default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Joe Guzzardi: California beats Pittsburgh for driving — for now

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Saturday, November 23, 2013 12:00 am

Whenever I tell my Pittsburgh friends and neighbors that I moved from Lodi, their first reactions are always the same: How can you stand the winters and how could you drive in California? As for the weather, that one is easy. I tell them that I went to school in Pittsburgh and knew what winters in the Mid-Atlantic states are all about. Summer is the tougher time of the year when its often cloudy, humid and wet versus Lodi’s day-after-day brilliant sunshine.

Driving, however, is a different subject. Being behind the wheel in California is a breeze compared to Pittsburgh, with its narrow roads, poorly signed streets, hills, ravines and bridges. To get around Pittsburgh, drivers have to be ready to navigate its 446 bridges, the most in the world and three more than Venice. (If you want to be technical about it, the official definition of a bridge is that it must be a structure over which vehicles can travel and under which barges can pass. Using that standard, Venice only has one bridge.)

Pittsburgh’s natives often wax nostalgic about the city’s bridges, the first of which opened in 1818 and was made from wood. Closed long ago, the Pittsburgh’s oldest functioning bridge is the Smithfield Street Bridge, which opened in 1883.

Most of the downtown bridges are painted yellow with black trim to match the colors of the city flag. Think Steelers, Pirates and Penguins, the three Pittsburgh professional sports franchises that all wear yellow and black on their uniforms.

After living in Pittsburgh for five years, the most important thing I know about its bridges is that if I get on the wrong one — a strong possibility — I’m going to be very late to wherever I’m headed. I rely on my GPS to get from Point A to Point B, and still miss the comparatively traffic-free Lodi and relative simplicity of getting around California.

Unfortunately, Californians may soon be paying more to drive on its expansive road system. Will Kempton, the executive director of Transportation California and former California Department of Transportation director, and Jim Earp, a member of the California Transportation Commission, have filed a proposed Nov. 2014 ballot measure that would double licensing fees to generate an estimated $3 billion annually for road improvements. According to Earp, the fees are necessary because “California is facing a transportation funding crisis.”

The California Road Repairs Act of 2014 would phase in over four-year period a doubling of the existing license fee. Currently at 0.65 percent (as a percentage of a vehicle’s market value), the bill proposes to raise the fee 0.25 percent a year until it reached 1.65 percent by 2018.

California’s licensing fees have a contentious history that dates back at least a decade. In 2003, then-Gov. Gray Davis hiked the fee, motorists rebelled and Arnold Schwarzenegger used the revised charges as a campaign issue in the recall election. When Schwarzenegger took office, he quickly lowered the fee.

Three significant roadblocks, pun intended, must be cleared before the fee becomes a reality. First, the bill must be approved for signature gathering. Second, within 150 days after approval, 807,615 valid signatures must be collected to put the bill on the Nov. 2014 ballot. Finally, voters must pass the measure.

Whether voters will support another California tax remains to be seen. But part of increased revenue must be spent on bridge upgrades. That might be a good idea. In 2006, a Transportation for America study found that 30 Pittsburgh bridges are deficient, something that could have been avoided with preventive maintenance.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Ted Lauchland posted at 9:03 am on Mon, Nov 25, 2013.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 251

    Actually, generally speaking , California roadways are better thought out than other places I have been. The GPS systems kind of tells you that. How much of it is because I am used to California and ways of thinking in the designs and how much is in the fact that California also has newer cities and is relatively richer in public monies to support infrastructure (or used to be) within the number of roads it is to support than back east enters in the mix. If you have driven back there you know that there are a lot of bridges and they also have to deal with old city patterns.

    Over seas you see a lot of old city design dealing with narrow streets and such. Left side driving makes me a hazard and is a bit stressful. Round-abouts are an interesting concept but has it's limits. Red, yellow, green, yellow ,red also has it's interesting perspective. Signage ? - Let's just say I missed California.

  • John Kindseth posted at 9:39 pm on Sun, Nov 24, 2013.

    John Kindseth Posts: 238

    joe: From tracy over the Altamont is usually thick and busy, the west side of the Altamont to 680 is a parking lot anytime of the day or night !

    Here in Lodi, I often am the 5th or 6th car stacked up on kettleman. Sometimes I am the third car on Lodi and Hutchins !!! Traffic cant be worse than that, can it ???

    Having "groan" up in Los Angeles I cannot complain much about traffic.


Recent Comments

Posted 18 hours ago by Christina Welch.

article: Letter: We need to stop meddling, spend…

Oh, Andrew, just stop it! Or, I guess I should be saying that to myself because I continue to respond. 1. I'm not going to watch a video…


Posted 20 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Police: Lodi man attacked by bicycle-ri…

Evidently it takes 6-7 young cowards to make a point, hitting a 70 year old man, oh what courage. Perhaps the older man should have stayed…


Posted 21 hours ago by Andrew Liebich.

article: Letter: Advertisement was inappropriate

A violation of Rules #4, #5 & #6 was not the reason cited.[sleeping]


Posted 22 hours ago by Lisa Cross-Robinson.

article: Letter: Where are the compassionate doc…

That's a good question. My father was a doctor from the late 50's to the mid 1980's and he still made an occasional house call before his r…


Posted 23 hours ago by Jerome Kinderman.

article: Letter: Lodi’s post office needs beauti…

Considering the consistent financial losses enjoyed by the USPS and their abysmal service (they actually look like they're working in slow …



Popular Stories



Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists