California’s Pothole Penalty is Too High

by Rocco Davis, LIUNA Vice-President and Regional Manager

If California’s roads were people, a share of them would have been buried by now and as many would be drawing Social Security. As our state’s governor noted recently, many of our roads were built in the 1950s. They are deteriorating, over-burdened and out of date.

The challenge to fix them is daunting: the experts say the state has deferred $59 billion in just road maintenance alone, and the cost rises with every year of delay. Unfortunately the cost of not meeting the challenge is higher than most would want to live with.

According to the independent transportation research group TRIP, in the last five years nearly 5,000 motorists have lost their lives in California due in part to poor road conditions, such as potholes. And with 28 percent of bridges in need of upgrades or repairs, a catastrophe is waiting to happen. If needless deaths aren’t enough, the cost to each of us and our economy is staggering. Motorists lost $44 billion a year in the form of wasted gas and damage to vehicles due to deficient roads in the state. That’s a pothole penalty ranging from $2,458 a year in Los Angeles to $2,206 if you’re a driver in the Bay area. Our roads literally and figuratively suck the life out of us. The average driver in Los Angeles loses 61 hours a year due to traffic congestion. On the “low” side is Sacramento, where drivers waste 32 hours a year.

According to TRIP, investing in our roads is a no-brainer. They’re crucial to our daily lives and more than $2.5 trillion in goods rely on them for shipping each year. And fixing our roads won’t only fix a critical transportation and economic problem, it will help fuel an explosion of jobs. According to the Federal Highway Administration, if California fully invested in road maintenance, 1.6 million jobs would be supported.

Our state has tackled the big things before, including water resources and mass transit. The problem – and cost – of our deteriorating roads won’t go away if we ignore it. California can meet this challenge and the highly-skilled and trained men and women of LIUNA are eager to do their part.