In the future The Bay Area may get some additional lanes on existing highways and extensions of existing rail systems, but lots of new roads are not in the picture. "We're spending 90% of all the money that we think we'll have available over the next two decades just to take care of the system we've got," said Steve Heminger, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
All of this season's potholes and road disintegration, only add to an already huge backlog of Bay Area infrastructure needs. "We have a $20 billion dollar backlog just to repair our local roads, same number for public transit, same number for the state highway system," said Mr. Heminger.
What's the best we can hope for? "Squeeze more capacity out of those systems we already have." says Heminger. If we do nothing? "Backlogs worsen geometrically and not in a linear fashion," said Heminger. Inaction at the state and Federal level has led to Bay Area voters, through taxes and tolls, to approve new local projects such as the 4th bore of the Caldecott Tunnel and many more. "Since the mid eighties, Bay Area voters have passed measures that have generated $70 billion dollars," says Heminger.
Every year, Californians buy about 16 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel. Now, if OPEC were to cut production, the price would go way, way up and we'd pay it. We always do. But what if we added money for ourselves; so many cents per gallon to fix the roads. Would we be willing to do that?
Currently we pay about 57 cents a gallon in state and federal gas taxes. "Dime a gallon would be reasonable, said Tasha Clayton, a Shell customer.
But, what about a quarter a gallon? "I think our gas prices already fluctuate for unknown reasons. So, we would pay it because it's a necessity to have gas," said Ms. Clayton. Clayton's upper limit would be and extra fifty cents a gallon, provided all of it went directly to road repair and improvements.
That's also acceptable to Uber and Lyft driver, Matthew Amos. "If they fixed the roads, it would be good for us and like the wear and tear on my car and the tires as well. Yeah, of course I would," said Mr. Amos.
That would generate $8 billion a year. That's enough to clear out the entire state's maintenance and repair backlog in about 7 years. Not too many years after that, new projects would again return California's road system to the envy of the world and the economic benefits all that brings.