Golden Gate Bridge, CalPERS & Infrastructure

150 150 Ed Coghlan

The Golden Gate Bridge celebrated its 75th birthday over the Memorial Day weekend. This remarkable, iconic California structure was a dangerous, gutsy and, as it turns out, brilliant engineering feat that has paid huge dividends. Two billion cars have traveled its span since opening in 1937.

The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was an example of the massive infrastructure spending that occurred throughout the United States at that time.

The recently concluded first California Economic Summit tabbed infrastructure spending as a top priority, citing a statistic that says California has deferred $756 billion in infrastructure spending. The state’s roads, our water infrastructure and energy are three areas in which most experts believe that we need to invest. The California economy can use this type of investment.

But, you ask, how can we pay for it?

The news last week that the giant state pension fund CalPERS is investing in California infrastructure appears to be a step in the right direction. A spokesman said CalPERS currently has investments in four externally managed funds that have about $76 million in California infrastructure, mainly water storage and waste water recycling. CalPERS reasons that infrastructure spending is an intelligent investment that can pay dividends as well as help get California workers back on the job.

Infrastructure was a theme that kept popping up in the 14 Regional Economic Forums that were held around California in advance of the May 11 Summit. While the state’s economic woes are well documented, the attendees continue to work on investigating how more “public-private partnerships” can be used to spur needed infrastructure development.

Two major California projects are being through public-private partnerships: the $1 billion Presidio Parkway southern access to the Golden Gate Bridge and the $490 million Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach.

In exchange for annual state payments, the private-sector partner agrees to finance the design and construction, then operate and maintain the facility for three decades before turning it over to the state in good condition.

The final report of the first California Economic Summit will be issued by the end of June, and you can bet that infrastructure spending will be a main topic.

Thinking back to the Golden Gate Bridge today, do you think it could even be built in 2012? The San Jose Mercury News ran through the scenario over the weekend, imagining the structure had disappeared.

What do you think?


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan