We’ve got two great opportunities coming up for all you public-transportation buffs.
For a local view, the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club will host a community forum luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, June 17, on public transportation featuring AC Transit Directors at Large Chris Peeples and Joel Young as well as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District 4 Director Robert Raburn.
They’ll be sharing information and insight on how Alameda County public agencies are addressing the growing need for infrastructure development in local and regional transportation, the growing importance of public transportation in urban planning, fiscal austerity in state and local budgets, and environmental justice.
The event is at Everett & Jones Barbecue, 126 Broadway between Second Street and the Embarcadero near Oakland’s Jack London Square. It includes a buffet lunch and tickets cost $25; space is limited, so attendees are encouraged to sign up online, or RSVP to club treasurer Guy Bryant at 510-836-7563 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a broader view, the Commonwealth Club of California will host a free public forum from 9 to 10:30 a.m. next Friday, June 24, in its offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco on “From Point A to Point B: Fixing America’s Transportation Problems.” Taking part in a panel discussion will be Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger; American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director John Horsley; American Public Transportation Association President Bill Millar; and Mineta Transportation Institute National Transportation Finance Center Director Asha Weinstein Agrawal. Mortimer Downey, chair of the MTI board of trustees and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation, will moderate.
Immediately following the panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. will be a keynote address from Polly Trottenberg, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation; this is free and open to the public as well.
“If you have ever been stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge, late to meetings, or have had a ruined weekend because you couldn’t comfortably and efficiently make it to a destination in time, you know that California suffers from a major transportation infrastructure problem,” the Commonwealth Club’s news release says. “From pot holes jarring people’s necks and backs, to bridges collapsing nationwide, thousands of commuters are being affected every day by America’s inadequate and faltering transportation infrastructure system. At the upcoming FREE Commonwealth Club transportation infrastructure summit, experts will examine what can and must be done to ameliorate this dire situation.”
California may be known for its sunshine but its greatest source of green energy could be its unending streams of traffic, if a pilot study of generating power from the vibrations of cars on pavement proves true.
A Southern California lawmaker — naturally — wrote Assembly Bill 306, which calls for the research into using piezoelectric technology to generate energy. When a truck or car passes over pavement, according to Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, the pavement vibrates. When piezoelectric sensors are placed beneath the road, the vibrations can be converted to electricity.
Israel already does it and Italy has signed a contract to place the sensors on a stretch of the road to Venice.
But the debate over the wisdom of California’s high-speed rail aspirations will heat up even more tomorrow with the release of a crucial legislative analysis.
The Golden State gets $300 million for a 20-mile extension along the Central Valley Corridor, part of the project that ultimately aims to provide 220 mph high-speed rail service from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Work funded in this round will extend the track and civil work from Fresno to a “wye” junction connecting to San Jose to the west and Merced to the north. It also gets $68 million to buy 15 high-performance passenger rail cars and four quick-acceleration locomotives for the Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, and Capitol corridors.
“It is a testament to the strength of California’s project that we have won 40 percent of every federal dollar awarded for the development of high-speed rail,” California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Curt Pringle said in a news release. In the past 15 months we have won the lion’s share of federal dollars, unlocked state bond funds and began engaging the private sector to secure their future participation, so that we can begin construction and begin creating thousands of quality jobs next year.”
The White House reported that Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called Gov. Jerry Brown this morning to congratulate him on the award.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, noted a strict “Buy American” requirement will be applied to these awards, so that U.S. manufacturers and workers will receive the maximum economic benefit. “Investments in transportation are key to unlocking this country’s economic potential,” he said in a news release. “I commend this decision to direct money to a proven job creator and to require that the equipment is made in this country. If America is going to make it, we have to Make It In America again.”
Garamendi also said that by strengthening a modern infrastructure network, this investment will create thousands of California jobs, advance environmentally responsible transportation, connect commercial markets, and unleash economic growth. He cited the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that every $1 invested in infrastructure adds $1.57 to the economy.
Tomorrow, however, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office will release a new report on California’s HSR project, covering “some major challenges the state faces in developing the project and new approaches that could increase the odds of its success.” Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor will meet with reporters early tomorrow afternoon to discuss the findings and recommendations.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, earlier today said Florida’s loss could be California’s gain.
“It’s a cloudy day in the Sunshine State for the millions of Floridians who truly want to see jobs created in their state, but Florida’s deep loss is likely to be California’s tremendous gain,” he’d said in a news release. “When the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin surrendered their federal high speed rail money, destroying thousands of jobs in Ohio and Wisconsin, President Obama and Transportation Secretary LaHood shifted much of their money to California. I encourage the Administration to do the same with Florida’s previously allocated $2.4 billion.”
