The holidays are finally here. Millions of people and parcels are slowly making their way to bring joy to families and friends. For the many Angelenos braving the roads and airports this season, our aging infrastructure will cause serious delays and headaches.
The numbers don’t lie: traffic throughout California has been steadily increasing and is now among the worst in the nation. Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, broke records for travel over Thanksgiving weekend with an 8 percent increase in the number of travelers since 2015. Tourists, residents and families all want to be in Los Angeles over the holidays.
It doesn’t have to get worse. Los Angeles County residents were frustrated enough to pass Measure M, which will bring relief to the worst of the traffic nightmares. Burbank residents passed Measure B, which will create a much safer and more relaxing experience for travelers passing through the Hollywood Burbank Airport. LAX is investing millions to improve vehicle and pedestrian access to airport terminals by 2023.
The signs are good that local government officials and transportation planning authorities understand what needs to be done. They have already dedicated revenue for easing traffic and investing in infrastructure.
Measure M will generate nearly $860 million annually for Metro to fund improvements throughout Los Angeles County. The carefully considered list of projects to be funded with the revenue will significantly improve the quality of life for residents by bringing local infrastructure into the 21st century. From converting the Orange Line to light rail and constructing a new transit corridor through the Sepulveda Pass, these projects will ease gridlock.
Investing in infrastructure is a good bet for our local economies. The projects Metro is investing in are expected to generate nearly $80 billion in economic output and create 500,000 new jobs in Southern California.
Now it is time for our state legislators to step up and do the same. The challenge is clear: we want to ease traffic and travel, whether it is going home for the holidays or trying to deliver that critical order to a customer. California must take the necessary steps to ensure statewide long-term funding for transportation infrastructure. Following the November 2016 elections, the California Legislature has a unique opportunity to pass a comprehensive funding bill for infrastructure.
Earlier this year, VICA called on the Legislature to pass legislation creating a comprehensive plan to improve infrastructure in California. Currently, the state only funds $2.3 billion annually in repairs to transit infrastructure, leaving $5.7 billion in unfunded repairs every year.
The Fix Our Roads Coalition has set out priorities for repairing this mess. We must invest $6 billion each year for a minimum of 10 years so we can maintain and improve our neglected transportation infrastructure. We must raise revenue from diverse funding sources to ensure that our residents and business owners have a transportation system they can rely on. Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session of the Legislature to identify a funding solution to address our aging infrastructure, but the Legislature hasn’t taken the challenge seriously. In the next legislative session, VICA will continue to call on our legislators to make investments in vital transportation infrastructure a top priority.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a Van Nuys-based business advocacy organization that represents L.A. County employers at the local, state and federal levels of government.