LA County Wants to Spend $425 Million Just to Connect Bike Paths (Not Build Them)
In November, Los Angeles County residents will be asked to vote on a new half-cent sales tax increase that would add $120 billion to the county’s public transit fund. The hike would extend the current sales tax for 18 years and raise its rate for four decades. Just the type of tax hike Californians do not need right now.
While the proposal was met with enthusiasm by the LA River Revitalization Corporation, a group that hopes to see an “unbroken 51-mile river spine, giving Los Angeles a ‘linear central park,’” the idea of using $425 million of that money to simply connect existing bicycle paths and provide access to the river—which is often mocked over the absence of water—is somewhat hard to process, even for some of the most pro-big government members of California’s media.
While the goal of the proposal is to use the $120 billion to double LA’s existing rail network, LA Weekly focused on the proposal’s goal of linking the bike paths and questioned county officials, asking whether these bike paths would “be paved with gold,” “[l]ined with tuxedo-wearing attendants serving riders hot cocoa,” or perhaps “speakers carefully hidden behind the shrubbery” will be made to play soft jazz throughout the day and that’s why the plan is so expensive.
In an official statement, Metro spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas responded to the concerns claiming that since the LA river is “constrained by urban development,” and its roads, freeways, and rail provide a great deal of over-crossings, “bike path requires heavy civil construction.”
According to Tonilas, a complete “LA River Bike Path” will function “as the backbone of biking and walking infrastructure for densest parts of” the county.
Even bicycle activists like Joe Linton, who serves as the editor of StreetsblogLA, believe that the county is spending too much on the project. After all, LA Weekly reports, the goal is to “connect the existing paths,” not build new ones.
According to research from 2013, bike paths cost an average $133,000 per mile. The most costly paths can cost about $537,000 per mile. With those figures in mind, LA Weekly claims that the construction of an entirely new, 51-mile bike path should cost Angelenos anything between $7 million and $27 million. So why is the proposal’s estimated cost so high?
While the answer to that question may not be that easy to answer, this is not the first time we hear about bike path proposals carrying hefty price tags. In 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo planned to spend $400 million on a 3-mile bike lane that would have realistically cost about $40 million.
At the federal level, the US government is often targeted by its own watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, for wasting billions in improper payments. In 2008 alone, GAO reports, the federal government wasted $72 billion on improper payments. While this particular report is associated with a series of agencies and doesn’t touch on transportation expenditure, it’s a great example of how easy it is for governments to misuse taxpayer money.
In an article for Heritage Foundation, Brian M. Riedl provides us with 50 examples of government waste. And while bike paths haven’t made the list then, it would be incredible to see the overblown expenses tied to the LA County’s bike bath plan getting audited. But first, Angelenos must agree with the proposal in the November ballot.