And it is a scenario that has held sway in California politics since our current governor, during his first incarnation, pretty much stopped new freeway construction; and now the situation is really bad, as this column from the Sacramento Bee reports.
Let’s start with the basics about California’s highway network, which a few decades ago was considered to be among the world’s best.
It was mostly constructed in the three decades that followed World War II, as California’s population boomed and vehicular travel exploded.
Eventually, however, just about when Jerry Brown began his first governorship, highway construction slowed dramatically for a wide variety of ideological (both left and right) and financial reasons.
Nevertheless, vehicular travel continued to expand, along with population and economic activity. It’s roughly twice what it was 30 years ago, even though California’s population has increased by about 50 percent.
The slowing of capacity-increasing construction and the steady growth of auto travel eventually resulted in California having the nation’s worst traffic congestion, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Meanwhile, highways were taking a terrific pounding from that traffic, and as the system aged, it needed more maintenance and, in some cases, reconstruction. But that, too, lagged, leaving California with what the Federal Highway Administration says are the nation’s second-worst roadway pavement conditions.
Thus, what was a world-class system became something more like a Third World system – even though California’s motorists are paying the nation’s highest fuel taxes.
Seven years ago, at the urging of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, voters approved a $20 billion bond issue to upgrade highways, but almost all of that money has been spent, and Brown, now back in the governorship, has insisted that servicing Schwarzenegger’s highway bonds should fall on the separate highway accounts, rather than the state’s general fund budget.