Guest Editorial: California’s common ground with Washington

By Kevin McCarthy and Vince Fong

The Golden State has a golden opportunity if Sacramento and D.C. can work together. On two key infrastructure issues — water and highways — we have much to gain by working side-by-side to jump-start long overdue infrastructure projects throughout this state. Together, we have long worked to solve problems in the Central Valley on these very issues, and, with a new administration, we have new opportunities to take this progress statewide.

There is fundamental infrastructure in our state that is literally crumbling every day. While the Oroville Dam (built almost 50 years ago and containing the state’s second-largest reservoir) is the latest example, our state’s water infrastructure needs are widespread.

In the past several weeks, we have experienced huge amounts of snow and rain, which brought to light sobering realities. Decades of ignoring our infrastructure needs have caught up to us in an undeniable way. While important federal bipartisan changes were made late last year to help pump more water to communities that need it, this past month has demonstrated that our state’s infrastructure must be strengthened to take advantage of wet winters so we can to protect against future drought.

Our roads and bridges similarly fall short. Throughout the state, Californians are increasingly frustrated by worsening traffic congestion. In Los Angeles and the Bay Area, the average motorist loses 80 hours annually because of congestion, costing $1,700 in lost time and wasted fuel. Traffic congestion ranks as the top concern for Los Angeles County residents, which should not be a surprise for anyone who has driven on any of its major freeways.

While it is easy to take infrastructure issues for granted, fixing them is foundational for a thriving Central Valley economy, which feed and powers this state of 39 million residents.

As D.C. tackles our nation’s challenges — including aging infrastructure — we must pull from our experiences and feedback from our constituents to lay out our vision for a more integrated Golden State.

We should work to unwind the messy and unworkable high-speed rail project and instead try to direct more funds to modernizing needed transit and infrastructure projects — up and down the valley and the coast, in and out of downtown Los Angeles and along Bay Area commuter corridors.

We should work together to improve incentives for more private-public partnership investment to repair and construct new transportation modes.And we should look for ways to streamline projects, from conception to ribbon-cutting, so that we can honor the trust of patient but gridlocked commuters by completing projects on time and reducing cost overruns.

Our commitment is to work with our colleagues to bridge the gap between Sacramento and D.C. and capitalize on the opportunities before us. The consequences of the inability to engage beyond partisan rhetoric are dire, especially when more Californians believe their children will have a better shot of achieving the American Dream by leaving California. As elected officials, we must focus on governing. It is time to bring forth our best ideas in a constructive way in order to serve the people we represent and the state we call home.

Kevin McCarthy is the majority leader in the House of Representatives. Vince Fong is the chief Republican whip in the California State Assembly.

Story First Published: 2017-02-24