Linda Erdmann: Lining pockets instead of fixing roads
Hoover Dam was completed in five years, two years ahead of schedule.
The Oakland Bay Bridge was completed in slightly over three years.
The Oroville Dam took seven years despite multiple floods and a rail line wreck which delivered supplies.
The Golden Gate Bridge opened ahead of schedule and under budget in five years.
The 1989, Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Bay Bridge. The eastern replacement span, the most expensive project in California history at $6.4 billion and under a cloud of shabby construction, wasn’t completed until 2013.
On April 13, Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein led a ribbon-cutting ceremony to start construction on a Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Prevention Net, a $200 million project not expected to be finished until 2021. With the way projects are managed in today’s world, Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Feinstein may not be around to see the completion.
There is a little train in California, years in the making, over-budget, the first segment’s completion delayed and the entire project’s completion years away (if ever). No … not Jerry’s high-speed rail. This train will connect Sonoma and Marin counties, a total of 70 miles. The completion of 43 miles, between Santa Rosa and San Rafael, is again rescheduled to late spring. Promised a complete railroad from Cloverdale to the Larkspur ferry terminal by 2014, the voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax which was suppose to fully support the project. The Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is now a $500 million project looking for regional and federal grants to keep it alive. SMART staffing in 2015 (excluding contractors) was 71 with a $5 million payroll. SMART director, a retired Marin county employee (pension/benefits at $184,000 per year) is paid $246,000 plus benefits.
We’re all familiar with the bullet train, conceived in 1982 during Gov. Brown’s first term. The original 118 miles in the Central Valley is now projected to cost the taxpayers 50 percent more or $3.6 billion and estimated completion is 2024, seven years behind schedule according to a Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis. High-Speed Rail Authority has never built anything, depending on contractors and consultants for advice. Chairman of the authority since 2012 and former director of Caltrans, Jeff Morales, has a $393,100 salary plus over $100,000 in benefits, ranking 71st in California’s highest-paid public employees. It should be noted Mr. Morales also worked for Parsons Brinckerhoff, a major contractor on high-speed rail receiving millions in contracts. According to the California Policy Center, completing the originally-proposed project with connections to Sacramento and San Diego may exceed $200 billion.
With the passage of Senate Bill 1 in April, taxpayers will be burdened with the largest gas tax increase in history. Gas taxes will be raised 12 cents to 30 cents per gallon. Diesel fuel will increase by 20 cents to 36 cents per gallon. The diesel-only sales tax, additional to the gas tax and sales tax rates, will increase from 1.75 to 5.75 percent. DMV fee increases will range from $25 to $175. Electric cars will have a $100 annual fee after 2020 but only on new vehicles.
Gov. Brown has been accused of playing quid-pro-quo games to get the bill passed. Republican Senator Anthony Cannella sold his vote for a return to his district of $500 million. He cast the vote giving the two-thirds majority needed to pass this bill.
Some legislators actually did their job. Senator Steve Glaze, D-Orinda, voted against SB-1. His constituents were against the bill by a 2-1 margin. Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, also voted against SB-1, explaining, “The families I represent drive too far to jobs that pay too little.”
So will we get anything for our money — $52.4 billion over the next 10 years? Only 60 percent of these revenues will go to infrastructure repair projects. California’s infrastructure backlog is estimated at $130 billion! Over the last six years, the state has received $36 billion in new tax revenues but not a single dollar as been invested in our roads. Not surprisingly, Gov. Brown says, “This is mostly about fixing what we already have.” But will this money be squandered too, lining pockets instead of fixing roads?
This is what we get with one-party rule. Will California citizens ever be motivated to demand fiscal responsibility and less corruption in California?
Linda Erdmann lives in Grass Valley.
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