Secretary LaHood Stepping Down
It’s official. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that he will step down from his position and not serve a second term.
“We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $2.7 billion in TIGER grants to 130 transportation projects across the nation,” said LaHood in a statement. “We have made unprecedented investments in our nation’s ports. And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help states build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.”
LaHood confirmed that he will stay at the department as long is it takes to find a successor. Mobility 21 is grateful for LaHood’s tremendous leadership in transportation and for working with the coalition to help invest in much-needed infrastructure projects in Southern California and the rest of the nation.
Click here to read his full statement.
New Mobility 21 Chairwoman Anne Mayer joins Executive Director Marnie O’Brien Primmer and Communications Manager Kristin Slocum during a reception honoring the California Transportation Commission.
Mobility 21 Welcomes First-Ever Female Chair
Anne Mayer, Executive Director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission, began her term as Mobility 21’s 2013 Chairwoman this month, marking the coalition’s first-ever female chair to take the helm of the transportation advocacy organization.
“I’m proud to be a part of such an influential group making a difference in transportation,” said Mayer. “Looking ahead to the coming year, Mobility 21 is going to be working hard to advocate for federal investment in our goods movement system. We also want to help shape the next transportation authorization to ensure Congress gives Southern California the flexibility and tools we need to maximize local dollars.”
Paul Granillo, President & CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, will serve as Mobility 21’s Vice Chair and Darren Kettle, Executive Director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission, is this year’s Treasurer.
“We’re thankful for the leadership of our past Chairman Gary Toebben, CEO of the LA Chamber,” said Marnie O’Brien Primmer, Executive Director of Mobility 21. “He led us through a very important year when our coalition hit its stride and helped us influence significant policy changes in transportation.”
Senator Rubio: Making CEQA Modernization
a Priority to Expedite Project Delivery
California State Senator Michael J. Rubio (D-Shafter), Chair of the Environmental Quality Committee, answers Mobility 21’s questions this month on his plans to modernize the California Environmental Quality Act.
M21: How do you plan to tackle updating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 2013?
SR: We are in the process of taking input from all parts of the state and gathering case studies to determine, most importantly, where CEQA has worked well and where it has been abused or been used to obstruct projects that would actually benefit the public health and environment. Working closely with Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, we are striving to arrive at a framework of meaningful CEQA improvements that would help accomplish the state’s goals of supporting sustainable communities and well planned regions. As the incoming Chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, we will have a robust discussion to determine the best ways of accomplishing this, while also preserving the best elements of CEQA, such as direct public comment and access opportunities so that we may continue to protect California’s valuable natural resources.
M21: How will transportation projects factor into your analysis of needed updates to CEQA?
SR: All projects—transportation and otherwise—are being looked at to see how CEQA is currently working. For instance, the Metro Expo Line Extension in Los Angeles, connecting Santa Monica to downtown, comes to mind as a great example of how transportation projects would benefit from our effort to update this important law. Large public infrastructure projects like these tend to be those that are most likely to be challenged, so there needs to a process to ensure that both large and small environmentally-friendly and job-creating projects stay on track.
M21: What can the transportation industry do to assist your efforts to achieve meaningful reforms?
SR: I would suggest that representatives from the transportation industry engage in the CEQA update efforts and forward any ideas you might have on what can be done to expedite transportation projects, as well as sending our office any case studies you might have on where CEQA has worked well or been abused in your area of expertise.
M21: Duplication of environmental reviews is a serious concern for financially strapped public agencies; would you support efforts to substitute California’s environmental rules for federal rules where CEQA meets or exceeds federal requirements?
SR: Duplication of regulations, rules and permits is an ongoing challenge, as is coordinating with the federal government, but this coordination could also certainly be the conduit for solutions. For example, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is attempting to plan with local, state and federal departments within a region that have a stated interest and will be necessary to permit renewable energy projects in the California desert. This type of proactive planning with upfront coordination with the federal government is where I have seen these challenges best addressed. California already leads the nation in many cases, though this then requires us to engage in the collective task of bringing others along. I believe we can coordinate with the federal government, but substituting our regulations for theirs would be a much more monumental endeavor requiring federal law changes. We are working strictly at the state level at this point and hope to implement changes that minimize the potential impacts of juxtaposed state and federal regulations.
Legislators Take Action to Lower Voter Threshold
With the final ballot count in Los Angeles and Alameda counties resulting in razor thin losses for transportation sales tax measures, members of the state legislature have been moving quickly to introduce amendments to lower the percentage of votes needed to pass such measures.
California State Senator Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) and Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) have introduced constitutional amendments to reduce the voter threshold for local transportation sales taxes from two-thirds to 55 percent (SCA 4-Liu and SCA 8-Corbett).
“The vast majority of California voters want to invest in transportation improvements, and a very small minority should not be able to stop these important measures,” said Sen. Liu. “When more than 65 percent of voters want something and the measure still fails, something is not fair. This constitutional amendment will put transportation sales taxes on the same level playing field with school construction bonds.”
If approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature, these amendments would be placed before California voters at the next regularly scheduled general election.
Lowering the voter threshold would pave the way for counties currently without transportation sales tax measures and also provide self-help counties a better opportunity to extend existing measure sunset dates, providing additional revenue for transportation projects.
Help Shape the Future of California’s Rail System
You’re invited to attend an open house to provide feedback to Caltrans on the California State Rail Plan. Caltrans will be presenting the draft of the plan, which establishes a statewide vision, sets priorities and develops implementation strategies to enhance passenger and freight rail service in the public interest.
