James Moore, professor of civil engineering and public policy at the University of Southern California, has studied how Caltrans plans and responds to natural disasters like the Northridge earthquake, and says it's impossible to measure the agency's performance without considering the political gridlock in finding funds for repairs.
During the recession, California put off maintenance for many projects. Since then, construction costs have increased and revenues from gas taxes haven't kept pace with the need. Caltrans receives only about a third of the funding it requires to keep up routine maintenance of 50,000 miles of highways and hundreds of thousands of drainage facilities. The state faces a $59 billion backlog in repairs to highways and bridges.
The 2015 special legislative session called by Governor Brown to address the funding gap met only three times. So while lawmakers attend to other issues, California continues to collapse into the sea.
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