San Francisco Business Journal Opinion Editorial: Road relief is coming, we cannot go backward

November 3, 2017
By Jim Wunderman and Richard Garbarino

Californians are on the cusp of relief from potholed and congested roads thanks to Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act. Under SB1, signed by Gov. Brown earlier this year, the state will invest $54 billion over the next decade to fix freeways, roads and bridges across California.

However, that road relief is being threatened by several politicians who are pursuing a cynical effort to boost their own political careers with a ballot measure to repeal SB1. If successful, they would rob the Bay Area of billions of dollars in transportation funds that are slated to improve our roads and our quality of life. We urge them to abandon those efforts.

The Bay Area is home to the worst roads in the nation, according to TRIP, the national transportation research group. Seventy-one percent of our local roads are in poor condition. Motorists in the Bay Area spend, on average, $978 per year in additional vehicle maintenance costs because of the poor condition of our roads.

Bay Area drivers also suffer through the second-most congested, longest commutes in the nation, according to the 2017 Traffic Index produced by mapping company TomTom.

With SB 1, we will start seeing major projects to fix local streets and roads, fill potholes, reduce traffic congestion, make road and bridge safety repairs and improve mass transit.

SB 1 splits funding 50/50 between state and local governments. Every city and county throughout the state will receive funding to make road repairs. The Counties of San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin and the cities within those counties are collectively set to receive more than $3 billion over the next 10 years.

Public transit will benefit as well, with new SB 1 funding that will allow transit agencies to improve their vehicle fleets and services.

SB 1 comes with strict accountability requirements to ensure funds can only be used on transportation improvements, and it creates a new Inspector General to reduce inefficiencies and cut bureaucratic red tape.

These projects will improve our quality of life and our local economy, and generate tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity for our region.

After years of neglect, we finally are moving forward with meaningful investments to fix our roads. We cannot go backward.

Hitting the accelerator

Last week the California Transportation Commission announced that, because of SB 1, it was accelerating dozens of projects – including many in the Bay Area – to ease congestion, improve our freeways and make safety improvements on bridges and overpasses.

These include:

  • Bridge safety repairs on Interstate 880 and traffic congestion relief on I-980 in Alameda County;
  • A long stretch of pavement improvements on I-80 in Contra Costa County;
  • Pavement improvements on State Route 87 in San Jose and a new lane to relieve congestion between interchanges on westbound Route 237 in Santa Clara County;
  • Multiple bridge safety repairs and seismic retrofits on overpasses on I-280 and I-380 in San Mateo County; and
  • Bridge safety improvements on Hwy 101 in Marin County.

Jim Wunderman is President & CEO of the Bay Area Council. Richard Garbarino is President, League of California Cities, and a city council member in South San Francisco.