San Diego Union Tribune Opinion Editorial: Transportation Funding Needed to Put California on Right PathMarch 28, 2017
Published: February 17, 2017
By Andy Berg
Those of us in the construction industry spend a lot of time driving to and from the job site. The ability to get our workers and materials to the job is the first step before we can even start the work. But California’s roads are in disrepair and in need of maintenance. Bad roads are costing us all in unnecessary vehicle repairs, traffic delays and lost productivity. And a severe case of road rage.
The poor state of our roads is why we’ve joined with other businesses, local governments, labor leaders and many others in urging the California Legislature to urgently pass a transportation funding package in the next few weeks to address the billions in backlogged maintenance needs that have led to potholes, deteriorating roads, bridges and transit systems here in our region.
The need is great and the more time we waste the more costly it becomes.
Earlier this month after an inspection of county roads, the San Diego County Public Works Department graded our local streets and roads and gave them the lowest Pavement Condition Index score ever at 60 or “fair.” Knowing what our roads are like, I think that’s generous. According to their calculations it will take an additional $56 million per year for the next five years to get roads to a score of 70 or “very good” condition.
The good news is that Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders in Sacramento promised last year to focus on a transportation funding deal early in 2017. And it looks like they will make good on their promise. The governor, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon have announced April 6 as the deadline to get a transportation package through the Legislature.
We are counting on them to make good on that promise.
It’s expected that two bills moving through the Legislature now will form the framework of a final deal. We are supporting these two bills — SB 1 and AB 1 — that will generate new revenue that can boost funding for transportation fixes throughout the San Diego County region.
SB 1 and AB 1 will bring more than $173 million dollars each and every year to San Diego County and the cities in our county. That’s money that can be spent to help us make road safety improvements, fill potholes, repair local streets and upgrade local bridges that are unsafe.
SB 1 and AB 1 also contain strong accountability requirements to ensure dollars are spent wisely, including streamlining projects by cutting bureaucracy and red tape. Both bills establish the independent office of Transportation Inspector General to perform audits, improve efficiency and increase transparency.
Finally, SB 1 and AB 1 should be coupled with a new constitutional measure to prohibit these funds from being diverted by the Legislature for nontransportation purposes.
It has been 23 years since California has increased funding for transportation. As a result, road repairs now receive only 50 percent of the funding they did back in1994.
Inflation, more fuel-efficient cars, and electric and hybrid vehicles have eroded transportation funding over the years.
This erosion of funding has led to an erosion in our state and local roads. Cracked pavement may be annoying, but the cracks lead to water seeping in and potholes and even sinkholes can form.
As we’ve seen, poorly maintained roads become large problems — shutting down entire freeways and thoroughfares and costing far more to repair. In fact, research shows it costs eight times more to fix a road than to maintain it.
Motorists are paying the price for bad roads. According to a 2015 study from the National Transportation Research Group, the poor condition of California streets and roads costs San Diego drivers an average of $722 a year more in maintenance costs.
Just ask any contractor, or any motorist how urgent this problem has become. It’s past time for our legislators to do something to fix our roads. The time to act is now to pass SB 1 and AB 1.
We all pay, the more they delay.
Berg is executive director, San Diego chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association. The group’s national website is www.necanet.org.