L.A. pothole

Pedestrians walk near a pothole at the intersection of McCadden Place and Fourth Street in Hancock Park. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / April 22, 2013)

Citing a recent study that said L.A.'s roads are the worst in the country, Rep. Janice Hahn on Tuesday called for Congress to find other ways to fully fund the nation's deteriorating network of roadways.

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana has the highest percentage of roads in poor condition of any U.S. urban area, the analysis found. About 64% of roads in Southern California are in poor condition. Nationally, more than one-quarter of major roads are in substandard condition, according to a recent analysis of federal roadway data, which costs drivers about $80 billion annually.

"The findings of this report are deeply disturbing for everyone who drives in and around Los Angeles," said Hahn, a Los Angeles Democrat and former City Council member. “It is appalling that over 64% of our roads in the Los Angeles region are in utter disrepair.... We in Congress need to do more to find ways we can fully fund our national transportation system."

By 2015, the fund that covers most highway improvements will be in shortfall as revenue from the federal gas tax continues to decline, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report. The 18.1-cent flat tax, which has not been raised in 20 years, has become less effective as vehicles become more fuel efficient and construction and repair costs continue to rise.

Hahn said she supports instead taxing drivers based on how many miles they travel. She said such a tax would ensure that all who use the roads share the cost of maintaining them, including electric vehicle owners who don't buy gas.

[Updated at 1:59 p.m., Oct. 8: “If it’s more equitable, addresses privacy concerns and brings in sufficient revenue, I think Congress should take a serious look at pursuing that option,” Hahn told The Times in an email.  The tax could be implemented using a basic mileage meter or car odometers, Hahn said. Using a GPS to track a car’s mileage, she said, could infringe on privacy rights]

Overall, L.A.'s sprawling network of roads received a C-minus grade, and a quarter received an F, according to recent city data.

City staff members are studying the possibilities of a borrowing program to fix what officials say is a $3-billion, 60-year backlog of repairs. The cost has doubled since 2005 and is expected to double again in the next decade. Council members Joe Buscaino and Mitchell Englander hope to include a proposal to issue city bonds on the fall 2014 ballot.

Potholes and rough pavement cost drivers in Southern California about $832 a year, compared to the national average of $377, according to the analysis by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group that studies transportation data and issues. The estimate includes the cost of repairs, tune-ups and tires, as well as faster depreciation of vehicles.

"My own father, former Supervisor Kenny Hahn, used to offer people a dollar for every pothole they could find in his district," the congresswoman said. (The challenge cost him $3.) "If that offer were made today, he would probably be giving away well over a thousand dollars."

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