November 27, 2006 - From the November, 2006 issue

Senator Boxer Pledges to Secure Federal Funds to Rebuild California's Infrastructure

Despite the frenzy surrounding the November elections United States Senator Barbara Boxer made time to speak at the annual Mobility 21 Summit Oct. 30. Her presence underscored the importance of transportation and infrastructure in Southern California, and she joined a large roster of public officials who endorsed the infrastructure bond package and pledged to secure L.A.'s fair share. In the following excerpt from Sen. Boxer's keynote speech, she underscores the federal government's obligation to contribute federal transportation funds to L.A. and especially to help solve the region's goods movement challenges.


Barbara Boxer

We come together at a time when the L.A. area continues to be ranked as the most congested area in the country. I don't know if it will make you feel better to know that San Francisco/Oakland is number two. Riverside/San Bernardino is number nine, San Jose number 11, and San Diego number 12. So California has a lot at stake in what we are here talking about.

And we lose so much time in traffic-93 hours per year stuck in traffic for the average commuter in Los Angeles. You could be with your families; you could be doing other things that you like to do. Instead we are stuck in traffic, and it takes a toll on our environment; it takes a toll on our health. And with the population increasing-we are going to 350 million by 2025-we have a lot of work to do. We have to act, and I want to talk about what I can do to help.

I want to be of help, and I think that so far I have been of help, but I have a lot more that I can do. You may have noticed that an election is coming in just a few days, not that I am counting the days, or the hours, or anything else. But depending on the results, we'll know about our bond measures, which I am strongly supporting, and I assume every one of you is supporting.

The other thing that is going to happen to me, whether the Democrats take back the Senate or not, I am going to be either the ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which does the transportation bill, or the chairperson of that committee-the first woman in history; that's another story-but also the first Californian ever to take a leadership role on a transportation bill, which is coming by 2009.

In 1956, when our great president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said that he had a vision for the highways, there were still people who were skeptical, and he was right. And then when my late, great colleague Pat Moynihan said, "inter-modal transportation"-you have to think about roads, buses, bike paths, and all the other things that we try to consider in our transit-people said he may not be right. He was proven right. Now it's up to us, as we get ready for 2009, to think about what we need to do.

The first thing thatwe need to do is get enough funding. This is a problem. The gas tax isn't keeping up with our needs, so we need to get funding. It's very important, and you've seen that we've been able to battle our way up. When I first got to the Senate California was getting about 80 cents on the dollar. We're up to 92 cents on the dollar. We've got more to do, but we've got to get all the way up to where we need to be. I don't want to sugar-coat it; it isn't going to be easy.

I just want to tell you, I think that it is a matter of priorities. I want to talk about those priorities. Do you know what we spend in Iraq in a month? $10 billion in one month in Iraq. We could build all the railway grade crossings needed in Southern California, finish all the L.A. region's outstanding light rail projects, and have enough money left over to transform the region's bus service with one month of spending.

Don't separate these issues. They are all part of what it means to fight for priorities. For two-thirds of what we spend a year in Iraq, we could take care of all the transit needs in America. So, don't feel defensive about it, if we can find the money for that, and it isn't going well. And hopefully, in a bipartisan way we will bring it to a close.

Know that if we can find money to help people in far away places, we have to help our people here, because so much depends on it. The fight against climate change depends a great deal on what we do with transportation. The fight for healthy children depends on what we do in transportation. Getting off foreign sources of oil depends and having a better foreign policy depends on transportation. It is very, very important.

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I know the needs here in Los Angeles . . . . We know what the needs are for all of you, and we know what we want to do in the next bill. We want goods movement to be the centerpiece of the next transportation bill. With the Goods Movement Caucus, of which I am the chair, we will work together so that goods movement becomes a term of art that people understand.

And we have to explain to this county that 40 percent of the goods come into this country through the L.A. and Long Beach ports. People get those goods all over the country. We need to make sure this isn't viewed as a local issue. Goods movement is a national issue, and it should be the centerpiece of our next bill.

But, we need matching funds. I'll fight for the federal funds; you'll help me. But we need the matching funds, and that is why these bonds are so crucial. People say, "well we're going into debt." Fact of the matter, these are capital improvements that we must make; they have to be done. If we don't do it, we're not getting ready for this population boom that is coming our way and has been coming our way.

I just want to say to [Mobility 21 attendees] how much it means to me that you are involved. I am going to need your help. This is going to be a big deal, either being a sub-lead, the lead, or a co-lead-it means we have to have the facts at our disposal. What I love about all of you is that you give me those facts. When you come to me and you ask me for things, you tell me, "this is what is happening on a daily basis. This is why we need the help." And I've never been disappointed or led astray. In all the funding that I've gotten, I am so proud that you have put it up to good use.

So this is California, where it all starts. If we make the statement on election day that investing in the infrastructure of our state is important, it will reverberate throughout the United States. And when I stand up to either lead the committee or co-lead the committee, I will be able to point to the generosity of the people in this state who said, "we are going to step forward and match dollar for dollar." That's key. We will have much better fortune in that next bill if we pass these propositions and bond issues.

Harper's Weekly once wrote, "The actual building of roads devoted to motor cars is not for the near future in spite of many rumors to that effect." They wrote that at the turn of the 20th century. They were wrong. And those of us that have believed that there is an inexorable move toward getting people from place to place that is absolutely crucial, that when you think about the history of humankind, it started in one little garden, and it didn't go too far out. But we figured out ways to move ourselves around. If we can't move people and we can't move goods, then we can't move the country forward.

Thank you for understanding that it's great for the environment, it's great for jobs, and it's great for people to continue to move up the economic ladder.

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© 2021 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.