MOORLACH UPDATE — High Speed Road Idea — February 20, 2019

Observing how people react to ideas is a fascinating exercise. In 1963, a games designer for Ideal Toys came up with the idea that a soldier doll that could move into various positions and poses, versus the traditional green static plastic soldier, would be a hit. Ideal Toys, however, assumed boys would not play with dolls. By rejecting the idea, it missed the opportunity to profit from the GI Joe phenomenon. That employee went instead to Hasbro, who liked the concept because they could, like the Barbie phenomenon, also sell additional clothes and gear. The rest is history.

Reactions to SB 319, an idea outside of the norm, are coming in fast and furious (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 High Speed Road — February 19, 2019). The media contacts have been numerous, so I’m only giving you a sampling today of pieces where I was actually interviewed with two bonuses. Many journalists are intrigued that a state legislator would want to do more with our highways than has been done in years. With new trends, like self-driving vehicles, fast zero-emission vehicles, shared economy ride sharing, scooters and declining public transit ridership, it’s time to have a thorough debate on how California deals with transportation.

The Sacramento FOX News affiliate, Fox 40, came by my office, and is the first piece below. USA Today is the second piece. The Daily Pilot provides the third. The LA Times (electronic) provides their Sacramento coverage in the fourth piece and, as a bonus, their world-famous columnist Steve Lopez provides some humor on the "craziness" in the dead tree version in the fifth piece. For another Central Valley perspective, enjoy the link with the Your Central in the sixth piece below.

One theme that does come out of it all is good driver etiquette is lacking in our state. Californians should become better drivers. Let’s hope my High Speed Road idea doesn’t suffer from the barrage of "killer phrases" like "we’ve never done it this way before." Some have missed new trends and great opportunities at their chagrin with such an attitude.

Bill Would Create New Lanes on I-5, Highway 99 — With No Speed Limits


SACRAMENTO — For years, the state has been looking for a faster, easier way to travel between Northern and Southern California.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, has proposed new legislation to do just that.

"We thought let’s go ahead and have four lanes in the middle of the right of way, and let’s offer the opportunity to have no speed limit,” Moorlach said.

Moorlach’s bill, SB 319, would create two lanes in each direction on Interstate 5 and Highway 99 where drivers could put the pedal to the metal — similar to Germany’s Autobahn.

Moorlach says it’s an idea that could be a reality much faster than California’s high-speed rail.

"We’re just trying to provide some solutions,” he told FOX40. “Yes, they might be difficult but let’s think outside the box because this high-speed rail thing isn’t penciling out.”

Truck driver Herbert Ratliff feels the idea would clear more space on the road for big rigs, which have to travel slower.

“It would definitely help out,” Ratliff said. “It would get them out of our way, basically.”

But some drivers, like Ashley Tell, who commutes on I-5 daily, say they will steer clear.

"I don’t think that’s safe,” Tell said. “A lot of people already drive over the speed limit and it can cause and has caused accidents."

A recent study found Highway 99 to be the most dangerous road in the country, with the most deaths on the freeway.

Moorlach feels the dedicated fast lanes would instead make these freeways safer.

"The data shows that in Germany, we have less accidents,” Moorlach said.

The California Highway Patrol and High-Speed Rail Authority would not comment on pending legislation.

German-style autobahn coming to California? One lawmaker sees the need for speed

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VISALIA, Calif. – Forget about the high-speed rail zipping commuters from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

One Southern California politician, state Sen. John Moorlach, has introduced a bill that would do away with speed limits for certain lanes on I-5 and Highway 99 – two vital roadways that stretch across the Golden State.

The measure would require the Department of Transportation to expand the 235-mile stretches from Bakersfield to Stockton on both sides of I-5 and Highway 99 by two lanes.

If you think this sounds like the premise of “Mad Max” movie, some California motorists would agree.

"I would stay off the freeway," Vikki Short said. "There are enough crazy drivers (without) taking away the speed limit."

Moorlach points to what he describes as the safer and less congested German autobahn system, which features some stretches with no speed limits.

“The stats prove that driving in Germany is safer,” the Orange County Republican said. “And, there’s less congestion.”

Moorlach’s opinion is popular among some.

"The autobahn works just fine in Germany, why not here," Joey Torres said. "Of course, there will always those ‘what if’ people but no is forcing you to get on it. These are the kind of out of the box ideas that need to be proposed to taxpayers when proposing tax increases."

And what about Central California’s notorious Tule Fog in the winter and dust storms in the summer that often cut down visibility on Highway 99 and I-5?

“Drivers will need to use common sense of course,” Moorlach said. “I don’t think people will drive 100 mph in a dust storm.”

Other Californians see the proposal as an opportunity.

"I think it’d be a huge tourist attraction for California," said Kara Vincent-Grim. "People will come from all over the US to use the only No Limit road to finally be able to drive their high-end sports cars."

Moorlach’s proposal comes after the news that California Gov. Gavin Newsom is scaling back on plans to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The cost of the project had ballooned to $77 billion.

“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first State of the State address on Feb. 12. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”

Newsom, though, said he wants to finish construction already underway on a segment of the high-speed train through the Central Valley. The project would connect a 119-mile stretch from Merced to Bakersfield.

Moorlach proposal has some questions, though. The cost of building two additional traffic lanes on I-5 and Highway 99 isn’t known yet.

Moorlach proposes replacing the proposed bullet train with Autobahn-like lanes


If Californians can’t have high-speed steel rails, a proposed bill would allow them to at least legally use their lead feet to get from the south to the north.

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) introduced a bill last week to add two dedicated, speed-limit-free lanes to Interstate 5 and State Route 99 to replace California’s beleaguered $77-billion bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which is $44 billion over budget and 13 years behind schedule — or at least act as a stop-gap.

“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and high-speed rail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” Moorlach said.

Under Senate Bill 319, the 5 and the 99 would get two dedicated lanes in each direction the full length of both freeways — Mexico to Oregon for the 5, Wheeler Ridge to Red Bluff for the 99 — that would allow motorists to travel faster than the speed limit, which is 65 to 70 mph.

Moorlach’s proposal doesn’t estimate a price tag for the project, but identifies cap-and-trade revenues as the funding source.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to provide Californians with a viable alternative to the high-speed rail system project by providing them with access to high-speed, unabated transportation across the state,” the bill reads. “It is further the intent of the Legislature to decrease traffic congestion and thereby decrease the emissions of greenhouse gases caused by automobiles.”

In his announcement for the bill, Moorlach said the Autobahn-esque lanes would replace “the defunct high-speed rail project — or at least [provide] an expedited transportation option until a substantial high-speed rail segment can be built decades in the future.”

That references comments Gov. Gavin Newsom made earlier this month in his State of the State address, when he was reassessing, though not halting the project.

California lawmaker wants to give the state its own high-speed Autobahn


With the state hitting the brakes on the proposed bullet train project, one lawmaker has offered an alternative to get Californians quickly from north to south: expanding Interstate 5 and Highway 99 to install new lanes without speed limits.

Sen. John Moorlach (R- Costa Mesa) said Tuesday he wants California to have its own version of the German Autobahn on two lanes to be added in each direction on the pair of major north-south freeways.

His legislation, Senate Bill 319, would get work started on the new limit-free lanes on I-5 roughly between Lebec in the Grapevine in the south, and Sacramento or Stockton in the north using some of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the state’s cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to purchase credits if they pollute.

Moorlach said he was working on the proposal before Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed this month to scale back the high-speed rail project, noting that plan was already facing many years of delay.

“We are waiting decades for high speed rail to get finished,” Moorlach said. “Why can’t we build 300 miles of four-lane concrete in five years at a fraction of the cost, so people aren’t backed up behind trucks to get to San Francisco on the 5?”

“If they wish to use the autobahn lanes, we call it the high-speed road — they are going to get to their destination a little faster,” he added.

He said a car traveling 100 mph could make the trip from Stockton to the Grapevine in about two and a half hours in the proposed lanes.

The bill does not include an estimated cost to build hundreds of miles of new freeway lanes.

But based on one possible cost scenario, the project might cost $3 billion in cap-and-trade funding, saidMoorlach, a former Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector.

Moorlach’s proposal faces a rough road in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Although current Democratic leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment, former Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson raised doubts about the proposal.

“It would make more sense to invest in increased maintenance on Highway 99 and I-5 which suffer from significant deterioration due to extraordinary use, particularly from heavy-duty vehicles,” said Dickinson, executive director of Transportation California, a coalition of construction industry and labor groups. “Regardless of the merits of Senator Moorlach’s proposal, it would appear extremely difficult to justify the use of cap-and-trade funds for the project he proposes.”

Moorlach said the use of the funds is justified, noting that having cars sitting in idle traffic on freeways increases greenhouse gas emissions.

The maximum speed limit in California is 70 miles per hour, but Moorlach said the federal government has allowed other states to post higher speed limits. In Montana and Utah, the limit is 80 miles per hour on some roads, while Texas allows some drivers to travel at 85 mph.

Anticipating concerns about traffic safety on freeways without speed limits, Moorlach cited a World Health Organization study that estimated road traffic deaths per 100,000 people is 4.1 in Germany, but 12.4 in the United States.

Moorlach’s proposal comes just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his first State of the State speech that he would consider scaling back the proposed $77-billion high-speed rail project.

Newsom said California has the ability to finish the first leg in the Central Valley, but that extending the rail line to Southern California and the Bay Area would "cost too much and, respectfully, take too long."

The project, approved by California voters in 2008, promised to speed riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours.

Representatives for the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans said Tuesday the agencies do not comment on pending legislation.

Moorlach, who drives a 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, said he would be among the motorists driving at 100 mph if his proposal comes to fruition.

“Why slow me down?” he asked. “On a clear day everyone is going 80 mph. These vehicles are technological wonders. They are built for high speed and we have no place in California to stretch them unless you are willing to break the law, and that doesn’t make sense.”

Bullet trains? Monorails? An end to speed limits? California’s transportation future is going to be a wild ride


On Monday, my wife and daughter and I traveled home from Oakland by plane, and on landing in Burbank, my wife immediately did the math.

