While “special interests” promote CA HSR our bridge infrastructure is crumbling




While both our state and federal budgets are going over a financial cliff there are still those “special interests” who have blinders on as they can only see visions of fast empty trains limping along our coast while over 70 percent of Californians drive to work, shop and play. The following report is from a transportation magazine that I subscribe to. I have subscribed to it in order to keep an open mind as I oppose spending billions of taxpayer dollars we do not have for a feel good ride on a high-speed train that does not pencil out.

As indicated below, the focus of this third party report addresses the deficiency in our state’s 42 year old bridges, that should last roughly 50 years, yet are the third worst in the nation. While we need over $20 billion for repairs now, which would create much needed jobs, the HSRA authority ignores TODAY’s shortcomings and begs for high-speed investment for a train that will not reach Orange County or LA if it ever leaves Bakersfield, for almost 20 years. Some of us will not be here by that date but millions of us use our roads and bridges today to move both commerce and people.

“San Francisco – Casey Miner, KAEWL News) A new report by transit advocacy group Transportation for America provides a sobering assessment of the condition of California’s bridges: in short, not good.The report finds that one in eight bridges are structurally deficient in some way. In the Bay Area, that number rises to one in five; in San Francisco, it’s more than one in three.

A bridge is considered “structurally deficient” when one of three bridge components – deck, superstructure, or substructure – receives a poor grade on a federal scale. The worst bridges receive low grades across the board. Of the 40 San Francisco bridges deemed structurally deficient, city officials oversee only five; four of those are currently slated for repair. Caltrans and other agencies are responsible for the rest.  The bridges that received the lowest rankings were by the Caltrain station at 22nd and 23rd Streets; the most highly-traveled structurally deficient bridge was the 5th St./Hwy 101 bridge.

The report did not assess the state’s biggest, most iconic bridges – neither the Bay Bridge nor the Golden Gate bridge were included. Instead, it looked at the thousands of workaday bridges that most motorists hardly think of: the highway on-ramps and overpasses that connect freeways and surface streets. These bridges are, on average, just over 44 years old – slightly older than the national average of 42 years. Most bridges are designed to last roughly 50 years.

The report notes that though California’s bridges rank in the bottom third nationally, the state has used up all available federal funding to try and address the problem, even going so far as to shift funds designated for other purposes. The state spent $907 million on bridge repair in 2008. The report notes that across the country, repair needs far outstrip available funds: while funding has increased by $650 million over the past several years, the need has increased by $22.8 billion.”

Final thoughts. While our recent focus has been on our involvement in international wars and our state budget, we must put the HSRA under a microscope and shut down their ATM. With the exception of Willie Sutton, who said he robbed banks because that is where the money is, I was taught that you can’t make withdrawals from a bank unless you have money there to begin with.

Folks. Except for some initial stimulus there is no 3P money to fund this project. Let’s not be lulled to sleep by other events around the globe as this CIP flies under the radar. Let your voice be heard.

About Larry Gilbert