It is unfortunate we have 115 “structurally deficient” bridges among the 640 spans in San Joaquin County. (For more, see Page 12 of today’s Tracy Press.)
This is a problem which we must address, and do so sooner rather than later. However, the Stockton Record opinion of April 14, that “perhaps if we can’t figure out how to fund bridges’ maintenance, we ought not be building more,” shows a complete lack of understanding on this issue.
The Record opinion piece gets it right when they acknowledge “We are doing a poor job of maintaining our infrastructure.” This applies not only to bridges but our roads, parks, trees, buildings and vehicle fleets. And the Record offers the possible explanation for this malaise as, “We think things such as bridges and pipelines and roads should take care of themselves.”
Over the past decade, many voices, including the Record, cried out for development to pay its fair share. We do. New bridges, roads, parks, building and new vehicles are all paid for with development fees.
Now that we are paying for all new infrastructure items, it seems the argument against development has changed to, “Pay your fair share, and pay our share, too.”
Not long ago, cities and counties recognized the economic benefit of development, so they encouraged it. The taxes and other income generated from development more than offset the maintenance and servicing costs. Since then, governments at all levels have increased their own labor costs to such a degree they cannot afford to maintain their existing infrastructure.
If development were to stop today — it practically has — we would all see what the development community has known for years. New development is subsidizing the maintenance of existing infrastructure.
Don’t blame the bridge for not maintaining itself. Look at the budget, and blame the cuts made to infrastructure maintenance while labor costs soared.