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New State Report Chronicles Investment, Progress On California Water Infrastructure

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In 2016 Governor Jerry Brown’s administration took a number of significant steps to better improve the state’s water delivery, storage, and conservation efforts and made significant investment in the state’s water infrastructure. Such progress has been chronicled in the California Water Action Plan Implementation Report that was recently released. The report was completed by the California Natural Resources Agency in coordination with the California Environmental Protection Agency, and California Department of Food and Agriculture.

According to the report, important achievements in the past year includes heavy investment in the “sustainability of water supplies and more sophisticated conservation measures.” This includes hundreds of millions of dollars in state bond funds which were distributed to local agencies, many of which completed projects such as “water recycling installation of more efficient irrigation technology on farms, and many other projects”, the report stated.

Finally, another notable 2016 achievement was the California Water Commission’s adoption of regulations that will govern how more than $2 billion in Proposition 1 funds will be invested in groundwater and surface water storage projects. The regulations were developed with the important input of diverse stakeholders and interested parties all over the state, and each potentially eligible project will be required to supply specific public benefits such as recreation, water quality improvements, or flood protection.

In summary, the report provides specific progress reports on each of the action items that are part of the administration’s California Water Action Plan. To read about the progress of each Action in 2016, you can access the full report here and the pages of specific corresponding Action sections can be found below:

  • Action 1 – Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life (pg 4)
  • Action 2 – Regional Self-Reliance and Integrated Water Management Across All Levels of Government (pg 5)
  • Action 3 – Achieve the Co-Equal Goals for the Delta (pg 6)
  • Action 4 – Protect and Restore Important Ecosystems (pg 7)
  • Action 5 – Manage and Prepare for Dry Periods (pg 8)
  • Action 6 – Expand Water Storage Capacity and Improve Groundwater Management (pg 9)
  • Action 7 – Provide Safe Water for All Communities (pg 10)
  • Action 8 – Increase Flood Protection (pg 11)
  • Action 9 – Increase Operational and Regulatory Efficiency (pg 12)
  • Action 10 – Identify Sustainable and Integrated Financing Opportunities (pg 13)

ACEC California Announces Engineering Excellence Awards

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Today the American Council of Engineering Companies of California (ACEC California) unveiled the 2017 recipients of its prestigious Engineering Excellence Awards. In all, 21 California firms representing 38 projects were named winners. 18 Honor Awards were granted to 12 firms and 20 Merit Awards were granted to 11 firms. An awards dinner, which is a fundraiser for the ACEC California Scholarship Foundation 501(c)3, will be held in San Francisco, February 2, 2017, and Honor Award winning projects will have photographic panels on display at the Capitol, outside of the Governor’s office, in early 2017.

“Engineering and land surveying firms excel at serving California communities through extraordinary and innovative design in order to solve real-world problems,” said Brad Diede, Executive Director of ACEC California. “This year’s award winners were no exception – from providing critical clean water infrastructure to more efficient transportation improvement projects and world-class facilities – ACEC members are moving California forward.”

ACEC California’s annual Engineering Excellence Awards competition recognizes outstanding achievements in engineering and land surveying projects completed by California firms. Entries are accepted into one of 12 project categories: studies, research and consulting engineering services; building/technology systems; structural systems; surveying and mapping technology; environmental; waste and storm water; water resources; transportation; special projects; small projects; energy; and industrial and manufacturing processes and facilities.

The winner of the Golden State award, signifying the best overall project, will be announced at the awards dinner in February. Honor Award winners also are eligible to enter the national level Engineering Excellence Awards competition. Last year’s Golden State Award, the Air Traffic Control Tower & Integrated Facility by Walter P Moore, also garnered the top national honor, the ACEC 2016 Grand Conceptor Award. Photographs of award winning projects can be found here.

Honor Awards were granted to the following firms:

  • AECOM of Orange, CA, in association with Henderson Engineering, Inc., Kansas City, MO, for its work on the Golden One Center, home arena of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Sacramento Kings, in Sacramento, CA.
  • Arcadis U.S., Inc. of Carlsbad, CA for its work on the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant in Carlsbad, CA.
  • Arcadis U.S., Inc. of Los Angeles, CA for its work on the Port of Long Beach, Middle Harbor Redevelopment Program, Phase 1 in Long Beach, CA.
  • Biggs Cardosa Associates, Inc. of Orange, CA, for its work on the Tustin Avenue / Rose Drive Railroad Grade Separation in Placentia and Anaheim, CA.
  • Hill International of Irvine, CA, for its work on the Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Asuza, CA.
  • Kennedy/Jenks Consultants of San Francisco, CA, for its work on the Converting Waste to Vehicle Fuel at the City of San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Mateo, CA.
  • Kennedy/Jenks Consultants of San Francisco, CA, for its work on the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant (HTWTP) Long Term Improvements Project (LTIP) – 11MG Treated Water Reservoir in San Bruno, CA.
  • Kleinfelder of San Diego, CA for its work on the Cross Border Xpress Terminal Building and Pedestrian Skybridge in San Diego, CA.
  • Maintenance Design Group, LLC (MDG) of Pasadena, CA, for its work on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Division 13 Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility in Los Angeles, CA.

