By CARL GUARDINO - Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 1 last April, new funding to make road safety improvements, fill potholes, make seismic safety improvements to bridges and overpasses and repair local streets and freeways is soon coming to our region.
State and local road maintenance budgets will get a boost of about $5 billion every year split 50/50 between state highway and bridge fixes and local street and road repairs.
Every single city and county in California will receive funding. San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin counties and the cities within those counties are collectively estimated to receive more than $3 billion over the next 10 years.
Efforts underway to support a ballot measure to repeal SB 1, which increased the gas tax and fees to pay for transportation improvements, are misguided. Repeal would significantly derail desperately needed revenues to support Bay Area motorists who are driving on some of the worst roads in the country, wasting more time in traffic here than in nearly any other region in the United States.
Bay Area drivers already pay on average $978 a year in car repairs and vehicle wear and tear. This $978 is on top of paying for normal things like oil changes and regularly scheduled maintenance. And according to the national transportation research group TRIP, seven of every 10 Bay Area streets and roads are in poor condition.
Public transit will benefit as well from new SB 1 funding that will allow transit agencies to improve their vehicle fleets and services.
Every single driver will be better off because they’ll be driving on freeways with fewer potholes and less congestion, and smoother local roads on the way to work, to the grocery store, to school and back home.
Thanks to SB 1 funding, the California Transportation Commission – on which I serve – recently authorized accelerating road improvements in the Bay Area, including pavement improvements on Highway 87 in San Jose and a new lane to relieve congestion between interchanges on westbound Route 237 in Santa Clara County; bridge safety repairs on Interstate 880 and traffic relief on I-980 in Alameda County; a long stretch of pavement improvements on I-80 in Contra Costa County; and multiple bridge safety repairs and seismic retrofits on overpasses on I-280 and I-380 in San Mateo County.
SB 1 funding is protected so it can’t be used for anything other than transportation projects. In fact, voters will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment in 2018 to solidify that promise in our State Constitution.
SB 1 also includes a provision to make sure that all the transportation funding that was borrowed during the recession to deal with massive deficits is paid back and dedicated for transportation projects only.
Under SB 1, an inspector general was appointed to ensure SB 1 funding is spent efficiently, to eliminate red tape and to get projects started and completed faster. It’s already working. In mid-October, the California Transportation Commission voted to fast-track billions in congestion relief, bridge safety and pavement projects statewide.
SB 1 is the booster shot we need to start fixing the mess Bay Area drivers call their daily commute. Investing in our infrastructure means safer roads for California drivers, less time stuck in traffic and tens of thousands of good paying jobs fixing our roads.
Repealing SB 1 would be a disaster for our regional economy and the safety of those using our roads. Since enacted on Nov. 1, SB 1 is already helping accelerate and jump start local projects we so desperately need. Let’s not shift into reverse when the car is already in drive.
Carl Guardino is President & CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an association of nearly 400 employers. He is also one of nine gubernatorial appointees on the California Transportation Commission.