By Keith Carson & Bob Alvarado
The Bay Area continues to be the envy of the nation in terms of economic progress and technological ingenuity. But our economic growth, public safety and quality of life is being threatened by roads that are among the worst in the country.
A recent report by the independent, nonprofit transportation research group TRIP found that 71 percent of roads in the San Francisco-Oakland area were in poor condition — higher than any other urban area in the nation. The area around Concord had the third-worst road conditions with 62 percent of roads rated as poor and the area around San Jose came in fifth with 59 percent of roads in poor condition.
After years of gridlock in Sacramento, state leaders have an opportunity in the coming days to reinvest in the roads of our region. A new, comprehensive transportation plan — backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, legislative leaders and a broad coalition of businesses, local leaders and transportation advocates — will be coming up for a vote before a key April 6 deadline.
The fate of the comprehensive, statewide fix now rests in the hands of East Bay lawmakers like Sen. Steve Glazer. It is critical that Glazer and other state lawmakers stand up for smart public investments and vote yes on the road repair plan.
The plan will generate tens of millions of dollars of new revenue each year for the East Bay to make road safety improvements, fill potholes and repair local streets, highways, bridges and overpasses.
This plan also comes with guarantees that we do not simply hand Sacramento a blank check. These revenues come with tough new accountability requirements including regular audits and oversight, and controls to reduce bureaucracy and red tape. The plan also should prevent the Legislature from using funds for non-transportation purposes.
Some say that we don’t need new revenues to bolster our transportation network. They’re wrong. With more than $130 billion in needed repairs, but no funding to make them, new revenues for transportation are a must if we’re going to even make a dent in that backlog.
East Bay commuters and residents have seen firsthand the extent of our region’s road repair needs. The recent heavy rains made the many potholes on our roads and highways bigger. One pothole on a stretch of Interstate 580 in Livermore was so massive that a dozen cars popped tires driving through it.
On 680, motorists who thought someone was throwing rocks at their cars from a nearby overpass found out instead that their windshields and windows were damaged by chunks of the highway itself, which had come dislodged.
Investing in road repairs is a smart investment. It costs eight times more to replace a road than to regularly maintain it. And motorists currently spend more than $700 per year in unnecessary vehicle repairs that result from bad roads.
After months of negotiations, a deal to meet the needs of East Bay drivers is finally within reach. Lawmakers cannot afford to let this opportunity pass them by. Our local leaders, including Sen. Glazer, must do right by the people they serve and help bring California’s crumbling roadways into the 21st century. The time for delay is over.
Keith Carson is an Alameda County supervisor and CSAC president. Bob Alvarado is executive officer of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council and chair of the California Transportation Commission.