It is inarguable that our region’s transportation infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating under the pressure of population growth, which is expected to increase by 2.3 million in the coming years. Meanwhile, funding sources for critically needed infrastructure improvements have decreased and grown less predictable.
Existing federal, state, and local funds are inadequate to meet the greater demand being placed on our transportation system and there is a tremendous backlog of needed repairs that are creating another burden on an already inefficient network.
In study after study, Los Angeles County traffic is among the worst in the nation. The hours wasted in gridlock can be measured in time and money: Drivers lose 81 hours (more than two workweeks) each year to congestion, according to TRIP, a transportation research organization. Financially, poor road conditions and traffic delays cost $2,826 per motorist per year and take a significant toll on every resident’s quality of life.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board has taken a bold but essential step forward to help fund transportation improvements now and for the future. Measure M – called the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan – proposes a half-cent sales tax expected to generate an estimated $860 million a year. These funds would go a long way toward solving our most pressing transportation challenges and provide better integration among different modes of transportation to ease gridlock.
In November, voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballot for this smart and sensible sustainable investment plan that will improve mobility, provide more transportation options, stimulate our local economy, and create jobs. There is hope ahead for a less-congested future.
Scores of transit improvements are included in the county traffic plan, from sidewalk repairs to new light-rail lines, with a focus on a cohesive network of transportation across all 88 cities and unincorporated areas within the county.
Miles of new rail- and roadways are planned to provide commuters with alternate modes of transportation on the most traveled highways, including new rail extensions in the San Gabriel Valley; South Bay cities; and a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, an unprecedented solution to connecting the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.
Almost every freeway would also benefit in the plan, with proposed additional lanes, interchange enhancements, and streamlined ramps.
In an effort to ensure that the plan meets regional and local needs, Metro executed a comprehensive community outreach program asking stakeholders across the entire county to identify their most critical programs that would support their mobility and economic vitality.
The plan encompasses a comprehensive list of target projects, including improvements for bus, rail, freeways, and local streets so each voter can see just how the money will be spent to enhance their future.
Measure M would allow Metro to focus on investing and fast-tracking infrastructure improvements without the need to come back to voters again and again. Revenues would leverage currently planned projects for completion on an accelerated schedule, which would save both time and money. In addition, commuters would be able to enjoy reduced traffic and environmental benefits considerably sooner.
Measure M would be the type of long-term sustainable funding solution needed now to ensure essential mobility and economic endurance for our entire region. Not only would it be subject to the toughest accountability measures to ensure it delivers the results we need, but it would keep dollars spent in Los Angeles in Los Angeles. Measure M would ensure that Washington, D.C., and Sacramento wouldn’t take needed transportation dollars outside of the county.
Now is the time to tackle our transportation challenges and create an integrated multimodal transit network that not only serves the needs of today’s commuters, but anticipates and plans for the requirements of coming generations.
Measure M makes fiscal sense and offers countless benefits to meet the mobility needs of our county’s 10.4 million residents. But without essential funding, Metro’s bold plan for one of America’s largest transportation systems will fall short of expectations, lead to even greater personal and financial toll on residents, and burden future generations.
We can’t afford the consequences of inaction.
James de la Loza is senior vice president and national transportation group director for HNTB Corp. and former chief planning officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
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