Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
Boxer Visits Riverside County To Discuss Ongoing Need To Rebuild Our Nation's Transportation Systems
January 18, 2012
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

I want to thank Ron Loveridge, the Mayor of Riverside, for introducing me.

I also want to thank Karen Spiegel, Vice Chairwoman of the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and a Councilmember for the City of Corona for joining us here today.

We are also joined by Greg Pettis, who is a Councilmember for Cathedral City and former Chairman of RCTC, Steve Adams, who is an RCTC Commissioner and a Riverside City Councilmember, Anne Mayer, who is RCTC's Executive Director, and Dr. Ray Wolfe, who is the Director of District 8 at Cal Trans.

We are here today to talk about the need for transportation investment that will jumpstart the economy, create jobs, reduce traffic congestion, and improve safety.

Magnolia Avenue is a great example of a project that helps local residents get to their destination more quickly and more safely.

This is a grade separation project that lowered Magnolia Avenue so that a two-track railroad bridge could be constructed over the road.

According to the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC):

• About 25,000 vehicles travel on Magnolia Avenue every day, and this project reduces congestion by eliminating over two hours of delay per day when the road traffic is stopped to allow a train to pass through.

• This segment of the rail line is used by 47 freight trains and 12 passenger trains every day, which means that cars and trucks at this crossing were delayed by about 137 minutes per day.

• This project is also good for the environment, because it will cut nearly 17 tons per year of toxic air pollution that is generated when trucks and cars were waiting at this rail crossing.

This $53 million project has been funded at the state and local level, but it is a great example of the type of transportation investments the federal government can and should be making. Projects like this create thousands of good paying jobs across California and help our region's economy stay competitive.

We must make it a priority to improve safety and reduce congestion at the rail crossings all across the country. Nationwide, there are over 130,000 public highway-rail grade crossings, with nearly 6,000 in California alone.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2010 there were over 2,000 collisions at highway-rail crossings, with 127 of these collisions occurring in California -- second most in the nation.

There were 256 fatalities at highway-rail crossings in 2010, and California led the nation with 28 of those fatalities.

Riverside County is making improvements to freight mobility, safety, and reducing congestion by building 61 grade separation projects at these crossings -- 5 have been constructed, another 9 will be under construction by next year, which will leave 47 projects which need additional funding.

This Magnolia Avenue project has put people back to work in an industry that has been especially hard hit. Construction workers need work, and according to the City of Riverside and the LA Economic Development Corporation, this project has created an estimated 560 jobs.

Investing in safer and more efficient transportation systems will not only jumpstart the local economy now, but it will also pay dividends well into the future by making the region more competitive.

As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have been working hard to create jobs by rebuilding our nation's roads, bridges, and transit systems. Just this past November, the EPW Committee unanimously approved my bipartisan transportation proposal, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), with a vote of 18 to 0. MAP-21 will reauthorize surface transportation programs for two years at current funding levels.

MAP-21 will enable states and local governments across the country to build grade separation projects through a new freight program that will increase the efficiency of the movement of goods. MAP-21 will also substantially increase funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program to address critical safety issues at rail crossings.

I am also pleased the State of California has put forth innovative ideas, such as the Los Angeles 30/10 initiative, now known as America Fast Forward at the national level. My bill contains America Fast Forward, which will significantly expand and strengthen the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, stretching federal dollars to fund local projects more than ever before.

By modernizing and reforming our current transportation systems, MAP-21 will help create jobs here in California and across the country. This bill is estimated to create or save 170,000 jobs in California and over 1.8 million jobs, as well as up to one million jobs through the expanded TIFIA program.

By moving forward with a unanimous vote, the EPW Committee sent a strong signal that we are serious about job creation and getting our economy back on track.

This cooperation is a rare win for bipartisanship, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are continuing to work together to get this bill passed into law. MAP-21 is exactly what the construction industry needs to get back on track, and it will create or save jobs for millions of people across the nation.

On Sunday's Meet the Press, Senate Majority Leader Reid said that passing the surface transportation bill is one of the most important things Congress can do this year to rebuild our economy and create jobs.

Transportation stakeholders from across the country are behind us, and next week they will formally call on Congress to quickly pass a transportation bill. Hundreds of organizations across the spectrum have already signed onto a letter calling for action on transportation investment.

The American people support rebuilding the nation through transportation investment. According to a poll released last week by CNN, 72 percent of Americans - and 54 percent of Republicans support "increasing federal spending to build and repair roads, bridges and schools." [CNN/ORC Poll, 10/17/11]

Transportation investment has the support of business and labor, Democrats and Republicans. Now is the time to pass legislation that will modernize the nation's transportation systems and help our nation stay competitive by moving people and goods more efficiently and more safely.