Officials say federal transportation funding extension falls short
Local congressional members, despite voting in the affirmative on Tuesday, expressed disappointment in the passage of another short-term extension of transportation funding, instead of a comprehensive bill they say would significantly improve the movement of goods and traffic in Southern California.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Rancho Cucamonga, and Norma Torres, D-Ontario, are among the members of Congress who support a long-term multi-year federal transportation bill they say would greatly improve planning and success for future transportation projects in the region.
Supporters also say the money would help repair and replace an aging infrastructure.
With the current funding bill expiring at the end of the month, Aguilar and Torres voted in favor of H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which will extend the legislation another 2 months. The bill passed easily with 387 affirmative votes and just 35 votes against the measure.
The funding supports a number of projects throughout the Inland Empire, including the Tippecanoe interchange project on the 10 Freeway, and the 15 Freeway interchange at Baseline Avenue.
“A two-year bill isn’t the type of (multi-year) bill we really need, and what I’ve advocated for, that what would help local government with a sustainable long-term solution to transportation funding, and for me, that means more than just a few months,” Aguilar said.
He added, “This does just kick the can down the road, and it’s unfortunate we are in this position, but with three legislative days left until the (funding) expires, this is the position we’re in.”
Torres shares a similar view.
“While I voted for this latest extension, it falls far short of meeting our country’s transportation and infrastructure needs,” she said. “Our communities don’t need another rushed two month extension. States and localities need the certainty and ability to plan for the future that is only possible with a long-term transportation bill.”
Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, voted to pass the extension, but also called for a long-term funding bill.
“We are being asked to vote this week on a band-aid approach that only runs to July, instead of a real solution to the crisis,” Hahn said. “This is often what happens, but it’s not the best way to govern. States and local transit agencies need the certainty that long-term funding will be available as they make important decisions about construction projects to meet needs well into the future.”
Larry McCallon, the mayor of Highland and a current board member of San Bernardino Associated Governments (SanBAG), San Bernardino County’s transportation planning authority, said the passage of another extension was disappointing.
“I think the two-month extension is unfortunate,” McCallon said. “In fact, we keep putting it off. We need a long-term bill. You can’t plan transportation projects based on having funding for only a couple of months. It’s important we have a long-term bill and hopefully and they’ll get it down when they come back in July.”
McCallon said local projects that could use long term funding include plans to widen the 210 freeway from Highland Avenue to the 10 Freeway, and potential carpool lanes on the 10 and 15 freeways.
Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, also shares the view that another extension falls short.
“We’ve already had over 20 extensions,” Ikhrata said. “What we need is a permanent transportation bill that fully funds transportation. This buys time, but they’ve been buying time for the last seven years. It’s time for leadership.”