The past week has been historic by any measure.  On top of the economic changes our country is going through, we seem to be in a period of dramatic political change as well.  Some of the election outcomes leave me a bit more optimistic about that perennial underdog, funding for transportation systems and infrastructure.


One winner was the state high-speed rail ballot measure, Proposition 1A.  That it passed was a pleasant surprise to me; I wrote in favor of it in this column a few weeks ago.  The voters’ decision here was an affirmation that Californians can still “think big” about the future.  It will put in place one critical piece of the funding for this system:  the local public contribution.  Other project funding will still need to come from the federal government and the private sector, but at least the project is made possible by the approval of Prop 1A.


We Long Beachers didn’t approve Measure I, the local infrastructure bond, which would have helped out some of our key transportation infrastructure, our local streets and alleys.  But Los Angeles County voters appear (and I do mean appear) to have approved Measure R, a half-cent sales tax that will be dedicated to transportation projects all over the county.  The measure required a two-thirds vote to pass, and it is right on the edge.  There are still several hundred thousand absentee and provisional ballots whose tally will determine the ultimate results, but I hear that the trend is towards approval.  The funded projects will include some in Long Beach, such as ramps and bridges on I-710 and new funds for transit services.  This is a critical “self-help” vote.  State and federal funds may be drying up, but by voting “yes,” residents have said they want more transportation options and are willing to help pay for them.


Finally, the election of Barack Obama as President is also a good sign for the future of our nation’s infrastructure, including transportation.  While the topic might not be at the very top of his agenda, he will likely be more receptive to federal programs to fund infrastructure rehabilitation and development than his opponent, John McCain, would have been.  Many of his advisers also understand and respect these issues.  This may be particularly good for Long Beach and the Los Angeles region in the arena of goods movement, which appears increasingly likely to be the subject of a targeted funding program in the next federal transportation bill.


To all those who voted – in whatever way you voted – thank you for exercising this most important right.  And be optimistic with me, because we’ll be investing in the systems that support our city’s, region’s, and nation’s economic strength.