The condition of California’s vast integrated network of public roads and highways — once the envy of the nation — is deteriorating. Funding allotted to rebuild this critical infrastructure system is disappearing. Taken together, these factors are thrusting the state into a transportation crisis of major proportions.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) asserts in its 2013 National Infrastructure Report Card that 68 percent of California’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. ASCE ranks California as the state with the second highest share of deteriorating roads in the nation. The California Transportation Commission estimates that 58 percent of state roads need rehabilitation or pavement maintenance, and 55 percent of local roads need to be repaired or replaced.
Adding to the strain on our highway system, more drivers and higher rates of vehicle travel are creating greater traffic congestion, particularly in heavily populated Southern California. Nearly 70 percent of urban roads and highways are congested. Traffic tie-ups already cost Californians an estimated $18.7 billion annually in vehicle maintenance, lost time, and fuel.
Transportation investments stimulate diverse business activity that creates and sustains jobs. In the construction sector, programs to maintain, rebuild and expand California’s transportation system regularly employ up to 350,000 skilled workers, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. These projects also yield capital assets that will support our state’s economic growth for decades to come.
Currently state funding available for transportation rebuilding projects is just half of what it was five years ago.
Why is this happening? In 2006, the voters approved Proposition 1B, a $19 billion transportation infrastructure rebuilding program which resulted in the successful completion of hundreds of highway improvement projects throughout the state. But now the money allotted for road and highway construction has been spent.
In addition, the buying power of the state and federal gas fees that fuel the transportation funding has been reduced by 40 percent due to the continued improving fuel efficiency of the cars we drive, coupled with no adjustment to the gas fees for inflation.
Failing to appropriate new funding to maintain and rebuild California’s aging highway system is not an option. Substantial new revenue streams must be put in place — revenue that will help maintain California’s dynamic economy and put the construction industry to work building the transportation system of the future.