Transportation and Infrastructure
Riverside County is one of California’s fastest growing areas. While the population continues to expand, the infrastructure of the Inland Empire has not kept pace. The 2010 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers for the Inland Empire, grades the Inland Empire’s transportation system at a D plus, and gives overall infrastructure for the area a C plus. Deteriorating infrastructure costs Inland Empire drivers time and hundreds of dollars each year in extra fuel costs.
My office conducted a transportation survey of my district in May 2013 and recently published the results here. 548 community members responded to the survey that asked which transportation and infrastructure issue was most important to them. Respondents from Riverside, Moreno Valley, and Jurupa Valley were most concerned about freeway maintenance, while residents of Perris wanted to see increased public transit options. Other concerns included transit options for the disabled as well as increased pedestrian and cyclist safety.
In September 2013 and again in August 2014, I went on a “Transportation Tour” of my district, hosted by the Riverside Transit Agency and the Riverside County Transportation Commission. The tour included stops along the new Perris Valley Line as well as RTA headquarters. I met with business leaders and community stakeholders who expressed the importance of expanding public transportation in the region to attract business.
Public Transportation Access for the Elderly
According to a report from Transportation for America, “Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options,” 69 percent of seniors living in the Riverside-San Bernardino area will have poor public transportation access by the year 2015. Studies show that a very small percentage of Americans relocate later in life and this creates what researchers call “naturally occurring retirement communities.” These seniors need access to affordable public transportation near their homes. For those seniors who no longer drive, lack of access to public transit means fewer trips to the doctor, fewer trips to buy groceries and fewer visits with families and friends.
I wrote a report detailing the need for transit access for elderly and disabled residents and calling for increasing funding for public transit, specifically bus transit. You can read the report here.
Access to public transportation for lower income communities
Public transportation is an essential component of our nation’s economy. As fuel prices continue to rise, increasing the cost of driving, many households must rely on public transit to go to work. According to “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America,” from the Brookings Institution, 81 percent of lower income residents living in the Riverside metro area can reach less than 7 percent of low and middle income jobs via transit. As the economy continues to recover, we must ensure that people not only have jobs, but can also access them.
Master Infrastructure Plan for CA-41
The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) is a long-range infrastructure plan for Southern California that is updated every four years. The RTP uses growth forecasts and economic trends to project over a 20-year timeframe the transportation needs of the entire region. The RTP helps transit agencies in Southern California more effectively invest their funds in projects. While regional transportation plans are done at the county and state level, long-range transportation and infrastructure planning is not done on the federal level. A federal level RTP would make an even stronger case for transportation investment because it would help to predict what would happen if we invest in infrastructure and also predicts what would happen long-term if we do not invest what is needed for our national infrastructure.
Ontario International Airport
The Inland Empire is one of the fastest growing areas in California. As we continue to grow, we need our airport to expand with us. Since August 2007, the number of flights available at Ontario International Airport has dropped by 47 percent and the number of destinations available has been cut by almost 60 percent. Ontario is an important economic asset to our region and has the capability to bring more jobs and business activity to the area. I support local control of the airport and will work with my colleagues from Southern California to continue to support the expansion of Ontario International Airport.
I support local control of the airport and am extremely pleased that we are in the final process of transferring control from Los Angeles World Airports to an Inland Empire Authority.
Transportation Funding Reauthorization
In November 2015, I voted in favor of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act. This bill authorizes highway transportation funding for six years, an important timeframe that allows our nation’s transit agencies and urban planners to effectively design and implement long-term regional transportation programs.
Establishing a National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private dollars to make much needed investments in infrastructure projects across the country should be a priority. The California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (I-Bank) is a state run entity that has the authority to issue tax-exempt and taxable revenue bonds and provide loans local governments to fund infrastructure projects. A National Infrastructure Bank would offer similar services at the federal level to states, by providing loans and loan guarantees to projects, issue bonds, and offer subsidies to help cover the interest payment on project bonds. This would allow the United States to make investments in critical infrastructure projects without adding to the deficit. This is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 3337, the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2015.
Parity in Transit benefits
Transportation is the second largest household cost for Americans. Under current law, a tax credit is provided to commuters to help decrease the financial burden of commuting to work. In the past, the pre-tax benefit for transit was $125 per employee, per month, while the benefit for parking was set at $245. The pre-tax benefit for both transit and parking is currently equal at $245 per employee for month. This policy has been extended on a short-term basis and expires at the end of 2013. H.R. 990, the Commuter Parity Act, would permanently make the transit tax benefit for public transit and parking equal and sustainable by capping both at $220 per employee, per month.
H.R. 2071, the Safe Streets Act, was recently introduced and would require states to adopt Complete Streets policies within two years for new federally funded projects or road improvements. Complete Streets policies take into account the needs of all roadway users, including pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, the disabled, and the elderly when designing and implementing new transportation projects. This is especially important for the Riverside-San Bernardino area as more seniors “age in place” and to ensure that lower income communities have better access to transportation options.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act
Despite the fact that last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16% of traffic related deaths were pedestrians and bicyclists, only 1 percent of the safety funding goes to infrastructure improvements to protect those two groups. This is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 199, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, which would require the Department of Transportation to create and enforce separate measures for motorized and non-motorized safety. This bill gives states the flexibility to set their own bicycle and pedestrian safety targets and determine the best methods to meet them.
One way to address issues presented by aging infrastructure, without a huge price tag, is through the use Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technology. ITS uses existing technologies to improve efficiency, prevent accidents, and decrease gridlock. Examples of Intelligent Transportation Systems include using ramp meters to improve highway flow, electronic fare payment systems to ease travel on public transit, and programs that update drivers about real-time roadway conditions.
In October 2015, I introduced H.R. 3825, the Intelligent Technologies Initiatives Act of 2015, which would create a grant program for municipalities to help implement large scale ITS programs.
Public Transportation Caucus
A critical component of our Nation’s transportation infrastructure is public transportation. To be kept informed on the specific issues of mass transit, I joined the bipartisan Public Transportation Caucus. The caucus provides a forum for Members of Congress to work with public transportation stakeholders and leaders to learn about the unique issues of mass transit in the United States.
I am also a member of the Public-Private Partnerships (P3) Caucus. This caucus helps to raise awareness about infrastructure issues across the country and examines the role public-private partnerships as solutions to some of our biggest infrastructure funding needs.
If you'd like to send me your thoughts on this issue, you can email me here.