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California needs to fix its freeways. But until it does, let's exploit them

"California's freeways are amazing," my Bay Area-raised girlfriend told me the first time I came to the West Coast. This was in the 1980s.

She praised the clear signage, the easy-off-and-on entrance ramps, the relative absence of litter — even the flowering shrubs that lined I-80. Bear in mind, we lived in New York City, where burning cars and weeds the height of trees loomed over San Andreas-size cracks in the asphalt jungle in a knot of highways designed by lunatics, you were dead if you couldn't go from zero to 60 in 10 seconds (because the ramps were 50 feet long), and the signs were so awful they inspired the inciting incident in the era's iconic novel, "The Bonfire of the Vanities."

Californians took their comparatively pristine freeway system for granted.
But the state’s roads look very different now.

"Every day, California drivers navigate an obstacle course of potholes and cracked pavement, and a wrong turn of the wheel can send them limping to a mechanic. Maintenance crews can't keep up," reports The Times' Chris Megerian. "After years of neglect, state officials estimate it will cost $59 billion to fix the now-crumbling roads and freeways that Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown championed more than five decades ago. And it's up to his son, Gov. Jerry Brown, to find the money."

This week's cartoon about hiking taxes aside — there are all sorts of real proposed schemes on the table — it probably won't be hard for Brown, who has been focusing his cash hunt to fund his pet high-speed rail line, to get Californians to cough up lucre to fix freeways. Driving, after all, is a state priority everyone, even Marxist-Leninists and right-wing nativists, can get behind.

If the revolution starts here, it will be motorized.

Megerian writes that even "Tax-averse organizations such as the California Business Roundtable and the state Chamber of Commerce said they would consider proposals from Democratic lawmakers to generate billions of dollars annually with new fees and higher levies on gasoline."

Whatever the solution — and one will surely be found — repairs will take time. Which is why I suggest some ideas for how -- since no crisis should ever go unexploited -- you can take advantage of the miserable state of the state's transportation infrastructure (which, to be fair, is a national problem).

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