Pasadena Star News Editorial 11/12/07
ONE year has passed since voters approved $42billion in infrastructure bonds, and of those, Proposition 1B promised to pump $20 billion into fixing freeways, adding light rail, trains and bike lanes.
And during that time, how many transportation bonds were sold? Zero.
Red tape, a spineless bureaucracy pushed and pulled by political forces, and a government unaccustomed to planning for the future has left the process stalled on the on-ramp. Someone has to fix the gridlock in this state - and we're not talking about the freeways.
Here's what some key business and government leaders had to say Thursday about the California Transportation Commission's failure to move ahead even after getting the green light from voters:
"From a business standpoint, the process has been highly frustrating ... for God's sake, let's move forward ... on the projects," said Lee Harrington, of the Los Angeles Economic Development Council.
"We don't have a coordinated way of planning for the investment in infrastructure (in this state)," said Paul Rosenstiel, deputy treasurer for the state.
"Politics very quickly became a major focus of these new programs," said Tony V. Harris, executive vice president of Planning Company Associates, Inc. who is involved in the process.
These three, and others, spoke frankly at a conference at USC Thursday hosted by the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy. Even with a voter-approved infusion of cash, the state can't seem to kick start our transportation fix.
One would think that state and regional bureaucrats can no longer use the excuse that they don't have any money to pay for projects.
The news from the USC conference got worse as the morning wore on. Adding to infighting and foot-dragging is a growing state budget deficit that Rosenstiel estimated could reach $8billion in 2008-09. Some of the players on the Keston panel were concerned that politicians in Sacramento will raid the transportation kitty to stop the budget bleeding.
Said Harris: "If that happens, projects will suffer."
Already, the San Gabriel Valley has lost out to its bully neighbor, the City of Los Angeles, when the CTC stripped monies from 1B intended for realignment of the logjammed 605 and 10 junction and the building of the 10Freeway carpool lane through West Covina. Instead, bond monies were promised for the carpool lane on the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass and for the Exposition Line (a light-rail line to run from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City).
Harris called that February meeting of the CTC "the worst food fight I had ever seen." Yes, and the San Gabriel Valley went to bed without its dinner.
Since then, the San Gabriel Valley was promised "regular" dollars (non-bond funding) to build the 10 carpool lane. The scraps. And even that is vague. And of course, building of the already laid-out Gold Line Foothill Extension has not been funded. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority still will not commit to funding its operation once it's built out to Montclair, or what we prefer, Ontario International Airport.
Said Duarte Councilman and our local MTA board member John Fasana by phone: "This (transportation funding) has become so intertwined between the budget and the bonds it is hard to make sense of it."
These top officials can't make sense out of a bond plan that the governor said would save California from itself. They can't understand how the bonds will be sold or the monies distributed, or even what freeway projects or light rail projects will get funded. And they are the people in charge of the infrastructure fix.
What's wrong with this picture?