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California’s Roads Have Gone to Pot

Here’s food for thought . . . California’s roads have gone to pot.

Pot-holes, that is.

I recently crossed the California border into Arizona.

On the California side, the road conditions on our highways were deplorable . . . cracks, ruts and potholes for miles of endless miles.

On the Arizona side, from the precise moment we crossed the stateline, the highway system was perfect.  We drove hundreds of Arizona highway miles – from the California border to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Phoenix and back to California.

Just how bad are California’s roads?

  • We have 50,000 lane miles in our highway system.  More than one in four need major repair.
  • The annual need for road repairs, just for our highest priorities, exceeds $7.4 billion.  Yet we only have funds to invest $2 billion annually in improvements, leaving $5.4 billion each year unfunded.

As one of nine gubernatorial appointees to the California transportation commission, I sit meeting after meeting frustrated by how much needs to be done, and how little funding we have to do it.  There must be lessons to learn from other states.  A good place to start might be Arizona.

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This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. I long ago noted the same change in road conditions when we travel from California into Oregon and Washington. Since California charges more taxes on fuel than any of these other states, I must assume that we in California either siphon off more of the money for non-road purposes (like all the MTC projects and subsidies) or that we are much less efficient in spending our money (or both).

    Perhaps spending $5B converting HOV lanes into toll lanes isn’t the best choice of how to spend our money…maybe subsidizing VTA light rail to Mt. View at $5/passenger-mile is not a great choice compared with actually repairing roads.

  2. Agreed, Carl. our roads are BAD! I haven’t investigated roads in AZ and look forward to hearing from you as to what they are doing right – but I think it safe to say that with a stagnant state gas tax since 1994 (notwithstanding last year’s gas tax ‘swap’) and a stagnant fed’ gas tax since ’93, road funds are scarce.

    Suggestion: the last gas tax increase, as you know, was 1990 Prop’ 111 – it doubled the 9-cent state gas tax in a period of 5 years. I believe legislators Katz and Kopp wrote the initiative. Sadly, as you no doubt know, it required a 2/3 vote of the leg’ to be placed on the ballot – which would not happen today with the Rs that have taken the pledge to Grover Norquest (as opposed to the Pledge of Allegiance) .

    How would you allow voters to improve the roads?

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