California’s Archaic Infrastructure

With some thanks to our current governor when he was first governor, our infrastructure is old and has not been renewed at an appropriate pace since, the subject of Joel Kotkin’s column.

An excerpt.

California’s economy may be on the mend, but prospects for continued growth are severely constrained by the increasing obsolescence of the state’s basic infrastructure. Once an unquestioned leader in constructing new roads, water systems, power generation and building our human capital, California is relentlessly slipping behind other states, including some with much lower tax and regulatory burdens.

The indications of California’s incipient senility can be found in a host of reports, including a recent one from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave the state a “C” grade. Roads, in particular, are in bad shape, as many drivers can attest, and, according to another recent study, are getting worse. The state’s shortfall for street repair is estimated at $82 billion over the next 10 years.

Remarkably, given how Californians spend and tax ourselves, we actually bring up the rear in terms of road conditions. Indeed, one recent survey placed California 47th among the states in road quality. In comparison, low-tax Texas notched No. 11, showing that willingness to spend money is not the only factor.

Greater Los Angeles is particularly affected; L.A. roads have been ranked by one Washington-based nonprofit as the worst in the nation. Bad roads cost L.A. drivers an average $800 a year in vehicle repairs, and a full quarter of roadways were graded “F,” meaning barely drivable. The region that gave birth to the freeway and the dream of quick, efficient travel, now has worse roads than some much poorer, less-important, lower-tax cities, such as Houston, Dallas or Oklahoma City. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles has been ranked has having the worst traffic congestion in the nation, but San Francisco and San Jose also make it to the 10 metros with the worst traffic.

But it’s not just the roads that are in bad shape. Other basic sinews of the state’s infrastructure – ports, water systems, electrical generation – are increasingly in disrepair. Conditions are so poor at Los Angeles International Airport, admits new L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, that “there’s nothing world class” about the aging facility. This is critical for a city and region with significant global pretensions. Since 2001, LAX traffic has declined by more than 5 percent, while double-digit gains in passenger traffic have been logged by such competitors as New York, Miami, Atlanta and Houston.

Retrieved January 21, 2014 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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