Merit Awards were given to:

  • HDR, Inc. in Irvine, CA, for its work on the expansion of Metrolink service, the Perris Valley Line from Perris to Riverside, CA.
  • HDR, Inc. in Los Angeles, CA, for its work on the San Bernardino Transit Center Omnitrans Bus Transit Center procured by San Bernardino Assoc. Government (SANBAG) in San Bernardino, CA.
  • Huitt-Zollars, Inc. of Thousand Oaks, CA, for its work on the Trancas Creek and Lagoon Feasibility Study in Pacific Coast Highway & Trancas Canyon Rd/ Malibu, CA.
  • Michael Baker International of San Diego, CA, for its work on the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Central Hospital – Civil Engineering, On-Site and Off Site Development, Utilities in San Diego, CA.
  • MNS Engineers, Inc. of Santa Barbara, CA, for its work on the Colorado Esplanade in Santa Monica, CA.
  • MNS Engineers, Inc. of Santa Barbara, CA, for its work on the Los Osos Valley Road Interchange at US 101 in San Luis Obispo, CA.
  • Mott MacDonald of Pleasanton, CA, for its work on the New Irvington Tunnel in Sunol, CA.
  • Psomas of Pasadena, CA, for its work on The Santa Anita Oak Woodland Project in Arcadia, CA.
  • Rick Engineering Company of San Diego, CA, for its work on the Hanson El Monte Pond Restoration and Flood Control/Groundwater Recharge Project in San Diego, CA.


Congressional Hearing Today in San Francisco On California High-Speed Rail Project

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The U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, which is chaired by California’s Representative Jeff Denham, is holding a congressional field hearing in San Francisco today on the status of the California high-speed rail project. The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 9am in Room B040 of the San Francisco Federal Building, 90 7th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.

The oversight hearing states that it “will examine the status and evolving scope of the project, and what levels of federal and state support could be necessary in order to see the project to completion.” Currently, the witness list is as follows:

  • The Honorable Sarah Feinberg, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration
  • Mr. Dan Richard, Chairman of the Board, California High-Speed Rail Authority
  • Mr. Jim Hartnett, CEO, Caltrain
  • Mr. Stuart Flashman, Attorney, Law Offices of Stuart Flashman
  • Mr. Robbie Hunter, President, State Building & Construction Trades Council of California

Rep. Denham has been a longtime vocal skeptic of the project, and is expected to negatively critique the project’s budget and its most recent business plan. However, the administration has been clear that construction is well underway in the Central Valley, posting regular construction updates on work being completed in Madera County on bridge abutments at Cottonwood Creek, on Tuolumne Street Bridge in downtown Fresno, on the San Joaquin River viaduct, and the State Route 99 alignment.

In a press release in April of this year, High Speed Rail Board Chair stated: “With existing funding and more than 119 miles of active construction in the Central Valley already underway, our 2016 Business Plan sets forth a plan to complete the construction of a high-speed rail line between Silicon Valley and Central Valley by 2024, with passenger service operations beginning in 2025.”

The most recent business plan was characterized by the HSR Board as a “foundational document” that “reflects the transition from planning to construction to providing passenger service for the nation’s first high-speed rail”. The plan also included a reduction in overall capital costs from $67.6 billion to $64.2 billion.

ACEC California continues to strongly support the landmark, visionary transportation project, and its members will be instrumental in the continuing progress towards a full build out.

Ultimately, Californians will significantly benefit from this type of alternative transportation system because it will:

  • Provide long distance commuters with a safe, convenient, and affordable alternative to flying or driving.
  • Reduce increases in air traffic and the need to expand capacity at the state’s airports.
  • Reduce California’s dependence on oil.
  • Enhance economic opportunities statewide through improved connectivity.
  • Create new commercial and industrial hubs along the rail alignment.

