From the What are they nuts? department:
Road Builders and State's Finance Department Propose a Dense, Concreted-Over Future for California, Saying We Must Accomodate More Growth
"Needed by 2050: decked freeways, tunnels, tolls, trains"
By Rong-Gong Lin II and Jeffrey L. Rabin, Times Staff Writers
July 11, 2007
Building the roads and transportation infrastructure needed to accommodate
Local transportation agencies said the Southland's freeways and mass transit need drastic changes to accommodate what state officials project as a 60% increase in the region's population by 2050.
That would probably include adding upper decks to some
"We are thinking here of a big system, equivalent to the interstate system," said Hasan Ikhrata, director of planning and policy for the Southern California Assn. of Governments, referring to the freeway building boom of the 1950s and 1960s that revolutionized American auto traffic.
The population forecast, released Monday by the state Department of Finance, predicted that
Some demographers believe that the state will only reach those numbers if it provides adequate public infrastructure. Others worry that the growth will come even without more roads, making congestion worse.
"The Westsiders won't cross the 405. The west
Politicians and transportation planners have been grappling for decades with how to make road improvements keep up with the rising population — and many admit that they have largely failed. The percentage of highways in the state deemed congested rose from 32% to 43% from 1992 to 2002, according to a California Department of Transportation study, which defines congestion as rush-hour traffic that moves at 35 mph or less.
But the planning studies put the bill for keeping congestion in check at $140 billion in the next 30 years for six
Paying for the improvements will be difficult. Many counties — including
Many say boosting the gas tax would be the most logical way to collect more revenue. But it is politically unpopular with prices at the pump so high.
And without more roads, "we will be in a serious congestion crisis from the
One reason the potential fixes cost so much is that there is so much less raw land than there was in the 1950s. As a result, officials must go to great lengths to engineer new roadways:
• Several of the routes considered most crucial by traffic planners require tunneling under neighborhoods or mountains. These include extending the 710 Freeway through
• Toll roads are gaining new attention because officials could use future revenues to borrow money to build the highways. Officials have talked about an expressway connecting the fast-growing high desert regions of
• The surge in
Besides moving the growing number of commuters to work, government planners predict a 400% increase in cargo movement over the next 30 years, further taxing the freeway system and probably requiring truck-only toll lanes on heavily traveled routes such as the 710, 60, 5, 10 and 15 freeways.
Planning is just beginning for a toll road system for trucks that would cover the heavily traveled route from the ports of
"Do we have the political willingness to come out and say this is needed for the state? That, unfortunately, we are going to charge some people for it but it has to be done?" Ikhrata said. "Look, if we're really going to have 60 million people in
Yet, major freeway expansion will be difficult. Any effort to greatly expand the capacity of urban freeways in
And decades of opposition from
Now, Caltrans and the MTA are studying a multibillion-dollar tunnel, an idea that continues to run into opposition from some
The 710 Freeway fight underscores the debate across the region about how transportation agencies use the money they have.
Other counties have focused more resources from their sales taxes on road expansion. But officials are quick to point out that those revenues only go so far.
"We already are struggling to meet the demand of the current population, and so adding to that is definitely going to be a big hurdle," said Cheryl Donahue, spokeswoman for San Bernardino Associated Governments.
60 million Californians by mid-century
By Maria L. La
July 10, 2007
Over the next half-century,
California will near the 60-million mark in 2050, the study found, raising questions about how the state will look and function and where all the people and their cars will go. Dueling visions pit the iconic
But whether sprawl or skyscrapers win the day, the
Some critics forecast disaster if gridlock and environmental impacts are not averted. Others see a possible economic boon, particularly for retailers and service industries with an eye on the state as a burgeoning market.
"It's opportunity with baggage," said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., in "a country masquerading as a state."
Other demographers argue that the huge population increase the state predicts will occur only if officials complete major improvements to roads and other public infrastructure. Without that investment, they say, some Californians would flee the state.
If the finance department's calculations hold,
And its projected growth rate in those 50 years will outstrip the national rate — nearly 75% compared with less than 50% projected by the federal government. That could translate to increased political clout in
Riverside County will add 3.1 million people, according to the new state figures, eclipsing Orange and San Diego to become the second most populous in the state. With less expensive housing than the coast,
But many residents face agonizingly long commutes to work in other areas. And Monday, the state's growth projections raised some concerns in the
Registered nurse Fifi Bo moved from
"But where am I going? People used to move to Victorville, but [housing prices in] Victorville already got high," the 36-year-old said as she fretted about traffic and smog and public services stretched thin. "We don't know where to go. Maybe
John Husing, an economist who studies the Inland Empire, is betting that even in land-rich
"The difficult thing will be for anybody who likes where they live in
Husing predicts that growth will be most dramatic beyond the city of
Expect a lot of the new development in
"We have over 5,000 active development applications in processing right now," he said.
No matter how much local governments build in the way of public works and how many new jobs are attracted to the region — minimizing the need for long commutes — Husing figures that growth will still overwhelm the area's roads.
USC Professor Genevieve Giuliano, an expert on land use and transportation, would probably agree. Such massive growth, if it occurs, she said, will require huge investment in the state's highways, schools, and energy and sewer systems at a "very formidable cost."
If those things aren't built, Giuliano questioned whether the projected population increases will occur. "Sooner or later, the region will not be competitive and the growth is not going to happen," she said.
If major problems like traffic congestion and housing costs aren't addressed, Giuliano warned, the middle class is going to exit California, leaving behind very high-income and very low-income residents.
"It's a political question," said Martin Wachs, a transportation expert at the Rand Corp. in
The numbers released Monday underscore most demographers' view that the state's population is pushing east, from both Los Angeles and the Bay Area, to counties such as Riverside and San Bernardino as well as half a dozen or so smaller Central Valley counties.
In Southern California,
The Department of Finance releases long-term population projections every three years. Between the last two reports, number crunchers have taken a more detailed look at
The latest numbers figure the state will be much more crowded than earlier estimates (by nearly 5 million) and that it will take a bit longer than previously thought for Latinos to become the majority of
The figures show that the majority of California's growth will be in the Latino population, said Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at USC, adding that "68% of the growth this decade will be Latino, 75% next and 80% after that."
That should be a wake-up call for voting Californians, Myers said, pointing out a critical disparity. Though the state's growth is young and Latino, the majority of voters will be older and white — at least for the next decade.
"The future of the state is Latino growth," Myers said. "We'd sure better invest in them and get them up to speed…. Older white voters don't see it that way. They don't realize that someone has to replace them in the work force, pay for their benefits and buy their house."