Published: March 26, 2017
By Bryan Starr
Re: “State needs transportation reform and better priorities, not tax increases, to fix infrastructure,” [Opinion, March 12]: The Register’s editorial made the excellent point that California motorists pay a fortune driving on roads in desperate disrepair. It also highlighted that this problem can’t — and won’t — be fixed without major reforms to hold the state accountable for managing transportation funds.
Orange County Business Council, along with a 200-member coalition comprised of other business groups, local governments and transportation advocates, couldn’t agree more. The mismanagement of California’s precious and scarce transportation resources cannot be ignored, and reforms to the spending process are absolutely necessary.
That’s why our coalition supports legislation which would enact strong accountability measures to ensure that our dollars are spent efficiently, while also providing long-term funding for transportation through a combination of moderate fees and gas taxes of a few dollars a month. In the end, moderate increases will reduce costs for motorists in California who pay almost $800 annually in repairs to their vehicles from driving on bad roads, which pencils out to over $60 per month.
No matter what party, everyone agrees that the rain check on repairing California’s roads has been cashed, literally. Bad roads became even worse with the recent winter storms. Cracks turned into potholes, sinkholes swallowed cars, roads washed out, and a fire truck even fell over the side of a failing bridge in San Bernardino County. And these roads aren’t just a massive inconvenience for drivers or a safety issue, which should be reasons enough to fix our roads. Ignoring the problem is also costing us a lot of money. In addition to vehicle repairs, it also costs eight times more money to replace a road than to perform routine maintenance.
Unfortunately, California’s infrastructure situation is too dire for the problem to be fixed with accountability reforms alone, as the administration estimates that there is $57 billion worth of deferred maintenance transportation needs. The time has come for the Legislature to step up and urgently pass a transportation funding package before it recesses on April 6 to address the billions in backlogged maintenance and the more than $600 million in damage due to winter storms.
The new revenues will help make road safety improvements, fill potholes and repair local streets, highways, bridges and overpasses, raising at least $6 billion, when fully phased in, which is exactly what is needed to make a dent in the maintenance backlog.
We support a bill that would give more independence to the California Transportation Commission and establish oversight audits to improve efficiency and increase transparency, coupled with strong accountability provisions that cut bureaucratic redundancies and ensure transportation funds are spent efficiently and for transportation projects only.
Legislators must act quickly to pass a transportation funding package to prevent further deterioration of our network — and further deterioration of our cars from driving on pothole-filled roads.
We all pay the more they delay.
— Bryan Starr, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Orange County Business Council