As you drive your car around for a while, you will no doubt become aware that it is due for an oil change. Perhaps the tires have worn down beyond safe status, and then you notice it stalls occasionally. After a while the air conditioning isn’t working very well, and the temperature gauge keeps rising to the red. What do you do? Perhaps you just keep driving the car until something happens. Perhaps you are on the freeway and you get a flat tire while billows of black smoke suddenly pour from the engine. The tow truck driver shakes his head, tows it in and they say it is beyond repair. So you write a check from your emergency fund and get a brand new car….
If the above scenario happened to you, everyone around would think you were a moron for not taking care of your car, and then spending vastly more money to replace it. But that is what we as a state, and even a nation are doing as we continue to neglect vital infrastructure repair and maintenance until a catastrophic failure forces a quick fix, like a bridge or road replacement, and at great cost.
Will Kempton of Transportation California visited the American River Democrats meeting in July, and gave us a rundown of California’s transportation system woes.
Transportation California is a diversified, non-partisan, non-profit coalition representing a broad spectrum of business, labor, and planning agencies which have united to create the state’s leading transportation advocacy and public education group. Their stated mission is to develop adequate, dedicated and sustainable funding to properly maintain California’s transportation infrastructure and build the transportation system of the future.
The present status is alarming. California ranks 48th out of 50 states in terms of pavement condition. Our population and economy have grown faster than the pace of investment in maintenance of our roads and highways. And this lack of maintenance accelerates the deterioration, and increases the cost of future repair and replacement.
Funding from past bonds, such as Propositition 1B have expired, and gasoline taxes have failed to keep pace with inflation, and the existing revenues have been diverted to the state general fund to make up for budget shortfalls. And, ironically enough, our huge progress in saving gas, through high mileage cars and trucks has meant that lower per capita fuel consumption has also lowered revenues. Your Prius is great for the environment and reducing reliance on foreign oil, but it hasn’t helped highway funding…
So what can be done? First off, keep driving that Prius or other high mileage cars. They don’t impact the roads that much anyway. But the California legislature must take action to re-direct funds from truck weight fees back to the transportation program. This $1 billion annual revenue was intended to offset the damage heavy and high usage trucks impart on the roads and freeways. But it is now just part of the general state fund. Since a lot of progress has been made to fix the state’s revenue stream, the time is right to reset the priorities.
See the Transportation California website for more information, and to get help identifying your representatives to let them know how important safe roads, highways and bridges are to you.