Decision time. Should funding be used for roads or HSR?

pothole fishing

pothole fishing

“Nothing can mess up an automobile wheel alignment and a motorist’s disposition quite as quickly as a pothole.” 

Hitting a pothole at high speed increases the chance of damage to tires, wheels, shocks, struts or springs. These repairs can become rather costly including the loss of time from work as you have your vehicle serviced. 

In today’s Register headline, “US potholes are as deep as holes in ‘cities’ pockets,” the Register quotes Bloomberg News reporting that “California spends less than half of the $6 billion a year needed to keep its roads from falling into disrepair, said Jim Earp, a state Transportation Commission member.”  The article goes on the say that “The State has an unfunded $37 billion backlog of road maintenance work, according to the Transportation Commission.” 

Let’s stand back and reconsider our infrastructure priorities. A backlog of “$37 billion in unfunded maintenance repairs” compounded with a statewide budget deficit north of $25 billion. LAO.  Yet voters in the North were enamored with the pipe dream of spending upwards of $85 billion for the 800 mile Californian High Speed rail as they approved the initial $9 billion of bonded indebtedness with our state’s credit cards. That single stroke of approval, at the end of 30 years, might end up costing close to $20 billion dollars.
Do readers recall the “too big to fail” rescue of Government Motors? The LA Times once wrote that “The economies of 50 metropolitan areas — including most of those in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana — depend heavily on the jobs and incomes generated by GM and its Detroit counterparts and their suppliers.” 

So we let our roads and bridges fall apart to drive Americans out of the very same vehicles that are made in the USA along with the tens of thousands of parts suppliers in the supply chain by promoting HSR in California. President Obama is driving up the MPG along with new hybrids yet simultaneously promotes that we park our cars and ride the rails. What’s the plan man? 

Instead of spending the $3 billion received to date on the HSR I would urge those in power to recognize the simple facts as stated over the past two years. While I will refrain form rehashing prior arguments opposing this feel good project we have 37 million residents in or state of which 70-90 percent drive wherever they go. 

And from a HSR blog who refuses to post my opposition I just read: 

“And some government watchdogs are concerned that a linchpin commitment to taxpayers in the bullet train’s financing measure — that no local, state or federal subsidies would be required to keep the trains operating — may be giving way. High-speed rail planners recently advised state lawmakers that attracting billions in crucial private financing will probably require government backing of future cash flow. “Without some form of revenue guarantee from the public sector, it is unlikely that private investment will occur at [the planned] level until demand for California high-speed rail is proven,” project planners wrote in December. That is feeding fears that a larger state commitment, beyond the $9 billion in construction bonds approved by voters, could be sought to complete the 800-mile project. “To now put in that we have to [give] some kind of revenue guarantee . . . is totally unacceptable,” Lowenthal said. “That’s not what we agreed to.” 

 Senator Lowenthal’s concerns are very valid. We were told that the HSR would not require, nor would we provide, any government subsidy. We must hold their feet to the fire on proof of funding before the first mile of track is in the ground. 

Stay tuned. This HSR fight is far from over. While we await the outcome watch out for those potholes as it will take decades before they will all be repaired.
Perhaps there is a conspiracy at play. Let the roads fall apart. It’s good for the auto repair business. 

About Larry Gilbert