Southern California leaders call for long-term transportation funding

May 6, 2015 |

Local transportation officials are lobbying Congress to approve long-term funding to fix the region’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure and to provide funding for a dedicated freight infrastructure program.

With the current transportation funding law expiring at the end of the month, local officials are warning against another short-term extension of current funding that they say would not provide for what is needed in the long term.

At a recent transportation conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Southern California Association of Governments, leaders discussed the proposal for a national freight program that would help relieve bottlenecks that “delay shipments, raise costs and jeopardize the nation’s vital goods movement industry.”

Officials said the movement of goods through Southern California represents a third of all jobs and economic activity in the region.

Highland Mayor Larry McCallon, a past president of SCAG, was at the recent conference, the annual meeting of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, last month in the nation’s capitol.

McCallon said the nation and region has fallen behind in terms of the safety and adequacy of highways and bridges.

“What’s happening to the infrastructure right now is all of these trucks using our highways and freeways are causing damage, and right now, projects to maintain or build new infrastructure are paid for by local residents, in terms of a half-cent sales tax, with 70 percent funding that, 20 percent from the state, and 10 percent from the federal government,” he said. “We believe the federal government has a responsibility to provide more funding, because it’s their trade policy and so that’s what is causing all of this traffic.”

Fran Inman, senior vice president of Majestic Realty of the Los Angeles-based real estate company, member of the California Transportation Commission, and a member of the National Freight Advisory Committee, was a speaker at the 2015 Logistic and Supply Chain Summit held in Pomona last month and is calling for congressional action on the matter. Inman said current funds are falling short of transportation needs.

“Those of us that work in the sector are hoping for a long-term, fully funded transportation bill,” Inman said.

Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson is also calling for more funding.

“It’s clear to me that transportation funding is on the radar screen. What we need, though, is less talk, more action,” Robertson said.

At the conference, held in mid-April, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, called for a national trust fund to pay for freight-related infrastructure projects. The representative’s bill, H.R. 1308, Economy in Motion: The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act, would raise about $8 billion a year through a 1 percent waybill fee on shipping cost. The bill was referred this week to the subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

“People are fond of saying the system is broken,” said Lowenthal, in a statement. His district includes Long Beach and portions of Orange County. “This is more than a broken system. This is a crisis of great magnitude.”

Gov. Jerry Brown has so far identified a $59 billion backlog in transportation improvements across the state.

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