Finally, the high-speed rail system will also utilize alternative procurement methods such as Design-Build and Public Private Partnerships, which will produce efficient and economical delivery of the project’s final completion.

Road Charge Pilot Program: It Works!

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By Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs

Azuga Your ready to rollIt’s official! As your friendly Road Charge Pilot Program participant blogger, I am finally connected and being tracked! It’s been a long road to this point, as you can read here, but Azuga took notice and went above and beyond to fix the problem for me. In fact, I was really impressed with the level of customer service, once it became apparent that the initial device I received wasn’t going to work. Good job, Azuga!

To be honest, the level of engagement with Azuga has peaked my curiosity – What is the history of this company? Did they work with Oregon (who recently launched their own Road Charge Program)? Are they based in California? Who developed the technology to monitor my miles?

kelly azuga

But I digress…

Azuga overnighted to me a new device and after reading the easy-to-understand instructions, I plugged it in. Within minutes, I got an email saying the device was active. Yeah!

The timing of this initial connection was perfect because I needed to fill up my gas tank. While the State of California tracks my mileage, I’ve decided to keep tabs on how much I really am paying at the pump. On July 17th, I filled up my tank with 22.6 gallons, paying $53.31.


Knowing I was being “tracked” by the state of California proved to be an interesting exercise for my mind. I found myself wanting to run extra errands, so I could then look at my personal Azuga online dashboard and see what exactly was being monitored. Turns out, they monitor more than miles. When I got online, I saw start and stop times of my trips, when I braked and accelerated, a number indicating “how good of a driver” I am….fascinating!

This is going to be a cool experiment, and I remain thankful to have the opportunity to participate in something bigger than myself.

Road Charge Pilot Program Preparation

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By Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs

I’ve had a bit of a frustrating start to my participation in the Road Charge Pilot Program, but I remain hopeful that it will be resolved shortly so I can actually participate in the program. Below is a timeline of my first week, in preparation of the actual launch of the program on July 1st.

June 29 – I received in the mail the Azuga device that will plug into my vehicle and wirelessly report my mileage. I hadn’t requested a device that uses GPS (I had a choice when I enrolled), but I admit that there was a small twinge of anxiety as I opened the box and saw this little green electronic device, just waiting for me to plug it in.

I understand the privacy concerns raised by many regarding the government tracking my miles, but I have also had many conversations with Malcolm Dougherty, Director of Caltrans, and trust that the Road Charge Task Force will, in fact, do all they can to protect my private information, as the government does with other information collected, including addresses, social security numbers, drivers license information, etc… Furthermore, with my smartphone, I use Strava GPS to track my runs, WAZE to tell me how to beat the traffic to work and Uber when I am out of town but need to get around. I’m already being tracked (and, odds are, so are you if you use smartphone applications).

Still, I made the decision not to give Azuga and the state of California the ability to locate my vehicle during this pilot program.

*     *     *

The little green device came with simple instructions, and I was intent on following them accurately and perfectly….

My excitement for the Road Charge Pilot Program took a turn however, after I plugged the device in the OBDII port (step 1 was easy!). After multiple attempts, I couldn’t get the device to pair with whatever it was supposed to connect to. I called the Azuga team twice, in fact, to ensure I was installing it correctly.

I closely followed the Azuga representative’s instructions. I drove around my block, to give the device opportunity to find the cell phone tower. I waited for the Azuga representative to call me back, per his direction.

I probably spent two hours of my life trying to get everything situated for the pilot program but couldn’t get it done. The Azuga representative never called me back either.

June 30 – The pilot program begins tomorrow and I’m starting to get nervous. I want to make the most of this adventure, and I want to start tracking my mileage along with the other participants.

I tried multiple times to sync the device to the network and remain unsuccessful.

July 1 – The pilot program has begun and after two more phone calls to the Azuga representative, I am still not connected and able to participate. To be honest, I’m irritated. I’ve been told that Azuga can and will manually sync my device within 24-48 hours and that I will be kept informed.

July 2 – I am still not connected.

July 3 – I am still not connected.

July 4 – I am still not connected. And the Azuga representative never called me to keep me informed as he said he would.

July 5 – I chatted online with an Azuga representative and was told that my situation would be escalated to a higher level and that I would be contacted by phone by a different representative. A few minutes later, my phone rang, and I was told that there are a handful of participants throughout California unable to get their device paired. Lucky me.

