Everyone in California knows that the state needs new, improved infrastructure. But there’s big narrative to explain our needs.

So let’s try one out here. When it comes to rebuilding the state, the overarching idea should be: East-West connection.

Most of California’s current infrastructure was built in an era when the main political divide in the state was between North and South. So that infrastructure naturally linked north and south – the 99 and the 5, water, our most traveled airplane routes, etc.

But over the past generation, California has grown sideways – from its coast out to the east. During this same time period, however, infrastructure spending and development slowed. So the state has not devoted the kind of attention and money to building east-west links. (And, unfortunately, our most high-profile infrastructure project – high-speed rail – is an ill-conceived, stuck-in-the-past effort to build yet another North-South link.)

We need more East-West links now – for economic, environmental, social and political reasons.

If we had better roads and faster rail to bring people and goods between west and east, we could integrate many regions better economically, and encourage growth within California. If a coastal company is looking to save money by building a new facility in a place with lower costs, wouldn’t it be nice if it was easier to do it in economically depressed inland California, instead of in Mexico, Asia or another state?

Experts say the state’s water infrastructure could most quickly improved by finding new ways to move water not from north to south but from east to west, particularly in the Central Valley.

And of course, our political divides have become west-east, with a blue coast lapping a red inland. Various proposals to split the state divide California along these lines. (I’m moderating a free, public discussion that includes proponents of state splitting on Nov. 1 in Fresno). That divide is a fact of life, unlikely to disappear. But the problems created by the divide could be eased by a focus on building things that benefit both west and east by linking them.

Ah, yes, but there’s the rub. First, we need a governing system that’s capable of doing big things.