Congressional leaders used Santa Monica’s California Incline project as a backdrop while advocating for a long-term reinvestment in American infrastructure last week.
Congressman Ted Lieu and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi organized a joint press conference on July 17 to highlight the value of federal investment in infrastructure and criticize Republicans for passing short-term increases rather than a multi-year transportation bill.
“We’re going to highlight that the Highway Transportation Fund is going to expire in two weeks,” said Lieu. “This fund is so critical for funding infrastructure across America, including California and we know our roads, bridges and highways form the spine of the American economy and we need to invest in America and to rebuild /renew our infrastructure and in doing so we’ll have some significant benefits.”
The current bill authorizing transportation and infrastructure work will expire on July 31. The House voted for a short-term extension to the bill on July 15 that will keep money flowing through December but Pelosi said the nation needs the stability of a five-or-six year bill. President Obama has proposed a $478 billion, six-year bill but disagreement over financing has stalled any progress.
Democrats have proposed increasing the federal gas tax to help pay for long-term transportation funding and while Pelosi said she supported a gas tax, Republicans have staunchly opposed the idea. At the July 17 event, Pelosi and Lieu said money could be found to pay for projects if Congress put an end to corporate tax loopholes.
Local officials present at the press conference said Santa Monica was benefiting from federal money.
Mayor Kevin McKeown said projects like the Incline create jobs at the local level.
“This California Incline project, which I’m standing in front of right now, is a perfect example of how federal dollars work at the local level. They make necessary improvements in our roadways possible,” he said.
The project includes demolition of the existing bridge and construction of a new bridge at the same location. The new structure will include a wider sidewalk and bicycle lanes with a safer, more seismically sound roadway.
Pelosi said construction work was a means of carrying the nation forward.
“Mr. Mayor, honored to be here with you,” said Pelosi. “I identify with you with the beauty of the backdrop. Not only is the backdrop the Pacific Ocean and some construction work, it’s a look at the future.”
Of the approximately $18 million it will take to rebuild the roadway, 88.5 percent is paid for under the federal Highway Bridge Program.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl praised the partnership necessary to undertake large-scale construction projects.
“There are six different jurisdictions that overlook that highway just from the tunnel up to the Ventura county line,” she said. “And unless we all work together, we weren’t going to get anything done.”
Also present at the event were Executive Secretary of LA/OC Building Ron Miller, trades, CEO of METRO Phillip Washington and Executive Secretary – Treasurer of L.A. County Federation of Labor Rusty Hicks.
All three highlighted the importance of construction projects to the local economy and said the kind of stable construction work made possible through federal dollars is critically important to middle class families.
Washington said the perpetual short-term extensions were an affront to the nation.
“Our infrastructure forefathers are turning over in their graves, we must have a long-term transportation reauthorization bill and we’ve got to have it now,” he said.
He said that after a 25 year military career, he wanted to see America reinvest at home.
“I want to see some nation building in this country, nation building where we’re repairing our bridges, fixing our transit system, creating jobs for our citizens, we need some nation building here in our country.”