Lost Oleander: Hwy. 99 Success Metric?

Posted by: Bill Higgins on Friday, January 6, 2017
Oleander on Highway 99
"Where is all the oleander?"  
 
I had not driven Highway 99 in a while.  I braced myself for congestion and slow trucks, but was struck by miles and miles of six newly-paved lanes.  And the oleander – the ubiquitous median greenery — was gone, replaced by safer cement medians with adequate space to pull over in an emergency.  Now there are still sections of the "old" Highway 99 with four bumpy lanes, awkward on-ramps (joining from the left?), and all that oleander.  But  those stretches of road seem to have a short life expectancy.  
 
How did this happen?  Part of the answer is Proposition 1B, adopted by California voters as part of an infrastructure package in 2006, that set aside $1 billion for Highway 99.  Overall, the Prop 1B Highway 99 program "over delivered" on these funds by completing 17 projects instead of 13.  That is more projects in less time and under budget.  That is a good story.
 
As we confront our own transportation funding crisis and consider the funding proposals forwarded by the Governor and the Legislature, it is important to remember that there is a track record for delivery.  As our friends at the Self Help Counties Coalition always say: "promises made, promises kept."  
 
To be sure, new sources of transportation funding must address the needs for a variety of modes in addition to local streets and roads and highways.  The needs of cyclists, pedestrians, transit users, rail, and freight drivers must all be addressed.   But the successful over-delivery of the "vintage 2006" Prop 1B bonds is one of many things that should be highlighted to provide voters the confidence to make a continued investment in California's future.  
 
With the adoption of federal FAST ACT, we are all looking to be more focused on performance metrics to assure efficacy.  This should give voters even more confidence that their investments will be spent wisely.

So here is a proposed performance metric for Highway 99: reduced miles of oleander.  Maybe we can leave one "historic" plant between the palm and pine tree that mark the the state's midpoint (between Fresno & Madera).  But look quick, the traffic will be flowing. 

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