One key issue that should cross the ideological divide is taking action to improve California's freeways and highways. TRIP, a national transportation group headquartered in Washington D.C., issued a report last week that ranks 15 California areas with roads that are in the poorest condition. Sadly and to no surprise to motorists and truckers, California's roads rank the poorest in the country.
The study estimates that bad roads cost California motorists an average of $762 a year in added costs for maintenance and repair. That's statewidein the Bay Area and the Los Angeles basin the cost is much highermore than $1,000 per year. Nearly three-quarters of the roads in both areas received the worst rating.
The gasoline tax does not generate enough money now to maintain the current roads, let alone expand the capacity. Gov. Brown has called the Legislature into a special session that will run until Sept. 11 or later if legislators do not act.
There's an estimated $59 billion backlog in deferred maintenance for CalTrans highways and that climbs $7.8 billion per year. The number more than doubles when city and county roads are included.
The Republican plan that Assemblywoman Catharine Baker and other leaders released last month has some workable solutions that do not demand higher taxes.
California taxes and costs for energy and gasoline already at sky-high. On a road trip across the country in the last two weeks, my wife's nephew filled up once for $2.16 a gallon. Thanks to California's special blend and a shortage of refinery capacity, we will be lucky to find regular for under $4 on our trip south. We love lots about living in Northern California, but what an economic cost we pay.
If the Republicans who dominate both houses of Congress want to do something wise, they should wipe out the ethanol requirement in gasoline. That was put into effect before new technologies opened vast reserves of natural gas and oil. Ethanol messes up small engines like chain saws and weed whips. So instead of buying a gallon of gas for $4 and 8 ounces of oil additive for $2, I now pay $8 for a quart of specially mixed fuel without ethanol to preserve my engines.
Some environmental groups now have concluded that growing corn for fuel is a net loss environmentally to say nothing of what it does to both corn and fuel prices.
Ironically, with California gasoline prices soaring and gas prices falling nationally and low wholesale oil prices internationally, San Ramon-based Chevron announced last week that its profits had fallen 90 percent. The energy giant is cutting 1,500 jobs to compensate for the lowered prices.