Photos by Asia Morris.
Dignitaries and transit officials from Long Beach and neighboring areas such as Culver City, Lakewood, Seal Beach, Torrance and Orange County stood up for transportation on Thursday outside the Queen Mary, to raise awareness and rally to urge congress to pass a long-term surface transportation infrastructure bill.
Long Beach Transit CEO Kenneth McDonald, Long Beach Transit Board Chairperson Barbara Sullivan George, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Congresswoman Janice Hahn, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Orange County Transit Authority Board Chairperson and Irvine Mayor pro tem, Jeff Lalloway, Long Beach Airport Director, Bryant Francis and Los Angeles County Municipal Operators Association Chairperson, Art Ida spoke at Stand Up 4 Transportation, organized by Long Beach Transit (LBT), to explain the importance of having the necessary funding to support our nation's infrastructure system in need of repairs and improvements.
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP 21, was a two year bill that authorized funding for federal transit programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), according to LBT. Congress extended the bill in July 2014, which is set to end on May 31, 2015.
Congressman Alan Lowenthal, representing California’s 47th District, who has been standing up for transportation for 23 years, said, “We’ve really been doing short-term fixes, kicking the can down the road, and all of whom support transportation know that it's time now to deal with the issue. It is time to have a long-term funding for transportation that’s going to maintain our infrastructure and is going to allow us to have the funding security to begin to plan for new infrastructure and without that we are not going to be the world class nation…”
“We are going to fall behind,” he continued, “we are already falling behind and we now need to be able to protect our communities as you now know, we have to protect those that rely on transit all the time, those that are our workers that move goods from our ports, that drive the buses, that provide all the kinds of support for everyone, that’s critically important, too, we need to be able to say that we as a nation are back to move again.”
Congresswoman Janice Hahn noted that she has been working with Republican Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Bill Shuster, who is determined to pass the long-term bill. Hahn, whose focus is on moving goods and improving our nation’s freight network, said that the goods movement should not have to compete with our infrastructure needs. She questioned how this country is going to deal with its 70,000 structurally deficient bridges, saying that we have to be smarter than to think simply raising the gas tax will meet our infrastructure needs.
“The American economy, our local ports, and commuters, we all rely on the quality of our roads, our highways, our bridges, and all the infrastructure throughout this country, that’s why events like this one are happening all over the United States, people are standing up for transportation everywhere and our message is clear, congress must pass a long-term surface transportation bill that invests more in our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure. This investment is vital to the economy, it’s going to create millions of American jobs and it’s going to really strengthen and grow America’s middle class.”
She continued, “Congressmember Ted Poe, Republican who represents the ports in Texas, Houston area, will be here and he will see for himself on a guided tour by the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, what America’s port looks like and why this matters to every single part of the country.”
Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell voiced his support from Sacramento, saying, “I agree with Congressman Lowenthal, it’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, it’s time to pick up that can and start solving our problem. We need Washington [D.C.] to move so our region can keep moving.”
He gestured at the buses lined up in the Queen Mary parking lot, “If you see these buses out here, these are the buses that took kids to my classroom every day, so it’s not just about us it’s about those who are in need and giving them a ladder to the middle class, it’s about maintaining our transportations’ infrastructure and that requires governmental partnership.”
According to LBT CEO, Kenneth McDonald, over 250 similar events took place across the nation Thursday, April 9, National Infrastructure Day, in an effort to show congress how important long-term, secure funding is needed.
"At the end of the day,” said Mayor Robert Garcia, “we’re all working together on this important issue, how do we move people in the most efficient way? In a way that supports local economy?” The Mayor noted that without the support from the federal government, large infrastructure projects like the ongoing Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, would not be possible.
“For us in Long Beach, we’re also a part of the American economy when it comes to the Port,” he continued.
He urged congress to pass the bill, “We need the rest of congress to move to ensure that we have the funds to build our port and airport and bridges and roads across the country.”
LBT’s Deputy CEO, Debra Johnson, led the community rally in Promenade Park in downtown Long Beach and had enthusiastic participants on their feet in support of the long-term bill.
Kraig Kojian, President and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Associates, said, “We know on this side of the bay how important transportation is to our downtown and entire city, with the transit mall right here and the amenities and conveniences that it provides, the many people visiting our downtown, living in our downtown and certainly wanting to build a business in our downtown, makes it more and more important for the transportation infrastructure to be there and certainly for the amenities and conveniences that transportation does provide. So I urge you and encourage you to sign the petition, call your elected officials, and enjoy your downtown the way its developing to be.”
"Congress must take action by May 31," according to the #SU4T petition. For more information about the bill and to sign the petition, click here. To contact LBT Customer Service with questions, please call (562) 591-2301.