Lawmakers weigh in on freeway collapse

Several lawmakers issued statements Monday regarding the MacArthur Maze freeway collapse:

lee3.jpg“Everyone is committed to making sure that the disruptions to local commuters are as short and as painless as possible. My office is working with federal, state and local agencies to ensure that they have the full support of the federal government to make the necessary repairs to our local freeways,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, in whose district the disaster occured. “We have been in ongoing contact with CalTrans, the Department of Transportation, local transit operators as well as the Congressional committees that oversee transportation funding, and we aim to make sure that the federal response to this accident is robust and timely.”

“It is possible that the repair costs will exceed the regular federal emergency reimbursement, in which case, Congress would need to act, and we are monitoring the situation closely and prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the funds are available, and commuters lives can be returned to normal as soon as possible,” said Lee.

tauscher3.jpg“When a catastrophe like this happens, we need all hands on deck,” said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its Highways and Transit Subcommittee. “I’ve spoken with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to impress upon her how important federal funds will be as we attempt to rebuild and get back to normal after the freeway collapse, and she will be joining both the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Jim Oberstar, and me at the site on Friday.

“We need emergency relief now, we need federal assistance in the future, and we are going to need all these costs reimbursed – like free BART and ferry rides and all the police officers working overtime to divert traffic and keep people moving.

“In coming days and weeks I will continue working with all concerned federal agencies, as well as my Bay Area colleagues, to ensure that every penny available is used to expedite this process so that we can all get back to our normal lives and commutes.”

More — from Rep. Jerry McNerney and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer — after the jump…

mcnerneyportrait.jpg“I will do everything I can to ensure that federal funding is made available immediately to aid in the reconstruction,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, also on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee. “In fact, earlier today I joined with my Congressional Bay Area colleagues in sending a letter to the Department of Transportation. The letter requests that a federal emergency declaration be made and that funds be made available immediately for the demolition and reconstruction of the collapsed portion of highway.

“I would encourage those whose commutes are impacted by this incident to consider using BART and other forms of public transit. Caltrans has also established a web site that offers alternative routes which can be accessed here: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4. For further updates on the developing situation, please visit the Caltrans site or http://www.511.org.”

boxer.jpg“We are facing a critical transportation situation, but I want to assure the people of the Bay Area that their state and federal leaders are working together to immediately tackle this crisis,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who noted the importance of moving quickly to rebuild the freeway, because federal law provides for 100 percent reimbursement of emergency repairs accomplished in the first six months after a disaster occurs. “I am pleased that Secretary Peters and I will be on site together this Friday to personally survey the damage and get things moving at the federal level as quickly as possible.”

UPDATE @ 4:45 P.M. MONDAY: Caltrans has officially started the process of requesting federal emergency aid, sending this letter today to the Federal Highway Administration’s top dog in Sacramento.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.