Alameda Corridor-East Project
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San Gabriel Valley Tribune
by Jack Hadjinian
November 20th, 2015.

Federal freight funding could benefit San Gabriel Valley: Jack Hadjinian

Motorists drive over the tracks on Greenwood Avenue in Montebello after a Metrolink
passes in this June 2013 file photo. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger)

As I write, U.S. Senate and House negotiators are working on resolving differences on major legislation to provide up to $350 billion in federal funding over six years to maintain and improve our nation's roads, bridges, trade infrastructure and transit systems. Given the daunting fiscal challenges facing Congress, the legislation's modest increases over existing funding levels represent a significant achievement. And of particular importance to California and the San Gabriel Valley, new programs within both bills would provide significant funding to support freight projects.

The proposed freight programs, totaling nearly $15 billion in the Senate bill and nearly $4.5 billion in the House bill, could benefit the Valley by providing the support needed to complete rail-roadway grade separations along the Alameda Corridor-East (ACE) transcontinental rail route as well as significant improvements to our highways choked by truck traffic.

Our state already is home to the busiest trade gateways and freight corridors in the nation, and Southern California's ports project that container traffic will more than double by 2035. Nationally, freight volume nationally is expected to grow 45 percent by 2045. To best prepare for this increase, freight infrastructure stakeholders and agencies have long advocated for a minimum annual investment of $2 billion in freight infrastructure, targeted through a competitive process at our nation's most problematic freight chokepoints. The freight programs proposed in the Senate and House bills will go a long way toward improving America's global competitiveness while easing the impact of goods movement on the environment and on communities.

Every day in the San Gabriel Valley, thousands of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists must wait for long and lumbering trains to pass at railroad crossings. These trains - currently 70 a day - carry goods to and from the San Pedro Bay ports, our nation's leading trade gateway, accommodating more than 40 percent of our nation's containerized imports. By 2025 the number of trains is expected to grow to nearly 130 a day, causing crossing delays to double or triple and greatly increasing the risks of collisions with trains.

With the help of our supporters and champions, the ACE Construction Authority has secured more than $1.6 billion in federal, state and Los Angeles Metro grants and railroad funds over the past 15 years to construct a comprehensive program of 20 grade separations and safety improvements at 53 of the Valley's crossings. The federal transportation bill could provide the freight funding necessary to complete the remaining grade separations in the ACE Construction Authority program.

Fortunately, California will be well represented as the efforts to craft the final bill unfold over the next several weeks. Sen. Barbara Boxer, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of Modesto and our own U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano of the San Gabriel Valley have been appointed to the Senate-House conference committee. All three are seasoned transportation champions, have supported establishing federal freight programs and we wish them well in their work.

We applaud our congressional delegation for their support and appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Senate and House conferees as the highway bill is completed for the benefit of Californians and of all Americans. With ever-increasing goods movement expected to result from national policies further removing constraints on flourishing trade, the freight programs proposed in the highway bill are a pressing federal priority legitimately focused on nationally significant projects.

Jack Hadjinian is mayor of Montebello and chairman of the board of the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority;