There is a realization in the state capitol that after years of neglect
California’s infrastructure from roads to water systems to levees is
woefully inadequate. This fact comes as no surprise to our citizens who
waste countless hours in traffic or to those who have waded through houses
flooded by broken levees. Californians expect their government to provide
roads they can actually drive on, sufficient water storage to meet their
needs, and a levee system that prevent parts of our state from becoming the
next New Orleans.
The problem is two-fold. The state has not properly invested the resources
necessary to maintain a level of adequacy required to ensure the public’s
What’s more, Californians are tired of red tape that results in more than a
ten-year wait to build a single bridge–particularly when those delays cost
taxpayers billions of dollars.
If the last few weeks have shown us anything, they have shown us that we
need to commit to building and rebuilding infrastructure as quickly and as
efficiently as possible. Otherwise, we may face life-altering flood damage
that will harm not only our economy, but the lives of our citizens as well.
We also can’t help but think, as we see dams and rivers filled to the brim,
how new or enhanced water storage systems could be used to turn a bad
situation into a beneficial one, saving flood waters for future needs or a
source of clean hydroelectric power.
Anyone who has driven through California during the holiday season, or any
other time of the year for that matter, has noticed that California’s roads
and highways have become seriously deteriorated and gridlocked. Since 1974,
the miles driven by Californians have increased 116 percent, while lane
mileage has increased just 8 percent. The solution is obvious. We must
invest in highway expansion and improvement. Not only do our inadequate
roads affect our quality of life, they also affect the robustness of our
economy. If we cannot efficiently move goods to and from markets then our
economy suffers, placing us in an economic disadvantage with states and
countries that can.
Californians are not asking for a solution 20, 10, or even 5 years from
now. They want us to act to improve our infrastructure now. That will mean
giving state agencies and local governments the necessary tools and
authority to initiate and complete vital public works. Design build and
design sequencing are two examples of contracting methods that deliver a
higher quality product for less money than existing contracting methods. In
addition, streamlining the endless environmental review process is necessary
to get projects underway within a meaningful timeframe.
For many infrastructure projects, such as levees, an immediate response is a
matter of public safety, a factor that should outweigh many environmental
concerns. As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, nothing is more
environmentally damaging than floods that ravage urban centers.
But make no mistake, our infrastructure needs come with a hefty
price-tag–tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 to 20 years.
Therefore, it is critical that lawmakers act responsibly to ensure that
projects are not only completed quickly, but as economically as possible.
We cannot fail Californians by continuing to allow bureaucratic red-tape to
delay the real-time construction of the roads, water systems, and levees
they rely on us to provide. Unless we reform the way we plan, finance, and
construct large public works projects, we will only succeed in saddling our
children with unbearable debt and higher taxes.
The State’s bonded indebtedness is expected to grow almost 40 percent–to
more than 6 percent of the State’s revenues–between this fiscal year and the
2010-2011 fiscal year. We cannot turn a bond measure into a Christmas tree
that is covered with presents to special interests or rooted in systems that
no longer function.
We need to be clear in authorizing action to address the State’s growing
infrastructure crisis while maintaining fiscal controls that keep the cost
of the solution within reasonable bounds.
The Legislature’s mandate is to represent the people. The sheer volume of
contacts each member of the Legislature receives about infrastructure needs
is staggering. Responding to those needs with swift action is one way to
restore public confidence in elected officials’ ability to deliver what
their constituents demand while cautiously spending public dollars.