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Private help what state really needs

first_imgState lawmakers have finally agreed on a $37 billion infrastructure bond package to put on the November ballot. While it’s small compared to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original plan, nearly $20 billion of the borrowed cash would go toward much-needed transportation improvements. You’d think that this would be great news in the San Fernando Valley and throughout Los Angeles, where we are desperate for traffic relief and speedier commutes. Unfortunately, less than half of the bond money will be spent across the state on our highways, with only about $4.5 billion for congestion relief on the busiest freeways. Meanwhile, nearly the same amount, $4 billion in bonds, will be spent on light rail, buses and other mass-transit options, even though nearly 88 percent of us drive our cars. The problem is that lawmakers are borrowing the funds, but they don’t have to pay them back – that will be the responsibility of future generations. Yet if they were forced to spend general-fund money where it is needed most – and where it will provide the highest value of return – they would spend virtually all of it on roads and highways, not light rail. And even better, they might ask private companies to spend their money on roads and highways, too. Many other states are busy significantly upgrading their transportation systems with billions of dollars from private companies, not taxpayers. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole’s latest report shows more than $25 billion in privately financed toll roads have been proposed or are already in development in Florida, Georgia, Oregon, Texas and other states. Indiana is leasing a 157-mile portion of toll road for $3.85 billion to a private firm, and Chicago got more than $1.8 billion from a private company that will renovate and manage its Chicago Skyway toll road. But similar partnerships were outlawed in California by Gov. Gray Davis because of controversies with the Orange County’s SR-91 express lanes. And while the Legislature did pass a public-private partnership measure last week, analysts say it will not attract new capital because the Legislature can kill any deal along a simple party-line vote. So private companies will continue to do business in other states instead of dealing with California’s dysfunctional Legislature. If the bonds pass, Los Angeles will be expecting at least $2 billion from the transportation portion. But if you’ve ever gone from the 101 to the 405 during rush hour, you know we’re going to need a lot more than that. There are growing calls for truck-only lanes going from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports all the way to the Nevada border. The lanes would remove trucks from regular lanes of traffic and create more capacity for everyone, but that project alone would cost an estimated $12 billion. The state’s current funding models and bond plans simply aren’t enough. But public-private partnerships could make the difference – and they make more sense. The state’s bond measure will infuse some cash into a system thirsty for transportation funding, but it won’t come close to fixing Southern California’s transportation woes. For a viable, long-term solution we’re going to need the private sector’s help. Other states have learned that, why can’t we? George Passantino is a senior fellow with the Reason Foundation. Write to him by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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