Prior to launching ej thronson consulting, Mr. Thronson led or was involved in a large number of important projects in the state.
THE ROAD REPAIR AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2017 (SB 1, BEALL)
After years of ignoring the state’s transportation funding crisis, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 1 (Beall), also known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, increasing transportation funding and instituting much-needed reforms. SB 1 provided the first significant, stable, and on-going increase in state transportation funding in more than two decades. While working for Senator Beall, Mr. Thronson drafted SB 16 (2015), which eventually became SB 1. Mr. Thronson identified the necessary changes to the various funding streams, created the new funding program structures, and included a number of the accountability measures contained in the version of the legislation that eventually was signed into law.
After leaving the Senate to serve as the Deputy Director at the California Transportation Commission, Mr. Thronson’s role changed from policy advisor to advocate for the funding proposal, traveling the state to make presentations and communicate to organizations and the public the dire need for increased transportation funding. In addition, Mr. Thronson coordinated and authored the report, California Mobility Investment Opportunities, identifying the state's needs by region and generally describing the corresponding benefits constituents might expect from additional resources applied to those needs.
ROAD CHARGE TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE (SB 1077, DESAULNIER)
Mr. Thronson was one of the first in California to recognize the need to mitigate against the eventual failure of the existing funding mechanisms for the state’s transportation system. The majority of transportation funding in California is generated by an excise tax on fuels – with the state's goal of a zero-emission future, the excise tax revenue will not be able to fund the state’s significant needs. A new paradigm must be instituted in order to maintain our existing system.
In 2014, Mr. Thronson convinced his Committee Chairman, Senator DeSaulnier, to author Senate Bill 1077, which established the California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee. SB 1077 created the California Road Charge Pilot Program and tasked the Chair of the California Transportation Commission to convene a fifteen-member Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to study alternatives to the gas tax, gather public comment, and make recommendations for the design of a road charge pilot program. While there were legitimate concerns related to the replacement of the fuel excise tax with a road charge, Mr. Thronson worked with opponents to find ways to assuage their fears and begin the process of educating the state on both the need and the benefits of the switch. He believes that, someday, this legislation may be recognized as the most meaningful transportation policy he was ever involved in developing.
CALTRANS ACCOUNTABILITY EFFORTS (SB 486, DESAULNIER)
In 2014, Mr. Thronson developed and staffed SB 486 (DeSaulnier), a bill that made a number of changes to the state’s transportation planning and project programming processes, including instituting a logical progression for the state’s transportation plans to flow from the overarching California Transportation Plan to the Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan to the 5-year Interregional Transportation Improvement Plan. Prior to this legislation, Caltrans developed project lists for the state highway programs with little connection to the long-range planning documents the department drafted to presumably provide the state with direction. The disconnect between the two efforts led to significant inefficiencies and resulted in confusion and discontent among the state’s many partners. SB 486 rationalized the state’s planning processes and led to mission-driven project selection that supports the state’s many goals. In addition, SB 486 changed the way the state selected state highway maintenance and repair projects by requiring the development of an asset management plan to prioritize projects based on needs identified against an approved set of metrics. These innovations have significantly improved the way Caltrans delivers transportation projects in the state.
IMPROVING CALTRANS BUDGETING PROCESSES
As Deputy Director of Legislation and Finance at the California Transportation Commission, Mr. Thronson oversaw an effort that brought Caltrans, Transportation Agency, Department of Finance, and legislative staff, as well as regional transportation agency representatives, together to review and restructure Caltrans’ methodology and legislative reporting of its Capital Outlay Support (COS) budget. For years, all parties involved had struggled with the challenge of fairly representing the Caltrans COS budget needs to the legislative budget subcommittees in a way that allowed appropriate oversight while providing for the necessary flexibility to manage the program. This workgroup finally created a process that each side agreed could accomplish both aims; it took a significant effort to bring the parties together and reach the final conclusion.
This effort lasted many months, and included scheduling meetings with all parties to first discuss the problem, brainstorm potential solutions, and then identifying an alternative that satisfied all involved parties. Finally, through individual conversations with participants prior to the conclusion of the effort, Mr. Thronson was able to build a consensus with everyone in the group around a particular solution that accomplished both aims of appropriate oversight over and sufficient flexibility of Caltrans’ budgeting process.
TOLLED FACILITIES GUIDELINES (AB 194, FRAZIER)
In 2015, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law AB 194 (Frazier), delegating to the California Transportation Commission the responsibility to approve the tolling of an unlimited number of transportation facilities in California. With this new authority, the Legislature created the opportunity for regional transportation agencies and the state to consider in their long-term plans alternative means to finance critical transportation infrastructure improvements, including the addition of toll lanes, without having to weigh the political feasibility of achieving the statutory authority to toll new facilities. This significant policy shift will have profound impacts on the regions and the state as they struggle to find the necessary revenues to address transportation challenges.
As Deputy Director of Legislation and Finance at the California Transportation Commission, Mr. Thronson was responsible for drafting the guidelines for the implementation of the new program, as well as overseeing the first successful application for tolling authority under the new law.