Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the July 20, 2017, print edition of the Grunion. It did not appear online, so we present it now.
President Trump rode into office on the back of many promises.
It would be hard to forget his campaign promise to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure with an historic $1 trillion investment.
Since the election, the President has suggested repeatedly that an infrastructure plan is just “two or three weeks away,” as he said in May. One has yet to appear.
In fact, the White House budget request released earlier this year actually slashes the infrastructure programs our states, counties, and cities rely on to modernize.
It would eliminate TIGER grants, which fund sometimes difficult-to-finance multimodal or multi-jurisdiction projects. This program has delivered more than $110 million to Los Angeles County since 2010, including more than $30 million to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
It also cuts the public transit-focused Capital Investment Grants in half. Los Angeles Metro is counting on $400 million from this program for transit projects like the Regional Connector, which will connect the Blue Line with Union Station through downtown LA.
There’s no question that we need to make significant investments.
Much of our highway infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life, and we see the effects of deferred maintenance and funding shortfalls. Many of the road and rail bridges in Southern California are structurally obsolete. Many highways are in the same condition.
Our ports — which support hundreds of thousands of local and regional jobs — have been setting records with cargo volume, but poor freight networks can delay cargo from reaching its final destination.
LA and Orange counties continue to grow, and more people put more stress on our transportation network. That strain necessitates investment to expand transit options and capacity.
Democrats in Congress, including myself, have proposed real solutions to these challenges, yet the GOP Congressional leadership and the Trump administration refuse to engage.
Earlier this year, I joined my fellow Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to put forward a plan to invest $500 billion in our infrastructure. Unlike some proposals, this plan is fully paid for by modernizing the gas tax, which hasn’t been updated in nearly 25 years. The proposal would increase federal infrastructure investment by 30%, to address the maintenance backlog and provide additional funds to support new projects across the country. For California, the plan would mean over $1.5 billion in additional highway and transit investment each year.
I have worked across the aisle with Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) from Orange County to introduce legislation that would establish a dedicated Freight Transportation Infrastructure Trust Fund, financed by user fees on freight shipments.
My plan would ensure that worthy freight infrastructure projects, like dedicated truck lanes on I-710 or the Alameda Corridor-East rail project, don’t have to compete with passenger projects for the same scarce resources.
And, freight projects would be paid for by its users, the shippers of goods.
The solutions are out there. I know, I’ve helped write some of them. But without the entire Congress and the White House taking an honest look at how to fund our infrastructure, no solutions can even be discussed, let alone implemented.
Our nation has spent more than 30 years deferring maintenance on our once world-renowned infrastructure. Today, we are left with the remains of that legacy of inaction. We can’t wait another 30 years, or 20, or 10, or even five, before we start investing in our nation and its future.
Congressman Alan Lowenthal represents the 47th District, which includes most of Long Beach, Lakewood and cities in northern Orange County.