Since returning from the nation’s capitol for the last week, a disappointed Doug Tessitor, chairman of the Gold Line Construction Authority, expressed frustration over what he called “a lack of action.”
Tessitor, mayor of Glendora, was one of 250 city mayors across the nation selected to meet with President Barack Obama and Congress leaders to discuss the state of local government. Tessitor arrived in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday to join city leaders in urging Congress to act on a $230 billion federal transportation bill that has languished in committees for years.
“Everyone makes noise about how they want to get things accomplished, but no one wants to do anything,” said Tessitor.
As politicians in the capitol focus on an election year, gathering support for the legislation has been slow.
“The reception [to the Gold Line project] was good,” said Tessitor. “But everyone wants to put a happy face on the request, and yet no one is willing to commit to do anything. It’s not surprising, as this is an election year. The two parties are polar opposites – one side is for something, while the other side will always vote against it.”
Tessitor called the transportation bill critical to the progress of the $1.4 billion Gold Line Foothill Extension Project, which is still $600 million short of funding to carry the project to Montclair.
According to GLCA Director of Public Affairs Lisa Levy Buch, $735 million of Measure R funds are already committed for the Pasadena to Azusa/Glendora segment of the project.
While the Gold Line is not eligible for federal transportation funding, Tessitor said the bill would fund other competing projects and open up other sources of funding for the Gold Line.
The bill would also include language that would reduce requirements for the environmental impact review process for new development to CEQA, the state requirement, thus eliminating NEPA, the federal environmental impact process.
According to Tessitor, this would save the Gold Line extension project 18 months to two years in time, and $18 million to $24 million.
Buch said the GLCA is currently undergoing the final step in the planning process – environmental review and clearance. Once that process is completed later this year, the GLCA will begin actively seeking construction funding for the next phase of the project.
“Therefore, this is the critical time to get in the queue for funding opportunities to complete these next steps,” said Buch.
Despite the “disappointing” outcome of the Mayors’ Conference, Tessitor said the GLCA will continue its search for the rest of the project’s funding, if it is to see completion at its target date of 2017. The quest for funding will entail more lobbying at the state and national level.
“The federal government doesn’t have a half a billion dollars lying around,” said Tessitor. “It’s going to be a battle and we have our work cut out for us to find these funds.”
Limited dollars and politicians’ reluctance to support transportation funding has left current projects competing for scarce funds.
Tessitor criticized the California high-speed rail project, which plans to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco on an 800-mile track.
“We are wasting $100 billion on a high speed rail that ends in the central Valley with no passengers,” argued Tessitor. “And yet, we could use that money to solve Southern California’s transit needs.
“But that’s a dream and I won’t pretend to think our state and federal politicians could think that logically.”