Riverside County Board of Supervisors: We all pay, the more they delay fixing roads

The following is an editorial submitted to the Riverside Press-Enterprise written by Riverside County Supervisors John F. Tavaglione and Chuck Washington. To view the original post click here. 

The California Legislature urgently needs to pass a transportation funding package in 2017 to address the billions in backlogged maintenance needs that have led to potholes, deteriorating roads, bridges and transit systems here in our community. The longer we wait to fix the small problems, the bigger and more expensive they become. In fact, it costs eight times more to fix a road than to maintain it.

Thankfully there are positive signs. Legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown have promised to pass a long-term, dedicated transportation funding package early this year. Passage of two bills, Senate Bill 1 (Beall) and Assembly Bill 1 (Frazier) will generate new revenue that can boost funding for transportation fixes in Riverside County. These bills also contain strong accountability requirements to reduce bureaucracy and streamline project delivery.

SB1, the first of the bills up for a vote, will be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee on Feb. 14. Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, is on the committee. He, along with the other senators voting on this bill, should fast-track it for passage.

In Riverside County, we have dozens of road projects that have been backlogged because of lack of immediate funding such as the Market Street Bridge reconstruction, Mission Boulevard Bridge reconstruction, Hamner Avenue Bridge reconstruction and the Limonite/15 Freeway Interchange reconstruction. Completion of these projects and many others on the list will improve commute times and residents’ quality of life.

That’s why we strongly support SB1 and AB1. Both bills will provide:

• New revenues for transportation: Though not identical, both SB1 and AB1 are long-term transportation reform and funding packages that contain new revenues to make road safety improvements, fill potholes and repair local streets, highways, bridges and overpasses. Both bills would raise at least $6 billion when fully phased in, which is what is needed to make a dent in the maintenance backlog. The new maintenance revenues will be split equally between state and local roads.

• Strong accountability provisions: SB1 and AB1 include provisions to streamline projects by cutting bureaucratic redundancies and red tape to ensure transportation funds are spent effectively. Both bills give more independence to the California Transportation Commission and establish the independent office of Transportation Inspector General to perform audits, improve efficiency and increase transparency.

But SB1 and AB1 should be coupled with strong constitutional protections to prevent the state Legislature from using any new revenues for anything except road maintenance, improvement and transportation projects.

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 in 1994. Inflation, more fuel-efficient cars, and electric and hybrid vehicles have eroded transportation funding over the years.

Motorists are paying the price. According to a 2015 study from the National Transportation Research Group, the poor condition of California streets and roads costs the average driver $762 annually in maintenance costs.

We have more than $130 billion dollars in needed upgrades to our state highway system ($59 billion) and our local streets and roads ($73 billion). Legislators must act quickly to pass a transportation funding package to prevent further deterioration of our network and further deterioration of our cars from driving on pothole-filled roads.

We all pay, the more they delay.