There is clearly a disconnect between the state budget and implementing SB 375 on the land use side. But is there a disconnect between the state's process for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transportation planning as well?

John Barna, the executive director of the California Transportation Commission (CTC), clearly thinks so. Speaking at one of the state's leading transportation conferences Monday in Monterey, Barna pointed out that California's transportation agencies must begin planning now for transportation projects that will be constructed between 2015 and 2020 – the deadline for the first round of greenhouse gas emissions reductions contained in AB 32. He said staff members at the California Air Resources Board – operating on their own schedule under SB 375, which calls for regional targets to be finalized in 2010 – do not grasp the long-term nature of planning and designing transportation projects.

"Proposition 1B (the transportation bond issue passed in 2006) represents the final stage of implementation of the 1989-90 Blueprint for Transportation," Barna said at the "Focus On The Future" conference, put on by the Self-Help Counties Coalition. "We've been building the projects you guys dreamed up in the 1990s." The Self-Help Counties is the organization of counties promoting countywide half-cent sales taxes for transportation.

The projects in the future will look different, Barna said. They will focus on "quality of life" issues because of SB 375, other environmental requirements, and local political pressure. These are the projects that will be planned and designed between now and 2015.

Barna also said it would be impossible for the CTC and regional transportation agencies to build all the needed projects and reduce greenhouse gas emissions without a better long-term funding source than the current gas tax, which has proven more and more ineffective over time. He called on the Legislature to pass enabling legislation to permit congestion pricing.

In a separate panel, members of two major federal commissions on transportation funding said that federal funding will have to be revised as well because the gas tax is dwindling as a reliable source. (The Highway Trust Fund went bust earlier this year and had to be bailed out by Congress.) Both Tom Skancke, a member of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission, and Nossaman lawyer Geoffrey Yarema, a member of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, said that a combination of a VMT (vehicle miles traveled) tax, congestion pricing, and other mechanisms will be required.

– Bill Fulton