by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation
About 1/3 of all the bridges and overpasses in our state are showing signs of deterioration (i.e. crumbling). Seventy percent of our urban roads and highways are congested. California has the second-highest share of roads in “poor condition” in the nation.
Given the amount of commuting and traveling Californians do, these are pretty alarming stats. But you get what you pay for. And, quite frankly, California’s lack of infrastructure funding is embarrassing, and downright dangerous to all of us who spend so much time on the road every week.
Today California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) announced a long-overdue proposal to rebuild our run-down roads and bridges, ease traffic congestion and create a lot of good, middle-class jobs doing it.
California cannot have a strong middle class or a thriving economy if our roadways are congested and people and goods cannot move efficiently throughout the state. The Assembly is stepping up and proposing $10 billion for transportation infrastructure-$2 billion per year over the next 5 years-starting in 2015-16.
Labor has long been sounding the alarm on the need to fix our eroding infrastructure. It’s a no-brainer. We can create tens of thousands of jobs by upgrading our roads, bridges and transportation system. And fixing our infrastructure makes California more competitive, which creates even more jobs.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:
Years of neglect have rendered many of our roads and bridges unsafe, leaving California families at risk. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure would create good jobs that strengthen our middle class and spark our economy. It’s time we invest in a transportation system that makes us safer while supporting workers, small businesses and all California families.
Robbie Hunter, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California:
California is paying a heavy price for having underfunded highway and bridge infrastructure for decades. Years of massive budget deficits resulted in billions of transportation dollars being diverted elsewhere. California’s growing population and economy depends on the efficient movement of people and goods from our factories and ports throughout the state. Investment in repairing and re-building our roads is critical to our economy and quality of life and also creates tens of thousands of good new construction jobs.
The Assembly plan includes:
• $1 billion per year by returning truck Weight Fees to transportation instead of using them to repay general obligation debt.
• $200 million per year for transportation funding by accelerating repayment of transportation loans.
• $800 million per year in new net funds for transportation by establishing a new Road User Charge.
The Road User Charge is estimated to be only about $1 per week for most drivers. A pretty small price to pay for keeping our families safe on the roadways.
This is the right proposal at the right time. California has overcome a dangerous recession in our very recent past, the present is fiscally stable and looking stronger every day, so now we need to look ahead and help fix the future. And addressing transportation funding so we can have better, safer, and faster infrastructure is a key part of fixing the future.
The Speaker has shown real leadership in proposing this bold plan. If we’re at all concerned about the future, we need to turn this proposal into reality.