California is world-leader in traffic; Caltrans engineers get raises

California is world-leader in traffic; Caltrans engineers get raises

Gov. Jerry Brown has often expressed his vision of California as America’s – maybe the world’s – leader in technology, climate change, anti-smoking campaigns, environmental protection, health care for the poor. But California is inarguably the leader in one category: Two California cities are among the world’s worst for traffic congestion.

Los Angeles ranked No. 1 and San Francisco No. 4 on the list of worst traffic, just published by Intrix, a transportation analytics firm. Moscow (No. 2), New York (3), and Bogota (5) round out the Top 5.

On average, Intrix found, L.A. residents spend 104 additional hours annually in peak-time traffic – about $2,408 per driver per year in lost productivity and fuel costs. An annual study conducted by TRIP, a transportation research non-profit, found the most potholed roads in the U.S. in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego – in that order. TRIP’s most recent study, in August 2016, calculated that lousy roads cost drivers in these cities over $1,000 a year in car repairs and maintenance.

Those roads are unlikely to improve anytime soon. That’s because while tax revenue has increased, infrastructure spending hasn’t. State auditors found 3,500 unnecessary staff at Caltrans, where projects run over budget 62 percent of the time. The state transportation agency spends three times the national average to build and maintain roads, making California one of the nation’s least-efficient users of tax dollars.

Despite all that, Caltrans union leaders in December won their members a 14 percent salary increase.

State officials have reacted to the crisis in transportation with a $68 billion high-speed railway (HSR) – despite evidence that it’ll be underutilized and costs will exceed budget.

Republican legislators in California have made appeals to the Trump Administration to cut federal spending for this project, citing it as a waste of tax dollars.

Fix Our Roads, a coalition of business, labor and local government organizations, estimates that it will cost “more than $130 billion in needed upgrades to our state highway system ($59 billion) and our local streets, roads and bridges ($73 billion).” Every 10 years, the cost roughly doubles. TRIP reports that  None of the 20 most critical projects in the Los Angeles area are sufficiently funded. Contemplate that the next time you’re stuck in traffic..

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