Region’s Infrastructure Leaders Offer Feedback for U.S. Dept of Transportation’s Beyond Traffic Framework

U.S. Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen and Long Beach Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal hosted the third of 11 nationwide regional forums on the Beyond Traffic draft framework at Long Beach Convention Center Monday, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Beyond Traffic report examines the trends and choices facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and a transportation system facing more frequent extreme weather events, according to the release.

The report predicts that unless changes are made in the near-term, increased gridlock will result nationwide.

The meeting allowed citizens, elected officials, metropolitan planners, transportation industry partners, business owners, and community leaders to learn more about the framework and ask questions about the trends identified in it. Jaenichen and Lowenthal also solicited input from the participants on their region-specific experiences and asked to hear ideas for solutions to those challenges.

Beyond Traffic identifies that the logistics and goods movement industries of Southern California, which contains some of our nation’s largest ports, will be uniquely impacted by growth over the next 30 years,” Jaenichen said at the event.

This growth includes a 61 percent population increase in Southern California by 2050 that will have to deal with the fact that over 25 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient and 34 percent of its roads are in poor condition. California must make critical infrastructure investment decisions in order to accommodate this increase in population.

“As we finalize the framework, we wanted to hear directly from residents who rely on and are working to improve the region’s transportation system, especially those who are involved in the region’s bustling freight sectors,” Jaenichen said in a statement. “Conversations like the one we had today are vital as we continue to tackle the challenges and opportunities related to the impending increase in population and the higher demand for goods that compliments this growth.”

After the U.S. Department of Transportation’s presentation, regional infrastructure leaders, including State Senator Ricardo Lara, State Assemblymembers Mike Gipson and Patrick O’Donnell, Long Beach Transit President & CEO Ken McDonald and Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen, shared their feedback in a facilitated conversation that will be used to inform the final Beyond Traffic report when it is published next year.

“There is no better place than Long Beach to be having this conversation,” Congressman Alan Lowenthal said in a statement. “Here in our city, we see the challenges and opportunities facing us as we seek to keep pace with rapid population growth and economic development.”

He added that Long Beach is a gateway to the ever-expanding Southern California region, that investing in critical freight infrastructure in greater LA, California and the United States is critical point of focus.

“Combining forward thinking with a commitment to environmental stewardship, the City of Long Beach is eager to change how we move goods and people throughout the nation,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement. “Transportation is not just for cars, as tradition holds here in Southern California, but it’s also for mass transit, for cyclists, and for pedestrians; for the grandmas and grandpas who walk our kids to school. Transportation literally is the road to our future.”

To learn more about Beyond Traffic or to read the full framework, click here.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.