Congressman Steve Knight, R-Santa Clarita, hosted the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, along with several city and state officials Monday to formally announce a $47 million grant to fund a major improvement project for the I-5 freeway.
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The project, titled the Interstate 5 Golden State Chokepoint Relief Program, uses funds from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.
“This $47 million INFRA grant will help increase much-needed capacity to reduce the congestion on the 5 Freeway,” Chao said.
The project is set to improve the I-5 by adding lanes and increasing freight flow along a congested corridor. Over 13 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes and nearly three miles of new truck lanes are scheduled to be added, as well as improvements to several bridges.
“This addition of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes will make a positive impact in the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste, who was one of the several city officials in attendance. “Implementation of the I-5 Golden State Chokepoint Relief Program will tremendously help to reduce our freeway congestion, improve our traffic safety and enhance our air quality.”
The I-5 freeway is the only interstate highway that runs vertically across the entirety of the country, stretching from Mexico all the way up to Canada, according to officials.
“I’ve been a commuter on these freeways here since 1990, and it is tough,” Knight said. “This is a chokepoint, and the goods that get off the ships and come from San Pedro and L.A. and want to come north have to get through here.”
While the $47 million federal grant helps increase the project’s budget, the majority of funds are set to come from private and state funding, according to officials.
“Most of the project’s costs will be covered by non-federal funding,” Chao said. “This is a tremendous achievement by all parties concerned. In fact, over 86 percent of the project cost will come from private funding, local revenues and state transportation funding measures.”
Chao described the federal grant as a “seal of good housekeeping,” demonstrating that the federal government believes the project is a worthy endeavor.
“This is an important step forward in our effort to improve our transportation infrastructure – a key component in regional commerce and international trade,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, an MTA Board member who worked with Rep. Knight to advocate for the project. “In the short term, it will bolster the local economy, creating new transportation jobs and opportunities — and when completed, it will help alleviate the traffic congestion that creates pollution and negatively impacts traffic safety and convenience.”
However, some officials are concerned about the future of the project. Much of the state funding from the project would come from revenue gained by Senate Bill 1, better known as the California Gas Tax. This bill is at risk, as Proposition 6 would repeal the tax if it is passed in November.
State Senator Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, was present at Monday’s event, and expressed his concerns regarding efforts that he claims the Republican party is making in order to repeal SB 1.
“While I really appreciate Secretary Chao and Congressman Knight being here today to cut the ribbon, there is not a ribbon to cut yet,” said Stern. “We’ll only have reason to celebrate if we can beat back the campaign by Steve Knight and his allies to strip the remaining 85 percent of this project’s funding.”
Stern’s concern is that if Proposition 6 is passed, then the state would have to take the approximately $247 million that would be needed to fund the rest of the project from places such as education.
“The money has to come from somewhere,” Stern said. “No one likes to pay for it, but that’s the hard part about infrastructure. If Prop 6 passes, then the funding source goes away, and then we’ve got to go scramble for the dollars some other way.”
Knight expressed that California had to make infrastructure a priority.
“I think the state government is trying to maybe push off their priorities by passing a gas tax and not saying that this is a priority,” Knight said, referring to the infrastructure program. “Infrastructure should be a high priority.”
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At least this project beats (flush it down) Brown’s train to nowhere which is costing Billions being flushed down the toilet.
Ummmm, Brown’s train is going to San Francisco. It’s going to be fast, efficient and in years to come will be a blessing.
Your characterization of Interstate 5 as the only “vertical” border to border interstate highway is easily disproven. I-35 goes from Laredo to Lake Superior. I-95 from Miami to Newfoundland.
California is Texas with mountains. Same idiotic pointless bragging.
As if 47MN will cure all the valleys traffic ills. It looks far like political grandstanding.