Road Reconstruction (2014)

Lime Kiln Road Reconstruction (2013)


Italian Bar 2017 Storm Repairs (6 sites) – almost complete

Parrotts Ferry Road/SR 49 Intersection Improvements

2018 Storm Damage Projects: Priest Coulterville Road, 5 Mile Creek, Little Fuller


Tuolumne Road Widening (Terrace Drive to Lambert Lake)

Phoenix Lake Road Widening (Ridgewood Drive to Paseo De Los Portales)

Algerine-Wards Ferry Road Bridge Replacement

Big Creek Shaft Road Bridge Replacement

Lime Kiln Road Bridge Replacement

Culvert Replacements

·         Middle Camp rd. @ Brentwood Lake

·         Shasta Dr.

·         I-Bar @ Deer Creek

·         Smith Station Rd

·         Merrell St. @ N. Dome Ct.

·         Red Hills Rd. @ Simms

·         State St.

·         Silver St.

·         Campo Seco @ Preston Ln.

·         Green Springs Rd.

Future Projects

Tuolumne Road North Rehabilitation (Ponderosa Hills to SR 108)

Tuolumne Road Resurfacing

Kewin Mill Road Reconstruction (portion)

Standard Road Reconstruction


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