Wednesday, March 23, 2011

California's Bridge is Falling Down, Falling Down. . . . .

Here is some fuel for your daily dose of anger. 

What I'm talking about is a zero-sum game.  Every dollar headed for high-speed rail won't go to something else more important.  Like Education.  Or the nation's and this state's infrastructure which is crumbling around our feet.

Or increasing the securitization of our nuclear capacity, not only from terrorist attacks, but against earthquakes and tsunamis.  California has two of those.  California also has disintegrating bridges; more than many other states in the US.

Our education system in California has become a national embarrassment.  In 2008, our state voted on a $9.95 billion bond issue for high-speed train.  The voters were lied to but that's another discussion.  This means that the state is on the hook two dollars for every dollar borrowed, somewhat like a mortgage.  In other words, there's twenty billion dollars of debt for a state that has a  $28 billion deficit and a debt hovering around 100 billion dollars. Then there are those unfunded debts, like pension plans, but that also is another story. 

So, every dollar for high-speed rail is two dollars not available for our education system.  (Two different pockets; same pair of pants!) This article is about our crumbling bridge infrastructure in California, but as we've been trying to say, there's more to be in despair over than just these bridges.

By the way, where are all those Union complaints about unemployment in those sectors not being funded but need to be to repair everything that's broken?  Are they merely chasing the dollars wherever they may appear?

American politicians hate to put tax dollars where they are actually needed, and instead put them into projects that provide photo ops and ribbon-cutting ceremonies so that they can use those in their next political campaign. 

There's more to this chicanery than that.  The big noise about HSR these days is the promise of jobs.  That's also a political charade.  In California construction won't start -- at best -- for another year and a half.  Meanwhile, those unemployed construction workers who are supposed to get those jobs can just sit and cool their heels. And, there will be far fewer than they are now telling us.  There is no simple formula of the number of jobs created for every million dollars spent. That's highly misleading.

The Teachers' Unions in California and all the other states ought to be up in arms about all this. States are laying off teachers by the thousands. They are cutting education budgets through the muscle to the bone.  Our nation's kids -- our future -- are getting screwed.

No, you can't blame the whole situation on the high-speed rail program and its many projects, but those sure help to make these crises much worse.

While “special interests” promote CA HSR, our bridge infrastructure is crumbling


While both our state and federal budgets are going over a financial cliff there are still those “special interests” who have blinders on as they can only see visions of fast empty trains limping along our coast while over 70 percent of Californians drive to work, shop and play. The following report is from a transportation magazine that I subscribe to. I have subscribed to it in order to keep an open mind as I oppose spending billions of taxpayer dollars we do not have for a feel good ride on a high-speed train that does not pencil out.

As indicated below, the focus of this third party report addresses the deficiency in our state’s 42 year old bridges, that should last roughly 50 years, yet are the third worst in the nation. While we need over $20 billion for repairs now, which would create much needed jobs, the HSRA authority ignores TODAY’s shortcomings and begs for high-speed investment for a train that will not reach Orange County or LA if it ever leaves Bakersfield, for almost 20 years. Some of us will not be here by that date but millions of us use our roads and bridges today to move both commerce and people.
“San Francisco – Casey Miner, KAEWL News) A new report by transit advocacy group Transportation for America provides a sobering assessment of the condition of California’s bridges: in short, not good.The report finds that one in eight bridges are structurally deficient in some way. In the Bay Area, that number rises to one in five; in San Francisco, it’s more than one in three.

A bridge is considered “structurally deficient” when one of three bridge components – deck, superstructure, or substructure – receives a poor grade on a federal scale. The worst bridges receive low grades across the board. Of the 40 San Francisco bridges deemed structurally deficient, city officials oversee only five; four of those are currently slated for repair. Caltrans and other agencies are responsible for the rest.  The bridges that received the lowest rankings were by the Caltrain station at 22nd and 23rd Streets; the most highly-traveled structurally deficient bridge was the 5th St./Hwy 101 bridge.

The report did not assess the state’s biggest, most iconic bridges – neither the Bay Bridge nor the Golden Gate bridge were included. Instead, it looked at the thousands of workaday bridges that most motorists hardly think of: the highway on-ramps and overpasses that connect freeways and surface streets. These bridges are, on average, just over 44 years old – slightly older than the national average of 42 years. Most bridges are designed to last roughly 50 years.

The report notes that though California’s bridges rank in the bottom third nationally, the state has used up all available federal funding to try and address the problem, even going so far as to shift funds designated for other purposes. The state spent $907 million on bridge repair in 2008. The report notes that across the country, repair needs far outstrip available funds: while funding has increased by $650 million over the past several years, the need has increased by $22.8 billion.”

Final thoughts. While our recent focus has been on our involvement in international wars and our state budget, we must put the HSRA under a microscope and shut down their ATM. With the exception of Willie Sutton, who said he robbed banks because that is where the money is, I was taught that you can’t make withdrawals from a bank unless you have money there to begin with.

Folks. Except for some initial stimulus there is no 3P money to fund this project. Let’s not be lulled to sleep by other events around the globe as this CIP flies under the radar. Let your voice be heard.