NMG’s Pritchard wins Best of States for transportation scoops

Justin Pritchard

Justin Pritchard

NMG member Justin Pritchard of the Los Angeles bureau won last week’s AP Best of the States award for breaking news _ twice _ about major troubles with California’s transportation infrastructure.

Pritchard, who covers transportation in the state, first got two state agencies to give him unpublished data showing California is way behind in its goal of setting up 1,040 electric vehicle charging stations by this month. The goal is part of a bigger plan to get 1.5 million zero-emission cars on state roads by 2025.

Only 110 charging stations have been delivered so far by the vendor, NRG Energy of New Jersey. It’s supposed to provide all the stations as part of a legal settlement of claims that NRG’s power plants overcharged for electricity during California’s power crisis a decade ago. Pritchard also showed that regulators hadn’t ensured the settlement’s terms were fulfilled.

Next he reported exclusively that about a third of the 27,000 traffic sensors under California highways aren’t functioning. They’re meant to help troubleshoot daily commutes and long-term maintenance needs on heavily used roads.

During a beat-building visit to the LA traffic management center, Pritchard had noticed lots of data was missing from its map. He investigated, pressing state transportation officials until they eventually gave him figures showing how many sensors had broken over the prior five years. His story gave context from experts on the many challenges caused by so many outages.

Even better, Pritchard wrapped up both scoops while covering the Los Angeles Auto Show.