“Planning and construction of California’s high speed rail system is already underway, creating good jobs in the Golden State. We’re prepared to show the rest of the country what a modern transportation network looks like and will gladly invest every penny the federal government is willing to provide,” he said.
Four of the East Bay’s five House of Representatives members gathered in Oakland this afternoon to tout a $10.2 million federal grant to improve the region’s pedestrian and bicycle trails and reduce local traffic congestion.
Providing low-cost, healthy transportation choices in crowded urban areas will improve the nation’s economic competitiveness by reducing transportation and health-care costs while increasing the mobility of the labor force. Walking and bicycling are the most environmentally sustainable forms of transportation, are energy efficient, and generate no greenhouse gasses or other pollutants. The EBGTI will help achieve these goals while creating hundreds of good-paying American jobs constructing and maintaining portions of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
One of the seven projects is the East Bay Greenway, a proposed bicycle and pedestrian pathway running under the BART tracks from the Coliseum station to 105th Avenue in Oakland. And so Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, gathered today at the Coliseum BART station. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, held his own news conference announcing the grant last week.
EBRPD Board President Doug Siden introduced the lawmakers, noting $19 billion worth of projects competed for $600 million in TIGER II funding, and it was the East Bay’s House members’ efforts that helped seal the deal to bring some of the money here.
“We wanted the Secretary of Transportation and our entire federal government to understand the possibilities of what a TIGER II grant would do for the Bay Area,” Lee said – not only a means of getting people out of cars and onto their feet or bicycles on their way to work, but also a source of up to 500 new jobs as the projects get underway.
Garamendi said his call to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came after those of several of his colleagues. “He said, ‘My God, how many represent this area?’ I said, ‘Enough to get you to do this.’”
Miller said the sell was made somewhat easier by the park district’s reputation as “one of the most respected park agencies in the world.”
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, has posted a YouTube video of his testimony in Washington, D.C., before the House Appropriations Committee where he speaks in favor of sending $40 million to Contra Costa for Highway 4 expansion.
Garamendi has submitted 22 earmark requests, which he lists on his web site. He barred from consideration all requests directly from for-profit companies, a source of frequent consternation for other colleagues who receive campaign contributions from people tied to earmarks.
Of course, asking and getting are two different things. Every member of Congress has a big list of his or her own.
For the masochistic wonks out there, click through for Garamendi’s full news release:
Iwasaki will succeed the venerable Robert McCleary, who retired a few months ago from the agency that oversees the county’s transportation dollars including the prooceds of the half-cent sales tax.
Iwasaki is a highly regarded transportation expert appointed last August as Caltrans’ director by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. With the governor about to term out of office at the end of the year, we can expect to see the departure of many of his appointees.
According to a CCTA press release, Iwasaki will take on his new duties in mid-April.
Haggerty will be testifying on behalf of the National Association of Counties, for which he chairs a Transportation Steering Committee. Transportation long has been his top issue: He chairs the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which state and federal funds to regional transportation projects; related to MTC, he chairs the Bay Area Toll Authority, which administers the toll program for the Bay Area’s seven toll bridges including operations, maintenance and management, seismic retrofit and capital improvements. He’s also a member and former chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which oversees regional air quality regulations and programs. Within Alameda County, he’s a member and former chair of the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency; vice chair of the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority and the Alameda County Transportation Authority, which was formed to oversee projects funded through voter-approved Measure B dollars; a member and former chair of the Altamont Rail Express Joint Powers Authority; vice chair of the Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority, which operates the WHEELS bus service in the Tri-Valley; and a member of the Board of Supervisors’ Transportation & Planning Committee.
“Once again, where local and state governments are unable to afford needed transportation improvements, we see the federal government stepping up in a big way. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act continues to put our country on a path to recovery through smart investments in transportation, education, health services, and other sectors, creating jobs for people throughout our communities. There is much more to do to fix our economy, but let there be no doubt, without ARRA, we would be in much worse shape and countless more Americans would currently be unemployed.”
And U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said “(t)hese critical investments will put Californians to work on transit projects that will ease congestion, improve air quality and speed Californians on their way to work and school.”
A Bay Area Council delegation is in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with lawmakers and Obama Administration officials on transportation, infrastructure and jobs in the wake of last week’s State of the Union address and last month’s U.S. Senate shakeup. That is, they’re talking money.
The delegation also will meet with Adolfo Carrion, director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, which is quarterbacking a new three-agency alliance between the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and Department of Housing and Urban Development. And the delegation will meet with Transportation Department officials including Polly Trottenberg, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.
The Bay Area Council is a public-policy advocacy group consisting of the CEOs of more than 275 of the region’s biggest employers, representing more than 500,000 workers (about one of every six private-sector employees in the area).