Door to door, our trip would have taken only 90 minutes longer if we had driven, and it would have been much cheaper.

Should we have traveled by sedan instead of by Southwest Airlines?

If the high-speed rail line were up and running, and both the time and price were somewhere between flying and driving, that might have been a preferable option.

But the train is stuck in limbo, and it’s not clear from his conflicting statements whether Gov. Gavin Newsom just blew the whistle or leaped off the caboose. I want to slap myself for saying this, but you can hardly blame President Trump for seizing the opportunity to announce Tuesday that he’s trying to stiff us on a $929-million federal grant for the project.

I’ll revisit the bullet train in a moment, but given the likelihood that we’re never going to get it together on rail, state Sen. John Moorlach of Orange County has pitched a bill to create lanes along the 5 and 99 Freeways through the Central Valley on which you could drive like hell, with no speed limits.

Buckle up, hit the gas and go. Burbank is a blur, Fresno a flash. You’re moving so fast, you can’t even smell the cow manure at Harris Ranch.

If Moorlach’s idea sounds crazy to you, there’s a reason for that.

It is.

By my calculations, half the people behind the wheel don’t know what they’re doing at any speed. Do we want lawmakers telling them to pretend they’re NASCAR drivers?

Back when Montana law allowed you to drive as fast as you considered “reasonable and prudent,” I rented a car in Great Falls and drove at the speed of sound (approximately) to Helena, where the Legislature was already considering a return to numerical speed limits.

When I hit 112 miles an hour in a Toyota Camry, my teeth rattled, the doors felt like they might blow off and the ghosts of my ancestors danced before me.

Even free-spirited, get-off-our-backs Montanans realized this was insane, and imposed a 75-mph speed limit in 1999.

But Californians are a delusional denomination, and we can’t let go of the dream that getting from here to there is going to be easier one day, even though all our choices guarantee the exact opposite. We keep growing, we move ever greater distances from our jobs, and 3 in 4 of us drive alone in our cars.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is studying congestion pricing, and my vote is yes, right now, let’s go. You take the most congested places in the region and charge people to drive in those areas when traffic is worst, which means that some drivers won’t bother. So there’s less traffic and less pollution.

Yeah, there are downsides. You don’t want a system that punishes the poor and gives rich people yet another break. But it’s worked elsewhere and it can work here, if planners could design a system that gives a break to low-income people who have to drive for their jobs. Then you take the congestion fees to build more and better transit.

The same MTA is considering transit options for the Sepulveda Pass, including tunneling through the mountain or stringing a monorail up and over the hill. That’s how desperate we are to relieve congestion — we can’t stop looking to Disneyland for answers.

OK, fine, but why are we always focused on the wrong ride? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the model we should be looking to. Make transit easy, fun and economical and people might ditch their cars. If the open-air Big Thunder train barreled over and through the pass, with passengers screaming and their hair flying as they blew by the Getty, I’d move to Sherman Oaks just to ride it every day.

But seriously, we’re never going to get anywhere, so to speak, without some smart local decisions and more clarity from Sacramento.

I appreciated Jerry Brown’s push for the bullet train as a centerpiece of his green agenda, but Uncle Jerry did a lousy job of selling the train, and his vision ended up being more of a hallucination. Way too many delays, massive cost overuns, millions in lawsuits and no funding in sight going forward. On Tuesday, the chairman of the high-speed rail board resigned.

As a candidate, Gavin Newsom was so wishy-washy you couldn’t tell where he stood. And when he finally spoke last week, he only created more confusion. One day it sounded like the train was dead; the next day Newsom said the media blew the story.

What did we do wrong?

We quoted him.

“But let’s be real,” Newsom had said in a speech. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield.”

Does that look unclear to you?

It doesn’t to me.

I figured it meant the train was off the rails. Others saw it the same way, and the backlash was immediate.

Newsom’s people then scrambled to straighten things out, and the governor himself attempted to clarify, saying he hasn’t given up on the bigger project.

If that’s true, I’d like to make one recommendation to the governor.

Go to Disneyland, take a ride on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and imagine traveling from San Diego to San Francisco on that.

A state proposed bill would eliminate speed limits for certain lanes on I-5 and Highway 99


FRESNO, California – A proposed state bill is making its way through the state capital, it would do away with speed limits on Interstate 5 and Highway 99.

State Senator John Moorlach wrote SB 319, it would require Cal-Trans to build two additional traffic lanes, with now maximum speed limit.
The other lanes of traffic would still ban drivers from going more than 65 miles per hour.

"Let the people that want to speed, speed. Let the people that want to take their time get into the lanes that they can go slower," Debi Hernandez said.

Hernandez said other countries like Germany have the autobahn, which works for them.

" It would sure help with the high speed rail, we wouldn’t have to deal with all of the cost of that so people can get to where they want to go up and down the San Joaquin Valley," she said.

For others, they think drivers in California can’t handle a no speed limit highway lane.

"It will cause more accidents. I mean that is why we have speed limits to avoid accidents," Ned Mallory said.

This is still a proposed bill which will need a signature from Governor Gavin Newsom for it to become law.


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