*     *     *

It is important to note that Brad Diede, ACEC California’s Executive Director, is also participating in the Road Charge Pilot Program and his installation process was much simpler –

 “After I installed the unit per Azuga instructions, I had to make one call to ask why I could not get on the website to see if my connection worked. The problem was that I was in the country, out of good cell service for the Verizon network. I was told to remove and then re-insert the unit, then take a short drive. After that, I called again and the Azuga representative confirmed that I was connected and that they were tracking me. Now I can log onto the website and see my traffic.  Oddly, when I log into the site and look at the map illustrating where I drove on my commute, it looks like it was not completely accurate.”

*     *     *

July 6 – I am still not connected.

July 7 – Despite my frustration, I now have a front row seat to exactly why the State of California needed a pilot program. If I am one of a few in a pilot program of 5,000 people whose information cannot be collected, imagine the scale of tracking and problem solving the accurate mileage collection of millions of drivers on California’s roads. Hopefully, we can figure this out soon and I can start participating. But it is worth remembering that California is a very large state and that new programs – despite the very best of intentions – always have kinks that need addressing and the state needs to be cognizant of the problems that could arise once a program is brought to scale.

…Stay Tuned….

Road Charge Pilot Program: I’m Enrolled!

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By: Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs, ACEC California

The gas tax.

As the Director of Government Affairs for ACEC California, it’s something I’ve learned quite a bit about the last three years. Every transportation seminar and conference, every transportation-related bill moving through the legislature, and every time I’ve ever heard Malcolm Dougherty, Will Kempton, Senator Beall or Assembly Member Frazier speak in a public setting, the decline of the gas tax has been front and center.

And understandably so – there are more fuel-efficient cars on the roads these days, contributing to a decline in the gas tax, which is the revenue stream used to fix California’s roads. It’s a big deal. On behalf of ACEC California and as a longtime California resident, I believe this decline translates into a dire need to search for a long-term solution.

The good news? There’s a solution being tested by the California government at this very moment.

Back in 2014, ACEC California strongly supported Senate Bill 1077, a bill that created the California Road Charge Pilot Program to study the feasibility of a new funding stream that will ultimately replace the gas tax.

And, as of July 2016, the California Road Charge Pilot Program is underway! You can read more about the details at, but – in short – 5,000 volunteers throughout the state will test various road charging methods in an effort to assess whether or not this is a viable alternative to charging drivers a tax on their gas to pay for roads.

The best news yet? I’m one of the 5,000 volunteers to be accepted into the pilot program! Here is a screen shot from my welcome email –

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 3.39.53 PM

I’m unclear how many volunteered but not every one who signed up to participate was accepted into the program. I know there was an effort to get a good mix of rural, and suburban commuters, soccer moms and dads, business men and women, etc.

I quickly enrolled per the instructions in the email and was able to choose from various options of how my mileage would be calculated. The last thing I wanted was another task to remember throughout the week, so I chose a plug-in device for my car.

First, I needed to check if I had an OBD II port (which I “Googled” in order to figure out what it looks like and where the port is located on my vehicle).


I’m excited to be a part of this pilot program, and I care a lot about California so I thought I’d share my experiences as a pilot program participant. I’m excited to see how this will work, and whether a road charge is the long term funding solution we are looking for.

Local Infrastructure Investment Benefits All Californians

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Governor Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 194, which authorized regional transportation agencies and the California Department of Transportation to develop high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes and other toll facilities. Before the passage of AB 194, toll lane projects had a limit of four; however, now regional agencies and Caltrans are not limited in the number of high-occupancy toll lanes they can build and operate as long as they have approval by the California Transportation Commission (CTC), a public hearing, and a demonstration of the proposed facility’s benefits to the area.

HOT lanes allow for carpools to travel free of charge or at a reduced charge and allow the use of by other vehicles at a higher charge, depending on congestion. HOT lanes reduce traffic, collect revenue to help fund transportation needs and do not undermine intended benefits of carpooling.

Benefits surrounding the passage of AB 194 go beyond HOT lanes. For years, transportation agencies have struggled with deadlines of transportation projects and the challenges associated with traffic congestion by the increase of vehicles on the roads. The administrative process implemented by AB 194 allows regional transportation agencies and Caltrans to work together with the CTC to develop and operate HOT lane facilities, decreasing headaches and challenges for all. The new administrative process through CTC eliminates the need for a legislative decision and allows for funds generated from the toll roads to benefit more than those who use the lanes. For example, tolls from HOT lanes in Los Angeles have accounted for tens of millions of dollars for the Los Angeles Metro and because decisions on how to use the funds is left to the regional agencies, the Los Angeles Metro was able to increase funding for their public transit service.