Another Way California Wastes Taxpayer Dollars
California legislators never have enough time, and always lack the vision, to deal appropriately with the state’s pressing budget and infrastructure problems. But they are great at self-aggrandizement and at catering to the special-interest groups that assure their re-election.
One would think, for instance, the Assembly Transportation Committee would be deeply concerned with the massive predicted cost overruns for the proposed High Speed Rail system, or with planning cost-effective ways to meet the transportation needs of a growing population. Yet the committee spends nearly a third of its time on a task that few readers would consider of vital importance: naming highways.
California highways already have real names. We know that the 55 Freeway, also known as the Costa Mesa Freeway, goes from the Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach to the intersection of the 91, or Riverside Freeway, in Anaheim. It’s clear that 99—central and northern Californians don’t use “the” before referring to their freeways—cuts through the urbanized regions of the Central Valley.
But you can’t drive far on any freeway in California without seeing signs referring to the “Joe Colla Interchange” or the “Eric W. Rood Memorial Expressway.” Such freeway namings, which only confuse drivers because the routes aren’t really referred to by those names in atlases and GPS systems, have become so profligate that I’ve seen memorial highway signs with multiple names on each sign.
The signs are paid for with private donations, but the Assembly estimates that it costs between $15,000 and $30,000 in Caltrans staff time for every member highway resolution that is approved. “It’s gone crazy,” said Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton), who introduced AB 595, which would have placed a two-year moratorium “on any naming of highways or posting signs by act of the Legislature.” Local governments would still be free to name roadways.
“I don’t think it’s the best way to honor any Californian,” Norby added in an interview last week. “No one knows who it is.”
I did some Internet searching and learned that Eric W. Rood was a Nevada County supervisor. I learned from a Facebook site that in 1976 former San Jose City Councilman Joe Colla “hoisted a car to the top of [an] incomplete [interchange] ramp to symbolize the folly of it all… He then had a helicopter drop him on top to take a picture…which was flashed around the country and brought attention to California’s budget problems and unfinished freeways.”