Transportation funding around the North Coast
We’re coming down to the wire on keeping transportation projects funded around the country. The recent bipartisan agreement to fix Medicare repayments may signal a positive change, but it’s never a good sign when congressional leadership waits until the last minute to strike a deal.
If the Highway Trust Fund’s authorization lapses this week and it begins its slide towards bankruptcy, it could spell disaster for California, which relies on the Highway Trust Fund for 48% of its state transportation budget. If the Fund goes bust, road construction and bridge repair projects throughout the state and the country could halt. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s like a bad movie that we are forced to watch year after year. Clearly it’s time for new ideas and new ways to fund our transportation infrastructure.
That’s why Congressman Earl Blumenauer and I gathered some of the Bay Area’s brightest transportation officials, companies, and members of the public in San Rafael for a public forum on transportation solutions. We discussed what we can do to ensure we have the most efficient and safe roads, bridges, and highways possible. We heard from transportation experts how new ideas are reshaping transportation, including innovative new modes of travel like the SMART train in Marin and Sonoma – we even toured SMART’s beautiful new railcar on its maiden trip to San Rafael.
The need for 21st century transportation policies is precisely why I introduced the Gas Tax Replacement Act. My bill recognizes that reliance on the federal gas tax, which was last raised in 1993, has created a massive structural deficit in the Highway Trust Fund and with continuing advancements in efficiency and alternative fuel technologies this problem will only get worse. My bill would establish a lifecycle carbon tax on all transportation fuels, which would stabilize the Highway Trust Fund and take our nation in a bold new direction, helping to spur advancements in clean energy technology, reducing carbon pollution, and fighting climate change.
In addition to celebrating the arrival of the first SMART railcar, we can celebrate the fact that President Obama included $20 million in his 2016 budget proposal to help complete the extension of the SMART rail and trail project to Larkspur. Unfortunately, those needed funds were not included in the terrible party-line budget passed by House Republicans earlier this month, but rest assured that I will keep pushing to secure this funding through the appropriations process and through other opportunities in the months ahead.
Christening a brand-new SMART train!
Glassdoor Town Hall
I recently enjoyed another "workplace town hall,” where I visit a major district employer and have an open-ended dialogue with constituents at their workplace. This time it was Sausalito-based Glassdoor, one of the largest technology employers in the 2nd District. Many of their 450 employees joined me to discuss issues ranging from regional transportation to immigration and visa issues, taxes, water, and more. I’m impressed with the impact this homegrown company is having (its employment-related website has millions of users and its online jobs-finder tool is now featured on WhiteHouse.gov, no less!).
Speaking with Glassdoor co-founder Robert Hohman. Credit: Soren Hemmila /Marinscope
Last Chance Grade
On March 30, I launched my Last Chance Grade Stakeholders Group, which will address the precarious landslide-prone stretch of Highway 101 south of Crescent City known as Last Chance Grade.
I brought this group together to find a permanent fix for this dangerous stretch of highway. We will look closely at how to fix this ongoing problem while addressing the significant tribal and environmental issues likely to accompany any project.
A major slide at Last Chance Grade – which experts say is inevitable – would pose a serious safety risk, disrupt emergency transportation, and devastate the regional economy: a Caltrans study pegged the cost to the region at $130 million annually.