Spending Our Federal Tax Dollars – An Upside And A Downside

Spending Our Federal Tax Dollars – The Upside

My home state of California will receive billions from the infrastructure bill, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or IIJA.

According to this article:

Those billions include:

“$3.5 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state and ensure clean, safe drinking water for California communities.”

It’s too soon to know how that $3.5 billion will be divvied up among California counties and cities over five years, but whatever amount comes to San Diego, it can’t come soon enough.

Not after this happened on Sunday, November 21:

According to this and other media outlets, two old pipes to burst within blocks of each other in downtown San Diego on that Sunday:

The first pipe was 76 years old.  It burst around 3:30pm, and thousands of gallons of water rushed down the streets, created a sinkhole and flooded at least one business:

In the second event that Sunday, shortly before 7pm, thousands of gallons of water from a burst 62-year-old pipe forced all northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Fourth Avenue to shut, snarling traffic far beyond downtown and sending travelers seeking alternate routes to San Diego International Airport at the start of the busy Thanksgiving travel week:

It also sent rocks and other debris raining onto the northbound lanes of I-5, hitting passing cars.  One motorist, an Uber driver, told the CHP that water broke through his windshield, injuring his passenger. 

Forty-eight hours later, on Tuesday, November 23, the local evening news…

…was reporting that a main exit to the airport was still closed, and residents and businesses were still dealing with street closures, water supply issues and boil-first orders.

The two burst water mains were just the tip of San Diego’s iceberg, albeit in liquid form.

According to this article:

“The city experienced 33 water main breaks in 2020, down from a high of 131 in 2010.  The city has averaged nearly 80 major ruptures a year over the last decade.”

“The city has replaced roughly 180 miles of pipeline since 2013 and has roughly 55 miles of cast-iron pipeline remaining, and officials estimate the last sections will be upgraded by 2025.”

But, says this story:

As far as the 76-year-old and 62-year-old water mains that broke on November 21:

“Despite their age, they weren’t scheduled to be replaced as part of the city’s ongoing capital improvement plan to replace all cast iron pipes with PVC.”

These two water mains weren’t scheduled to be replaced, and how many more aren’t scheduled, just bursting to…bust?

The story closed with this:

“[San Diego Mayor] Todd Gloria, like mayors across the state and country, are still waiting to see how much money from the massive infrastructure bill will make its way to San Diego.”

It’s painful to think of the impact these two events had on so many people – people trying to get to the airport; people whose cars were hit with rocks and debris and water, injuring an Uber passenger; people who couldn’t take a shower; people who couldn’t brush their teeth without boiling the water first.

And it’s painful to think of those thousands of gallons of wasted water, especially when you consider this:

Let’s all hold good thoughts for that upside:

That some of that $3.5 billion in infrastructure money “to improve water infrastructure across the state” comes to San Diego and we’ll soon be seeing less of this:

And less of this:

Spending Our Federal Tax Dollars – The Downside

The Powers That Be appear to have had a well-choreographed series of events on Friday, November 19.

According to this article, on November 19:

“The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said Friday it was awarding nearly $1 billion in infrastructure grants as the Biden administration prepares to dramatically boost funding on the nation’s roads, bridges, rail, transit and other projects.

“Under the $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden, the Transportation Department will receive $660 billion over five years, including $210.5 billion to be awarded in competitive grants.  Of that $71 billion is for new grant programs.”

That same Friday, according to this article:

“Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced on Friday that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has given its first grants from the recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill to California, with $58 million going to transportation projects in Northern California.”

That $58 million in grant funding for California transportation projects is part of the DOT Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, also known as RAISE.

And sure enough, this news release, also dated November 19, from the Department of Transportation…

…provided a list of awards received by states, with that $58 million for California going to three projects:

You see that first item – the “Wasco SR 46 Improvement Project” for $24 million?

What you don’t see is what it actually is:

It’s $24 million for this:

California High-Speed Rail trains still exist only in artists’ renderings, like this.

This is an artist’s rendering of California’s high-speed rail boondoggle, also known as the Train to Nowhere.

If the word “boondoggle” hadn’t already been in use, it would have been invented for this project:

Just a brief history…

In November 2008, California voters were promised a high-speed rail system from San Diego to San Francisco and Sacramento at a cost of $45 billion.

We were told the entire 800-mile network – linking not only Los Angeles and San Francisco but also San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland – would be operational by 2020. 

In 2015, we saw exciting headlines like this:

By 2019, the cost estimate had jumped from $45 billion to $80 billion and perhaps as high as $98 billion, but only for a system from San Francisco to Anaheim.

But as of today, most of the construction has taken place in California’s Central Valley, primarily between Merced and Bakersfield:

Which is like saying, “From nowhere to nowhere.”

And there are no high-speed rail trains going anywhere to anywhere.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is very excited about Merced-to-Bakersfield, but pretty much no one else is.

This article in the San Jose Mercury News from mid-October summed it up well:

“It’s time for California’s leadership to abandon the state’s high-speed rail boondoggle, once and for all.”

“…lawmakers shouldn’t throw away additional money on a project that is going nowhere.”

“…federal funds for rail projects wouldn’t come close to providing the money needed to make California’s pie-in-the-sky plan a reality.”

This was written before the $24 million windfall for Wasco.

And how does that $24 million for the “Wasco SR 46 Improvement Project” fit into California’s High-Speed Rail multi-billion-dollar fiasco?

And what the hell is a “Wasco,” that $24 million recipient?

Research revealed that Wasco is a town in California’s Central Valley:

The population is around 27,000, and its primary attraction appears to be Wasco State Prison, population around 4,100.

And now, according to this (also November 19) article:

Wasco will also be known for receiving $24 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which received the money from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, also known as RAISE, which received the money from the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or IIJA.

All of which, in case you lost track, is our…

The article says the money will be used to “reconstruct State Route 46 in order to safely build the high-speed rail through the area,” and provides these fascinating details:

  • Lower State Route 46 to properly accommodate trucks passing under the railroad to approximately 16’6″ clearance and expand about 0.4 miles of it to a four-lane cross section;
  • Enhance ADA accessibility by building a new sidewalk, curb ramps, storm water improvements and a utility corridor south of State Route 46;
  • Build an efficient roundabout to enhance safety across the freight corridor;
  • Enhance adjacent properties affected by the project and work with the City to prepare them for improved land use and economic development.

How all that’s going to get me from Los Angeles to San Francisco in three hours is a mystery to me.

So there we have it:  Spending our federal tax dollars – an upside and a downside.

For San Diego’s water infrastructure, I say:

Start sending our money!

For California’s high-speed boondoggle train to nowhere, I say:

Stop spending our money!

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