Oct 12 2018

Proposition 6 is a Dangerous Roadblock for California Economy

Healthy economies demand many things. A skilled workforce, raw materials, an efficient manufacturing base and access to capital are among the basics. But leave out a safe, well maintained, functioning transportation system to move workers and goods, and what do you have?

Delayed production and delivery, constrained competitiveness, commuters detained, fewer jobs and, ultimately, a detoured economy that stalls and fails.

Proposition 6 on the November 6 ballot is a dangerous unpaved path for Californians off the map for a strong state economy.  Apparently born of political strategy–not good public policy–Prop 6 proposes to shut off over $5 billion in annual revenues dedicated and “lock-boxed” for long-overdue maintenance and repair of California’s streets, highways and bridges.

The effects of such a draconian reduction in investment on bridge and road safety would be measurable and instantaneous. Every city’s and county’s transportation budgets would be cut by half.  More than 6,500 roadway maintenance and bridge repair projects throughout the state representing more than $183 billion in economic investment would stall.

More than 3,500 road repaving and pothole repair projects would cease as well as the repair or replacement of more than 500 bridges and overpasses.  More than 300 congestion relief projects and 400 pedestrian safety projects would be sidelined.

In Southern California, important traffic chokepoint relief projects at the 57 and 60 Freeways, the 605/91 interchange, and the I-10 express lanes in the Inland Empire would suffer game-ending funding cutoffs.

Prop 6’s passage in Orange County would put the brakes on critical projects stretching from Anaheim to the north, Costa Mesa to the south, Tustin to the east and Sunset Beach to the west.  Dozens of local street maintenance and road repair projects all over Orange County would have to be moth balled.

And there’s a human cost, too. More than 68,000 good-paying construction jobs statewide would be lost.

California, like the nation, has historically relied on fees paid by motorists at the gas pump to fund the repair and maintenance of the state’s surface transportation network.  But as cars and trucks have become more fuel efficient and enable us to travel farther for less, those fees, last raised in 1994, haven’t produced the necessary revenue to keep California’s freeways, roads and bridges in good shape.  Imagine repairing the roof of your home today in 1994 dollars—you wouldn’t get very far.

As a member of the California Transportation Commission, I’ve seen how decades of insufficient funds have led to deferred or canceled maintenance and, accordingly, the erosion of highway safety on vast swaths of this state’s network of more than 400,000 lane miles.

So have first responders such as the California Association of Highway Patrol and California Professional Firefighters. Both organizations strongly oppose Prop 6.

I’ve also seen the frustration of drivers who lament traffic congestion as well as the rising cost of their own car maintenance bills caused by washboard freeway surfaces and jarring potholes long unfilled.  At the same time, government transportation agencies at every level can and must do better in managing these funds.  With new taxpayer protections and oversights now in place, agencies will be required to do just that.

From mandating major project cost savings from Caltrans, to new oversights by the California Transportation Commission, to a state transportation Inspector General, to strong Constitutional protections for this revenue, and more—all are important to making sure the promises made by government to deliver these projects efficiently are kept. 

And drivers must know that well more than 60% of these funds are managed by their own local county and city transportation agencies—not Caltrans.  Local control and delivery of local projects is important to effective use of this revenue as well as to the entire statewide mobility system. 

Fundamentally, maintaining safe highways and bridges are the backbone of California’s economy.  Prop 6 is an attack on a strong economy—a detour into a ditch nobody needs.  No on Prop 6.

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