By Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley.
California’s roads are in crisis. The funding shortfall to stop the decline of the state’s transportation network is well documented. The state, counties and cities have identified a $14 billion annual shortfall to stop further deterioration and begin repairs to ensure our transportation system remains safe and efficient.
Now a projected loss of gasoline tax revenue due to the significant drop in gas prices and drivers using more fuel-efficient cars has dramatically reduced the primary revenue stream to maintain our freeways, streets and roads.
The reduction in gas tax revenue is so problematic that two weeks ago the California Transportation Commission was forced to slash funding for transportation projects by $750 million over the next five years. This represents the largest cut in almost two decades. A total of 225 shovel-ready projects may lose funding, hitting every region in the state.
I recently spoke at a news conference to highlight how a lack of transportation funding is impacting Riverside County and could pose a public safety concern.
For example, in my district, we have been waiting for a safety project on State Route 60 through the Badlands area, which connects Moreno Valley to the Pass Area. Without state funding, we aren’t sure when this project will be completed. Yet, we will continue to see car and truck accidents until we can construct it.
Not only is transportation funding a public safety issue, but cutting transportation dollars will cause a massive negative ripple effect on jobs and economic activity throughout the state and in Riverside County.
These reductions have forced cities and counties to delay projects. Riverside County could see the loss of:
- 20 miles of road reconstruction projects;
- 52 miles or road resurfacing projects;
- 230 miles of other preventative maintenance projects meant to extend the life of our transportation system.
The elimination of these projects not only has immediate economic, job and quality of life impacts, but also will cost taxpayers more in the future because the longer we wait, the more expensive it gets. And because of the hundreds of projects affected, thousands of jobs will not be created. Those workers would have earned wages, cared for their families and paid taxes, just like those working on the Jefferson Interchange. But because those jobs are lost, this revenue is lost to their families, state and local governments.
The problem is this: Our transportation network in California and here in Riverside County are in crisis. Projects are impacted on State Route 60 and 79 as well as major interchanges on the I-15 and I-215. Roads are crowded, congested, and they’re deteriorating. All of this is because of reduced funding from Sacramento and the Legislature’s inability to do anything about it. Moreover, most major counties are continuing to do their share of self-help with transportation sales taxes.
Crumbling roads and potholes ruin our vehicles and cost us hundreds of dollars every year. Congested local roads and highways rob us of time with our families and erode our quality of life.
We need the state to live up to its end of the bargain. It’s time for the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to take action and pass a transportation funding package that will fix our roads.