To review the draft plan and submit your comments, please join Caltrans at one of the five open houses. The public comment period will begin on Friday, Feb. 8 and end on Monday, March 11. The draft plan will be available on Feb. 8 at http://californiastaterailplan.com/project-materials.
Open House Schedule:
Tuesday, Feb. 12 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
California State Railroad Museum, Stanford Gallery
111 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Thursday, Feb. 14 from 3 – to 6 p.m.
Elihu M. Harris State Office Building, Room 1
1515 Clay Street Oakland, CA 94612
Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Caltrans District 11 – San Diego Office Building 1st Floor Conference Room
4050 Taylor Street, San Diego, CA 92110
Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Junipero Serra Building
320 West 4th St. Los Angeles, CA 90013
Thursday, Feb. 21 from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Hugh M. Burns State Building, Assembly Room 1036
2550 Mariposa Mall Fresno, CA 93721
Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Event Password: RailPlan1
J. Christopher Lytle, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach and Mobility 21 Advisory Board Member, speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of construction on the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project.
Construction Begins on Gerald Desmond
Bridge Replacement at Port of Long Beach
This month officials celebrated the kickoff of construction on a $1 billion project to replace the primary bridge at the Port of Long Beach, a four-year effort that will enhance a critical link in the nation’s trade system and improve an important transportation corridor for California.
Federal, state and local officials gathered near the base of the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge for a ceremony that included two helicopters hovering at 515 feet – the eventual height of the two new towers. The new bridge will allow the world’s biggest cargo ships to reach the inner berths at the Port of Long Beach and simultaneously expand a strategic highway that carries 15 percent of all goods coming into the U.S.
“This bridge is vital to freight movement and the nation’s economy,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “The project will also relieve congestion on the road network that directly serves one of the nation’s busiest ports.”
The replacement project will allow the Gerald Desmond Bridge to remain in use while the new bridge is erected adjacent to it. The new bridge is among $4.5 billion in current and planned improvements to further modernize the Port of Long Beach and keep it competitive. Work on the new bridge will generate, on average, 3,000 jobs a year during construction.
5th Annual Tribute and Roast Honoring Will Kempton
Join OCBC and BIZPAC Trustees at the 5th Annual Roast and Tribute, honoring Will Kempton, CEO, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). Emceed by Peter Buffa and professional comedian and Hollywood entertainer Bob Zany, the annual event will feature spirited stories from Kempton’s friends and associates.
Thursday, Feb. 28 | 5:30 – 9 p.m.
The City National Grove of Anaheim
2200 East Katella Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92806
Individual Ticket: $250 | Supporter Package: $1,250 (4 tickets)
Funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission, Metro is collaborating with EV Connect to offer electric vehicle charging stations at several park and ride stations.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Coming to Five Metro Locations
As part of Metro’s continuing efforts to help create a more sustainable planet, electric vehicle (EV) drivers will soon be able to charge their vehicles for a nominal fee at five Metro park and ride stations: Union Station, Sierra Madre Villa Station, Willow Station, El Segundo Station and Universal City Station. Each of the five location will have facilities to charge up to four vehicles at a time. The first two locations, Union Station and Sierra Madre Villa Station, will open to the public in early January 2013. All stations will be open by mid-February, 2013.
Metro anticipates that the EV charging stations will encourage EV owners to combine public transportation with driving. EV drivers will be able to charge their vehicles while using Metro to run errands, go to events or while commuting the rest of the way to work.
EV drivers need to subscribe online at metro.net/ev to use the charging stations. Once they open an account linked to either a credit card or a PayPal account, they will receive an electronic key fob. To start a charging session, plug in the EV to a vacant EV charger and wave the key fob over the reader. The cost to charge a vehicle is $1 per hour and caps at $3. EV drivers will receive a text notification when the vehicle battery is fully charged. Customer support also is available by calling 213-922-GOEV.
The installation of the EV charging stations is part of a pilot program scheduled to run through 2013. The program marks the first time a transportation agency has directly incorporated EV charging stations as part of its transit system. Metro is collaborating with EV Connect to install and operate the charging stations. The program is funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission.
Mobility 21 Executive Director Marnie O’Brien Primmer celebrates winning an award from WTS Inland Empire with Mobility 21 Board Member Ray Wolfe, Executive Director of the San Bernardino Associated Governments, and Anne Mayer, Riverside County Transportation Commission Executive Director and Mobility 21 Chair.
Mobility 21 Honored by WTS Inland Empire
Mobility 21 was named Employer of the Year by the Inland Empire chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) this month during a western-themed awards and scholarship dinner in Norco, Calif.
“Mobility 21’s mission is really crucial — one region, one voice, one future. We’ve made a lot of progress and we’re really proud of the accomplishments that we as a coalition have made to Southern California,” said Mobility 21 Chair Anne Mayer, Executive Director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), while accepting the award. “We’re also tremendously supportive of all the work that is being done here at WTS. To look at all of the scholarships given tonight to a group of such incredibly talented young women makes me really proud.”
WTS Inland Empire honored several other deserving award recipients during the ceremony:
- Member of the Year: Natalie Eid, Albert Grove & Associates
- Woman of the Year: Cathy Bechtel, RCTC
- Project of the Year: Caltrans District 8 Big Bear Bridge Project
- Scholarship Awards: 10 higher education and five high school students
TRANSPORTATION EVENTS IN THE COMMUNITY
Wednesday, March 27
WTS-IE: Panel Discussion Featuring Southern California’s Transportation CEOs
Tuesday, Oct. 29
Mobility 21: 2013 Summit at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live