Headed northbound on Highway 101 in late January, a car driven by one of our staff literally went airborne when it went over a large bump just past the Ventura city limits.
The car landed with a crunch as it smacked the bottom of a pothole. Some $300 later it’s back to normal — and equipped with a brand new transmission mount.
The point of this editorial is quite simple. Even before the recent rains, Highway 101 was a poor excuse for a major thoroughfare linking the Bay Area and Southern California.
During the past few weeks, the weather has only made things worse. What were minor cracks have become axle-grinding crevasses, and what were minor divots have become holes deep enough to swallow a tire to the base of a wheel.
Portions of the 101, especially along the Ventura-Santa Barbara border and in the Santa Barbara-Goleta corridor, are worthy of a developing country — not the world’s global superpower.
How bad is it? Things are so bad that inept, incompetent or perhaps insolvent authorities have simply posted “Rough Road” signs along a portion of the highway and left it to drivers to play dodge ’em cars with crumbling asphalt, the above-mentioned crevasses and the above-mentioned potholes.
Perhaps some of this can be blamed on the weather or perhaps on the fact that California has no money. Or perhaps on the fact that planning is under way for a bigger fix in the form of carpool lanes that allegedly will someday run between La Conchita and the Casitas Pass Road interchange in Carpinteria.
But the present is the present, and the situation, to put it bluntly, sucks. While Assemblymember Pedro Nava preens for his run for Attorney General and Assembly member Audra Strickland publicly lusts for a County Supervisor position in Thousand Oaks, the lifeblood of commerce in our region has been literally turned into ruins.
Someday, something may happen that makes Highway 101 the route of last resort for millions of people trying to get into or out of Southern California. In a worst case scenario Highway 101 in its current condition would be utterly unable to stand up to the stress from extremely heavy loads for very long.
Meanwhile, here’s what happens every day. Tens of thousands of cars use Highway 101, and every passenger — whether he or she is from Santa Paula or San Simeon, San Antonio or São Paulo — is wondering the same thing: Why can’t the biggest economic state in the world’s richest democracy keep its roads in better condition than Bangladesh?