Fabian Lopez

Professor Ramos


20 September 2018

California’s Traffic Problem

In California, traffic is a statewide problem. Everyone is affected by it either directly or indirectly. There are numerous solutions to this problem, but all solutions require a copious amount of support and funds. As of now the biggest source of relief is at jeopardy, and other alternatives have either a bad reputation or bad credibility. It is important to turn this around in order to make progress against traffic. My proposal is to create legislation that creates funds for transportation projects and establishes public-private partnerships to create efficiency and reduce delays and costs. To do this, the problem has to be thoroughly explained, any misconceptions must be clear due to bias media outlets, and current legislation and public-private partnerships have to prove their usefulness.

The problem with California’s transportation system is bigger than most people imagine. For starters, California is generally considered the worst state when it comes to transportation, and other infrastructure. At the same time, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the entire country a D+ in the 2017 infrastructure report card. TRIP, a national transportation research group has recently released a report that showcases the scope of the problem. “TRIP has released key transportation facts on California infrastructure, noting that driving on insufficient roadways costs residents a total of $61 billion each year. In the report, it has calculated the cost to the average motorist in the state’s largest urban areas in the form of additional vehicle operating costs”(tripnet). The report also has statistics on structural conditions, and road quality by metropolitan areas. According to the report the Inland Empire has the 4th worst road conditions/highest expenses of all of California’s metropolitan areas trailing behind Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Silicon Valley. “In the Inland Empire, the combined total amount of money wasted is $2,675 with $1.365 being from fuel, $515 from car crashes, and $795 for vehicle operation”(tripnet). 60 hours of free time is also lost every year. Another issue that plagues the Inland Empire is the amount of structurally deficient bridges. 142 of 2,503 bridges are deemed structurally deficient. The Hermosa Avenue, Archibald Avenue, and Amethyst Street overpasses that cross State Route 210 are all structurally deficient. Keep in mind that these bridges are fairly new, being constructed back in 2003.

There is major obstacle that prevents the creation of any kind of legislation and that is politics. Ever since the 2016 election, there has been division and opposition among the Democratic and Republican parties. Any time a party comes up with legislation, the other party would strongly oppose it regardless of its positivity and benefits. Right now, both SB 1 and the Trump infrastructure plan are caught up in this quagmire. I mention the Trump infrastructure plan because it can play a huge role in the repairing of California’s transportation system. Governor Jerry Brown, a prominent anti-Trump person even showed a degree of endorse towards the infrastructure plan and California officials even submitted their wishlist. The fact that California’s politicians did this signifies the desperation that is being held.

SB 1 in particular is currently in a dire situation. It’s existence is currently being challenged by Proposition 6. “If Proposition 6 passes, construction will come to a grinding halt in hundreds of cities and counties, wasting money and making road conditions even worse.

According to Joshua W. Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association: Prop 6 would stop public transportation improvements, including projects expanding urban light rail, commuter and intercity passenger rail lines, and new bus service. The measure would also make it harder for California public transit agencies to purchase new, cleaner-fueled buses and rail cars. This measure hurts hard-working families that depend on public transportation, as well as all Californians by making traffic congestion worse and degrading air quality”(caltransit). This will essentially increase the cost of repairing by a large margin. It is better to act now then to act later as the costs will be drastically higher in the future. We either pay now or pay later. “Each year, California is short nearly $6 billion of the funds needed just to repair and repave our 50,000 miles of state highways.  The annual need is $8 billion. California’s gas tax, our traditional source of road repair revenue, can only fund $2.2 billion. Our local streets and roads are even worse, with a 10-year shortfall exceeding $78 billion”(mercurynews). This shows just how much the cost is increasing, and it is bound to increase at rates much higher than now. Currently it is an annual rise of $6 billion, but it will surely rise to a much higher figure.

The legislation that is to made must not be limited to only funding. They must be more specific in what they will accomplished. Environmental concerns will also have to be addressed as they are one of the largest source deterrents towards any sort of transportation related measure second only to funding. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the primary environmental concerns are:

  • Fuel consumption (during material transport from the site, between the plant and the site, and the construction operations themselves).
  • Exhaust and particulate emissions.
  • Constructed characteristics of the pavement surface, which impacts surface friction (safety), noise, and possibly fuel efficiency during the use phase.
  • Pavement performance and overall life (as a result of construction quality).

With of all these requirements taken into account, the cost of any transportation related proposal increases. This is also a reason why California is always short of money. The best way to counteract this is by creating public-private partnerships: a cooperative arrangement between a government agency and a private company. The benefits of this are that P3s eliminate multiple key hindrances. “Those are: Unclear responsibilities, Poor alignment with strategy, insufficient optimization of project features, Lack of an ownership mindset in the delivery team, Lack of discipline in execution, Poor project controls, Low initial cost mindset, and Poor resource optimization”(mckinsey). Most P3s in California consist of pipeline projects. Highway P3s around Southern California consists of Sr-73, Sr-133, Sr-241, Sr-261, and Sr-91(toll lanes only). Creating P3s for toll lanes are the most feasible compared to full fledged toll roads where everyone is required to pay.

