Senate Bill 1 sign
A sign announcing a Senate Bill 1 project to widen Interstate 5 in San Diego. Photo by Chris Jennewein

By Skip Carter | Special for CALmatters

Earlier this summer, a section of roadway on Interstate 5 near downtown Sacramento crumbled away causing multiple collisions, vehicle damage and flat tires, closing the highway, and snarling the morning commute.

The drivers involved—and the California Highway Patrol officers who responded—were fortunate this time: no one was killed and no next-of-kin needed to be notified. But with our crumbling roadway infrastructure, we may not be so fortunate the next time.

That’s why so many first responders and public safety leaders are steadfastly opposed to Proposition 6 on the November ballot–the measure that would eliminate $5 billion annually in existing transportation funding. If Proposition 6 passes, our roads will continue to deteriorate and the safety of our bridges and roads will only get worse.

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What happened on I-5 wasn’t a surprise to anyone who travels this route daily.  A recent study shows six of the nation’s top 50 most dangerous highways are in California. Interstate 5 in California is the nation’s fourth most dangerous freeway.

The sad fact is the crumbling pavement that caused the crashes and delays in Sacramento are all too familiar in almost every part of the state.

Skip Carter
Skip Carter

The latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration numbers show there were 3,600 fatalities on California roads in 2016. And any CHP officer can tell you poor roads are a major cause of collisions.

Eighty-nine percent of California counties have roads that are in “poor” or “at-risk” condition, and 1,600 of our bridges and overpasses are structurally deficient and unsafe.

Proposition 6 would eliminate more than $5 billion annually in existing transportation funds and jeopardize more than 6,500 bridge and road safety, transportation, and public transit improvement projects currently underway throughout California.

The vital projects Proposition 6 would eliminate include:

  • 3,727 projects fixing potholes and repaving roads;
  • 1,571 projects dedicated to improving road and driver safety;
  • 554 bridge and overpass repair and replacement projects;
  • 337 traffic congestion relief projects; and
  • 453 projects improving public transportation.

Proposition 6 will force many of these projects to be eliminated, wasting money and making roads less safe.

The initiative would eliminate other projects that make a difference for safety, such as better striping for improved visibility, safety guardrails, and more flashing signs and rumble strips.

Another harmful consequence is that bad roads lead to worse emergency response times for ambulances, law enforcement, and firefighters. That increases chances of fatalities.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Professional Firefighters Association, and other public safety organizations oppose Proposition 6.

More than 250 public safety organizations, engineers, local transportation agencies, cities, counties, environmental groups, business and labor organizations have joined together to say No on 6.

Eighty-one percent of voters showed their wisdom by passing Proposition 69. That measure ensures that transportation funds will get spent on transportation and will prevent politicians from diverting the money for other purposes.

Why do I feel so strongly about defeating Proposition 6?  I spent 30 years on the CHP with so many hard-working, dedicated first responders. I refuse to just sit by and watch the transportation infrastructure that my loved ones, my colleagues, and the public use every day be attacked by politicians working for their own gain.

Public safety should never be used as a political football. That’s why I am voting “no” on Proposition 6.

Skip Carter is a former California Highway Patrol deputy commissioner. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture with whom Times of San Diego is a partner.