Opinion: Berkeley’s future must be tied to sustainable infrastructure

What will Berkeley be like if you are standing on a street corner in the year 2050? Now is the time to decide.

The American Society of Civil Engineers prepares a report card on the condition of our nation’s infrastructure every four years. The review covers 17 categories, including roads, public parks, drinking water, and transit. In their latest review in 2021, they gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of C-. Among their concerns were the “Growing wear and tear on our nation’s roads have left 43% of our public roadways in poor or mediocre condition, a number that has remained stagnant over the past several years.”

In my 40 years of working with infrastructure, I am reminded of the saying – when all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. This is true at the national and local levels. Much of our infrastructure was built after the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration. That is more than 80 years ago and not enough attention has been given to their maintenance or replacement.

Here in Berkeley, we have taken steps in the right direction. We passed Measure M in 2012 to fund improvements to our streets and green infrastructure. In 2016 we passed Measure T1 to repair, renovate, replace or reconstruct the city’s aging infrastructure and facilities. City staff has implemented the measures by improving Berkeley in meaningful ways. These were good starts and the “game changer” about infrastructure is Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s Vision 2050 initiative. This initiative is not about doing things the same way, it is about creating Berkeley’s future with sustainable infrastructure and answering the question: What will Berkeley be like if you are standing on a street corner in the year 2050? The Vision 2050 report was prepared by a task force of more than 40 citizens and was adopted by the council in September 2020.

The City Council will be holding a work session at 6 p.m. on Jan. 20 to discuss the future funding of Vision 2050 and I encourage you to attend. You will hear about things that have not been done before with city initiatives, including:

  • Preparing a program plan before going to the voters with a revenue measure
  • Evaluating the city’s ability to deliver on the program plan
  • Starting a ‘cradle to grave’ maintenance program for all assets

Improving our quality of life and advancing equity were principles heavily relied on in Vision 2050. I am hoping for a future in Berkeley where a lot is said about infrastructure and a lot is done.

Ray Yep was the Vision 2050 task force chair, is a former member of the Public Works Commission, a registered civil engineer and a 35-year resident of Berkeley.