MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 and SB 689 — March 3, 2019

The OC Register’s second Sunday editorial provides a balanced perspective on SB 319, my High Speed Road proposal. It is the first piece below. The distances that I was hoping to cover with new lanes may be a little more limited than what the author provides, but the discussion is refreshing.

As for the attention this bill has received, also see:

* MOORLACH UPDATE — First American Autobahn? — February 27, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Fast Track for Charter Schools — February 22, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Oakland Unified School District — February 21, 2019

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

* MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 High Speed Road — February 19, 2019

Dealing with the lane issue, The Mercury News has a regular column for car drivers, Mr. Roadshow, that deals with this crux of the matter from a Bay Area perspective. The fact that there are only two lanes and no serious efforts to slow drivers down on Interstate 5 in the Central Valley, makes the point of my proposal in another balanced approach.

The third piece is from MyNewsLA, courtesy of City News Service, and provides the details of my introduction of SB 689 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 689 – Needle Exchange — March 1, 2019).

Autobahn bill opens new freeway debate

For a measure with little chance of passage in the Legislature, Senate Bill 319 has gotten an amazing amount of excited, statewide attention. Sponsored by Orange County Republican State Sen. John Moorlach, the bill would add a total of four dedicated highway lanes with unlimited speed limits along Interstate 5 from Mexico to Oregon, and along state Route 99, from south of Bakersfield to Red Bluff.

Although the bill doesn’t detail the proposed costs of building autobahn-style lanes, the money would come from the state cap-and-trade fund — and replace the planned $77 billion high-speed-rail system. Amid cost overruns and engineering hurdles, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to scale back the bullet-train boondoggle, which leaves an opening for new transportation concepts.

Californians are hungry for forward-thinking thought experiments. For too long, the focus of the state’s transportation planning has been to prod residents out of their cars and into supposedly “greener” rail and bus alternatives. For example, the Los Angeles transportation authority last week voted to impose new fees, taxes and tolls on private driving and ridesharing. Yet such punishment-based social engineering isn’t working, as transit ridership keeps falling.

The California Dream — and our current economy — is dependent on mobility. Transit has its place, especially in high-density cities such as San Francisco, but it is slow and antiquated. SB 319 reminds us that transportation projects can move us around quickly and still be safe and environmentally friendly. Data from Germany’s autobahn and Montana’s past experiment of no posted speed limits show that higher speeds don’t necessarily increase danger.

Environmentally speaking, bumper-to-bumper traffic and other forms of congestion boost greenhouse-gas emissions. Fast lanes would reduce those slow crawls and move more people than the proposed high-speed rail system promised. Think about what the lanes mean for the future. Autonomous vehicle technology is advancing rapidly. Dedicated lanes would be the most practical way to accommodate growth in that technology. Whatever its fate, Moorlach’s bill is widening debate. Why should those discussions only revolve around getting people out of their cars?

No speed limit on new lanes on I-5 is proposed

By grichards | Bay Area News Group

Q: Do you have any estimate on the cost of widening Interstate 5 between here and Los Angeles to four lanes each way?

Jim Norvell, San Jose

A: Oh, wow. Try several billion dollars. The typical cost is $1 million for a single lane, but numerous overpasses and bridges on the nearly 400-mile route would need upgrading. State Sen. John Moorlach has introduced a bill for construction of two additional traffic lanes in both directions of Interstate 5 and Highway 99 from the Grapevine to Sacramento — with no speed limits on those new lanes. Give Moorlach credit for thinking out of the box but don’t expect his plan to go very far in the legislative process.

Q: After a round trip on Interstate 5 to Los Angeles it became apparent to me there is a new, but unpublicized California savings regimen in place: I-5 is mostly devoid of CHP patrol cars. We only saw one on the entire 800-mile round trip. And as for those “Patrolled by Aircraft” signs on I-5, totally bogus, I have never seen aircraft overhead. Ever.

To sarcastically promote tourism, I propose that I-5 now be billed as the “Golden State Autobahn”. Replace the quaint, but ineffectual 70-mph speed limit signs with “suggested speeds” signs of 80-90 mph to comport to what it is now. During my I-5 excursion, I traveled at just under 80 mph and was relentlessly passed by waves of cars traveling at 90 with gusts of over 100 mph. I-5 patrolled by CHP? I think not.

Tony Favero, Half Moon Bay

A: While speeding is rampant on I-5, crashes are not higher than on similar roads.

Q: Why not just build truck passing lanes on I-5? That would be a big help.

Fred Reyes, Danville

A: The state monitors expansion projects where the benefit to cost ratio is highest. That tends to be in urban areas where traffic volumes are highest and congestion most prevalent. Bottom line: The state thinks passing lanes are a good idea on urban freeways like I-580 and I-80, but it is not studying any project like you suggest on I-5 now or in the near future.

Q: Interstate 5 is the major artery between the largest cities in the state. Only two lanes in each direction with the slow lane being in such bad condition that tractor-trailers, on vast expanses of the road, drive in the fast lane to avoid the potholes and failing road. Try traveling that road at 5 p.m. on a Sunday. It’s an absolute embarrassment to the state and completely the fault of the failed Neanderthals in Sacramento.

B. Lugarmo

A: It may take two to three decades to get a third lane each way. Maybe by then we’ll have flying cars.


Gary Richards has covered traffic and transportation in the Bay Area as Mr. Roadshow since 1992. Prior to that he was an assistant sports editor at the paper from 1984-1987. He started his journalism career as a sports editor in Iowa in 1975.

Moorlach Proposes Needle Exchange Legislation



Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, Friday unveiled legislation that would allow cities to have more say over state-approved needle-exchange programs such as the one proposed in Orange County last year that was defeated in court.

Orange County successfully convinced a Superior Court judge in November to issue an injunction preventing a nonprofit from operating a program in Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange that was authorized by the California Department of Public Health’s Office of AIDS.

“Maybe there’s a better way to do this,” Moorlach said. “If you’re a city and you believe that a needle-exchange program is helpful or whatever, then just pass a resolution or an ordinance and the Department of Public Health can send a nonprofit into that city. So what we’re doing is trying to get a protocol for collaboration here. Why should a city have to go to court, for crying out loud?”

Cities in the state are “just asking for tools,” Moorlach said.

The lawmaker said he does not believe needle-exchange programs are the best ways to handle drug addiction.

“Most people think addicts should go to a 12-step program, then you abstain, admit you have a problem and work on it,” Moorlach said. “Providing needles seems counter-intuitive, and, really, is it an exchange or a mill?”

Moorlach also echoed criticism of some opponents of the programs that the needles are not disposed of properly.

“You find them in the parks, on the beaches, in the libraries,” he said.

Supporters of the proposed Orange County program said past efforts were aimed at providing incentive to addicts to turn in used needles to dispose of them properly. They argued that clean needles cut down on communicable diseases.

Moorlach noted that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer pointed out at a news conference on the legislation Friday in the city of Orange that most retail chain pharmacies provide needles already.

“So why have a mobile unit come through town when your local drug store can take care of it for you,” Moorlach said. “So it’s not like we’re shutting something down. We’re just trying to provide some ground rules.”


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