The reason why P3s are preferred for toll lanes rather than tolls roads is that there is are more practical, and the public is more trusting. When the Sr-91 toll lanes were made(Orange county only). They were completely private, the legislation that created this P3 gave the private company more control. As a result, Caltrans was legally blocked from further expanding Sr-91, and public opinion on P3s was deteriorated. This forced the Orange County Transportation to purchase the toll lanes. At the same time they contracted private company Cofiroute to manage the toll lanes thus keeping the P3 aspect. Once the the Riverside County portion was completed they also began to manage that portion.

Unfortunately, the use of P3s in California are severely limited,but that does not mean that toll lanes cannot be built. Current Inland Empire highway projects that involve toll lanes are the I-10 corridor project which adds 2 toll lanes in each direction from the Los Angeles county line in Montclair to Ford Street in Redlands, and the I-15 corridor/express lanes project that adds 2 tolls lanes in each directions from Cajalco Road in Corona to the Sr-210 interchange. Both of these projects will also rebuild ramps and overpasses as well as lane repavement.  It is currently unknown if the toll lanes will be runned by a private company or by a public agency, however construction, and design will be done by private companies.

Aside from passing bills that create P3s. gas tax increases, and toll lanes, there are other ways to improve the transportation system without actually conducting any road expansion. This is by improving the public transit system. This might appear backwards to some, but it is necessary in certain areas where there is little space for road expansion such as Los Angeles and San Francisco while impractical in large suburban areas like the Inland Empire, or Central Valley.

There is plenty of proof  that SB 1(gas tax increase), P3s, and toll lanes are being helpful towards the California’s transportation system. Currently, 12 highway projects in the Inland Empire are expected to receive funding from the money made out of SB 1, out those 12 the I-10 corridor project stands out as it is the most expensive project costing $1.8 billion. The project is expected to be awarded $117 million from SB 1, one of the largest awards given by SB 1. The combination of toll lanes and potential P3 implementation will increase the profits from the toll lanes. The revenue will then be used to pay back government loans.

Annotated Bibliography

“TRIP Report Urges a Focus on California’s Failing Infrastructure .” Construction Equipment, 21 Aug. 2018, http://www.constructionequipment.com/trip-report-urges-focus-californias-failing-infrastructure.

This article will is the one that inspire me to write the proposal on fixing California’s transportation system by increasing support of bills and initiatives that help Caltrans. It gives an overview of what troubles the state is having across it’s metropolitan areas. I will use this article to provide basic statistics on the conditions of the transportation system. The statistics are credible as they are other articles that use the statistics found by TRIP.

Robinson, Matt. “No on Prop 6!” California Transit Association, July 2018, http://www.caltransit.org/news-publications/publications/transit-california/transit-california-archives/2018-editions/july/no-on-prop-6/.

This article provides an overview on the largest threat towards the healing of the transportation system: Proposition 6. Proposition 6 is a measure that can negate the Road Repair and Accounting Act which is the biggest source of relief for the transportation system. I will refer to the information when justifying support for SB 1. Credibility is strong due to the website having a .org domain.

California, State of. “SB 1 Fixes Neighborhood Streets, Freeways and Bridges in Communities across California | Rebuilding CA.” Rebuilding California – SB 1, 2018, http://www.rebuildingca.ca.gov/.

This website contains a lot about the benefits of SB 1, which is the biggest asset for gaining support for SB 1 since it has gotten a bad reputation. It provides arguments that essentially negate most of what Proposition 6 supporters have to say. The website is credible as it is a government website.

Becker, Greg, and Celeste Ford. “Opinion: Why California Should Pass Transportation Bill.” The Mercury News, The Mercury News, 5 Apr. 2017, http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/04/opinion-why-california-should-pass-transportation-bill/.

The article was done before SB 1 was passed and it gives reasons on why it is necessary to vote for it. One of the reasons that stood out to me was the constitutional amendment that it is accompanied with. This will ensure that the funds go directly to projects and not someone’s bank account. The article was made on the behalf of the Silicon Valley Leadership group which consists of reputable employers.

Cory, Oliver. “CTC Approves Over $2 Billion in Funding for Transportation Infrastructure, Rail and Local Projects.” Redheaded Blackbelt, 23 Aug. 2018, http://www.kymkemp.com/2018/08/23/ctc-approves-over-2-billion-in-funding-for-transportation-infrastructure-rail-and-local-projects/.

This article shows the progress that SB 1 has brought transportation projects. It explains how under funded projects are being kick started thanks to SB 1. I will use this information to further include the positives in order to outweigh the negatives. This article is credible as the information was released by Caltrans itself.