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Ron Kaye: The bumpy road of local transportation

November 06, 2011

A long and bumpy road lies ahead for California — make that thousands of rutted, cracked and broken roads and highways.

Nearly 60% of the state’s roadways are distressed and need reconstruction or major maintenance. More than a quarter of the bridges — 2,700 of them — need major repairs or replacement. More than a third of culverts and drainage systems have deteriorated from long-term policies of deferring maintenance.

Just in the last two years, the number of counties with “poor” roads has jumped from six to 17, while the number with “good” roads has fallen from seven to four.

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Those are just a few of the troubling facts in a comprehensive 191-page report released last week by the California Transportation Commission, which rates the state’s roads and highways as “at risk,” scoring just 66 on a 100-point scale.

The report provides a detailed account of the sorry state of our transportation system. It also supplies projections of the staggering cost of restoring it and expanding public transit.

The bill over the next decade: $536.2 billion — that’s right, more than half a trillion dollars — with nearly $200 million for badly needed new projects.

The trouble is that even if local governments (which provide two-thirds of all transportation funding) can find as much money for repairs as they spent in the last decade, we still come up short by $94.7 million.

Is the stalemated Congress going to provide that money? Are you?

Probably not — though it should be noted that over the last 50 years, per capita spending on transportation projects in California has fallen by 60%, while the population has tripled and we’re traveling five times as many miles in-state.

Scoping the issue down to the local area, we ought to be in much better shape, having agreed just three years ago to a half-cent sales tax in Los Angeles County to provide $40 billion over 30 years for transportation projects.

But don’t get too excited if you’re a resident of Burbank, Glendale or the San Fernando Valley, because you are getting precious little of your money back in benefits that will help relieve the traffic indigestion you experience every day, or help you decide to leave your car at home and jump on a bus or train.

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