There is general agreement that our roads — make that our entire transportation system — needs fixing. The disagreement and consequent conversational unpleasantries emerge when asked how we intend to pay for it.
For more than 15 years, I have been advocating for safety and capacity improvements to the Santa Clarita Valley region’s major roads. And now, thanks to massive investments of time and effort by the members and allies of the Golden State Gateway Coalition, forward-thinking elected officials and the availability of funding, we will be seeing major improvements to Interstate 5, State Route 14, State Route 138 and The Old Road.
Senate Bill 1 – the controversial “gas tax” — will help pay for these improvements and more. What, exactly, do the taxpayers of the Santa Clarita Valley get in return? For starters, $245 million for Interstate 5 improvements — toll-free carpool lanes, extended truck lanes, auxiliary lanes, widened bridges, soundwalls and weigh station modifications. Those SB1 dollars will leverage an additional $240 million from L.A. County Metro and a $47 million federal grant for chokepoint relief and safety and capacity enhancements to the I-5.
In addition, the city of Santa Clarita gets $61 million in new funding for local roads, $8.9 million for a new Metrolink station at Vista Canyon and potentially millions more for our local roads and transit in competitive grant opportunities.
Last year’s effort to repeal the “gas tax” failed, in my opinion because of the widespread recognition that the “Quiet Crisis,” as the Auto Club once referred to the poor condition of our roads and bridges, needed to be addressed now.
Further, no viable alternative was presented. It was viewed as a “repeal without replacement” campaign. We would be left with lower gas taxes and the same deteriorating roads and bridges — continuing to deteriorate further. (Anyone remember the old Fram automobile engine filter commercial: “You can pay me now or you can pay me later”?)
Moving forward, I believe our elected officials can best serve us by ensuring that we get what has been promised — that our taxes are invested efficiently and effectively in California roads, bridges and transit improvements. And by seeing that the safety and capacity enhancements are delivered as promised. Rather than curse the darkness, light a candle.
You see, I don’t like paying higher taxes, either. But I dislike driving on unsafe, overcrowded roads even more.
Executive Director, Golden State Gateway Coalition