Thursday, September 19, 2013

AB 1290: California Transportation Commission reform for the right reasons

A state transportation bill awaits the Governor's signature which would affect a major state transportation agency. The California Transportation Commission (CTC) is responsible for the programming and allocating of state funds for the construction of highway, passenger rail and transit improvements throughout California.  According to the transportation advocacy group TransForm, the CTC is the only state transportation body that holds regular public hearings of where the state should allocate transportation funds. AB 1290 will restructure the CTC and add pedestrian and bicycle projects as transportation modes eligible for state funding.

We and many informed individuals understand that state public works infrastructure projects often have artificially inflated price tags, no thanks to bloated labor salaries which exceed the market rate. California's dismal highway conditions reflect that. Look at the chronic traffic congestion along the 91 Freeway into Orange County. Calculate how long it would take to get through West Los Angeles at 4 pm. Try to find a sidewalk or a bike lane and count the number of cracks along Highway 74 west of Hemet through Green Acres and Homeland. Let's not even mention the inflated price tags for the Oakland Bay Bridge eastern span and the California high speed rail project which have caused concerned citizens to come into the public arena and voice opposition. As mentioned, California's ongoing failure to deal with its transportation network and the artificially inflated infrastructure costs at a statewide level is a disgrace.

A first look into AB 1290

Let's take a first look at the proposed law. The important bill would modernize CTC. AB 1290 certainly is not the answer to the misspending of transportation money and won't necessarily make infrastructure projects more affordable, but will give CTC some more decision making power to allocate state transportation funding toward additional multi modal options including bicycle and pedestrian travel. Governor Brown has pushed for the CTC to have more control over such transportation options. The Coalition has noted locally that local pedestrians and cyclists utilize State Highway 74 west of Hemet, but the road lacks sidewalks and bike lanes. For a pedestrian to get between the Riverside Downtown train station and the downtown core, one has to undergo a circuitous journey around the 91 Freeway.

AB 1290 would modernize the CTC by adding new members with a focus on sustainability, and integrating new climate pollution reduction policies into its mission of official responsibilities. Sounds like the bill has a connection with the climate change debate. As mentioned, man-made global warming is still a hot debatable topic; there are valid facts on both sides of the issue from both scientists and meteorologists. However, it is no question that we have to continue to take a serious stand on pollution and traffic congestion.

Simply put: Breathing dirty air is destructive to life. Let's work together to make the planet cleaner.

Modernizing the California Transportation Commission

Having multi modal transportation options goes beyond climate change and cleaner air. The reasons are obvious. Having sidewalks and bicycle lanes to transverse locally along Highway 74 west of Hemet outside of the car is sound policy in the name of safety. Having an option of taking a train into downtown Riverside, being able to get off it and walk over the 91 Freeway into downtown core would eliminate the necessity of driving into this dense area, and thus cut down on traffic and parking lot congestion. How about extending the Colton Avenue bikeway over the I-215 freeway into downtown San Bernardino, again for the safety of bicycle commuters?

Although AB 1290 may have been written in the name of climate change, having options to get around other than a car is vital. Having the option to allocate state funds to the projects mentioned warrants its support.

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