A half-century ago, when the state population was about 18 million -- not nearly 40 million as it is today -- the 99 used to be a high-speed, four-lane marvel. It was a crown jewel in
The 99 was recently ranked by ValuePenguin (a private consumer research organization) as the deadliest major highway in the nation. Locals who live along its 400-plus miles often go to bed after seeing lurid TV news reports of nocturnal multi-car accidents. Then they wake up to
The 99 is undergoing a
In many of the most dangerous southern portions of the 99, huge semi trucks hog two lanes. Speeders weave in and out of traffic. They still try to drive 70 mph in the manner you could 50 years ago when traffic was less clogged. Text-messaging drivers are now even more dangerous than the intoxicated.
The 99 is emblematic of a state in psychological and material decline.
Running parallel to the southern portion of the 99 is an underused, subsidized
Californians are apparently too sophisticated to allot
All societies in decline fixate on impossible postmodern dreams as a way of disguising their inability to address premodern problems.
The 99 also reminds the nation of
Currently, Californians pay among the highest sales, income and gasoline taxes in the nation. Yet in return, the state's decrepit transportation system in many national surveys rates nearly last.
The state has become a pharaonic society of two classes. The coastal rich are exempt from financial worries over their high-tax dreams. And the subsidized poor in the state's interior live out the real-life consequences. Meanwhile, the disrespected middle class, without either high incomes or state entitlements, is leaving the state in droves.
The 99 has become a neglected, poor person's highway.
The result is a perfect storm that blows in daily over the 99.
The hazardous conditions of stretches of the highway and the 99's enormous traffic volume are compounded by old and unsafe automobiles and trucks -- and by
The highway can often resemble a two-lane obstacle course. It takes only a single lost mattress, a bin of overturned peaches or a motorcyclist failing to navigate between stalled cars to shut down the 99 -- and with it the state's north-south commerce.
The 99 offers a number of banal (and oft-forgotten) lessons handed down from our grandparents, who mapped out what once was the nation's premier transportation system. Highways, along with damns, canals and bridges, are the lifeblood of a state, a far more important priority than investing in transgendered restrooms or efforts to save the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly.
Only measured, diverse and legal immigration, coupled with rapid assimilation and integration, can ensure that diversity is a strength.
The rich who can easily pay high taxes should not impose them on those who cannot.
Finally, the dreams of elites become quite dangerous realities when first tried out on more vulnerable and distant "others."