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Always Advocating Alan- Why are California Highways and Byways in Such Bad Shape?

| Opinion | October 10, 2019

Relocating to the Santa Clarita Valley in the mid-60’s was a smart move. I had become involved with Desert Cross Country Motorcycle Racing and it seemed like my wife and I were traveling to the Santa Clarita Valley every weekend, visiting friends and getting prepared for another Sunday race event. I had become a member of the Four Aces MC, an American Motorcycle Association District 37 Racing Club, and several of our members had taken up residence on Dewdrop Street, which at that time was in Saugus. It didn’t take long before Pam and I started house hunting, and within a short time, my young family had taken up residence in what is now Canyon Country.

I must admit, I was a lot younger and more resilient at that time. Sundays’ race normally required the family to pack our necessities Saturday night, leave home about 4am on Sunday morning, and drive 100 miles to the event.

Yet, it was a great time for all who participated. Almost every open area was able to be used, and even though there were about 40 events per year, there was enough open land so that no one considered reusing another club’s racecourse. Revisiting where your club had put on a race the following year, you could see an outline of the course by looking at the new green vegetation cropping up in the tracks of last year’s race. It demonstrated how well the land had rejuvenated itself.

Motorcycle Desert Racing was getting increasingly popular. Each Hare and Hound was a minimum of 80 miles in length and by the time the “View Finders” ran their signature event in 1966, which was televised on Wide World of Sports, it was not unusual to have up to 3000 riders waiting for the race to start. Then, after the day’s race was over and all our club’s riders were accounted for, we packed up, headed home, got a good night’s sleep and it was off to work on Monday morning. Like I said, “I was a lot younger and more resilient at that time.”

Some racing events were even farther away from home, and something became very noticeable. It seemed like the farther away from home we traveled, the worse the roads became. It ended up as a standing joke. I remember numerous conversations about how well-maintained Los Angeles County roads were in comparison to when we crossed the county line, and again when we crossed the California state border.

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Unfortunately, that is no longer the case and my assessment of today’s road conditions are very different. As time went by I retired from motorcycle racing, but my love of riding two wheeled motorized vehicles has stayed with me to the present day. Of course, I traded my dirt bike for a street touring model and have traveled around the country. With my wife Pam, in the passenger’s seat, we traveled from Orange County to Washington D.C. with the Vietnam vets, then meandered our way west taking 17 days to get home by clipping the northern top of Texas and then taking a shortcut home through Canada. It has been fun to ride and visit friends in Oregon, motor to Sturgis, do the Yuma Prison Run, ride to Arizona Bike Week, sit in the saddle all the way to the Anacortes Oyster Festival in Washington State and travel to the Little Bighorn National Monument in Montana.

I love motorcycle touring. While traveling and seeing the wonders of our country in a car is far better than watching a travel show on television, riding in the open is just that much better of an experience. You become part of your surroundings, and on many of our trips, rather than race to get where we were going, we staged at National Parks enabling us to ride through in the freshness of the morning air.

Yet, as much as I love motorcycles, I am fully aware two-wheeled suspension is not as good, or forgiving, as a modern automobile, therefore road conditions become even more noticeable. So, when a discussion comes up about what the road conditions will be on a trip, the consensus seems to revolve around how much better roads are when you view California in the rear-view mirror. Not only are the roads better maintained and cleaner, the speed limits are more realistically set, with drivers being far more interested in traveling at the legally set speed. All one needs to do is, set the cruise control, relax and enjoy the trip.

I am not sure how you feel about it, but I am very curious why our neighboring states have roads in so much better shape than ours. Isn’t California supposed to be the Golden State? I keep hearing about how California represents such a large part of the nation’s economy, and if that is true, why don’t we have the best maintained roads in the country? I’ll bet there are a lot of you who will answer the question by saying, “Our roads are in the shape they are in because of the monetary policies our elected leadership in Sacramento have put in place. They spend tax payer dollars on things which do not benefit California’s tax paying residents, they pass laws which make building and maintaining roads more expensive than other states so as to line the pockets of their friends and they place an overwhelming amount of emphasis of enriching themselves by funding bloated pension plans.”

In addition, our Sacramento geniuses keep putting nonsensical ballot measures before the public to mitigate the roadway problem, which duped the public… time and again. Take the 2016 “Measure M” initiative for example. It was supposed to, in part, help fix Interstate 5 congestion by generating $860 million per year. Metro spent a ton of money on public outreach in order to sell this initiative. At a public meeting held in Valencia, I, along with some other folks raised the issue, “The major cause of Interstate 5 traffic congestion is the bottleneck created by the 5/Hwy 14 interchange.” Yet, what they proposed to do, and subsequently did, was add lanes along Interstate 5 between Castaic and Newhall.

Why — so you can get to the bottleneck faster? Plus, those same lanes were committed by the previous passed ballot initiative. Nothing is being done by Measure M to alleviate traffic at the interchange. Then came the special gas tax initiative, to fix our Highways; but all it seems to have done is increase fuel and transportation costs, making the cost per gallon of fuel higher in California than anywhere in the country.

Now, California Governor Gavin Newsom wants to take gas tax money to pay for his housing project. He is looking to use $1.75 billion to entice communities to build more affordable housing at an accelerated pace. This is nothing new; for example, from “2007 to 2010, $1.3 billion in transportation funds was spent not to build or repair state roads but to finance other programs that were apparently more politically rewarding (i.e., generated more votes) than fixing bridges and filling potholes.”

California voters must fix this problem at the ballot box, by electing representatives who have pledged to support the California taxpayers, by providing road improvements and the services we desperately need. In 2018 California voters missed an opportunity to reduce gas taxes by failing to pass California Proposition 6, and we are now seeing the result at the pump. We must not let that happen again.

Yet, with all that being said, Santa Clarita city residents may not be fully aware of the problem, because while California highways and byways crumble, Robert Newman and his public works team have been doing an admirable job maintaining and top coating our city streets.

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