I was raised in Southeast LA County, in the shadow of the 710 freeway, a community suffocated by rail yards and freeways. It is a region identified by the U.S. federal air quality standards as one of the worst in the nation. Unfortunately, Southeast cities are often left out of critical county decisions that will impact our region’s quality of life for decades to come. This is true when it comes to air quality, community health and transportation funding.
On November 8, voters will be asked to approve the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, otherwise known as Measure M, which would enact a ½ cent sales tax increase that will generate approximately $860 million a year for transportation infrastructure improvements throughout LA County. While Measure M addresses much needed transportation challenges, we must ensure that the needs of the gateway corridor are considered, and that our residents have a seat at the decision making table.
Indeed, the transit network in the county is in poor health and has challenging and complex needs. Our dated roads and freeways weren’t made to withstand our ballooning population which now tops 10.2 million, resulting in congested commutes that average 81 hours a year for Angelenos.
Unfortunately, the planning process headed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has rendered the cities in Southeast Los Angeles County largely irrelevant. For example, proposals in Measure M would delay long overdue rehabilitation projects on the 5, 605 and 710 freeways up to forty years. Alternatively, projects on the Westside and in the Valley would be placed ahead of the queue. This is unacceptable and in order to win Southeast support, county leaders must address this inequity in a meaningful way.
In a show of solidarity, Southeast leaders have successfully fought for our fair share of Measure M funding. Our cities, stretching from Vernon to Long Beach, have been steadfast and unified in our advocacy for the region.
Our collective efforts got the attention of the MTA and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who have expressed goodwill toward working collaboratively moving forward. I take these leaders at their word and will work with members of the community to ensure projects in our region are prioritized should Measure M be approved.
MTA has committed to accelerate development of the Eco-Rapid/West Santa Ana Branch transit line, a 20-mile light rail project that provides our constituents safe, reliable transportation to Union Station in Downtown LA. In a show of good faith, MTA agreed to prioritize state and federal funding that will get southeast transportation projects shovel ready.
The mounting pressure has also pushed MTA to include several Long Beach projects such the rehabilitation of the Shoemaker Bridge, the Wardlow Station, as well as expanding resources to address public safety concerns at certain public transit stations, to be prioritized and receive vital funding from Measure M.
I commend our gateway cities for standing up for our working families and highlighting the discrepancies within current MTA funding formulas that disadvantage our neighborhoods. I encourage the MTA, Mayor Garcetti and our regional leaders to continue to work together on behalf of some of our most vulnerable residents.
With Measure M, we have an opportunity to fix and repair our aging transit infrastructure, which undoubtedly improves the quality of life and public health for the millions of residents living in 27 cities across Southeast Los Angeles County. But we must do so in a fair and inclusive manner so that all LA County residents benefit.
I support Measure M because of this unique opportunity. And like many of my residents, I do so with the understanding that our community will get its fair share. I look forward to working with the MTA, Mayor Garcetti, Southeast leaders and other decision-makers to ensure that this is the case.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) represents California’s 33rd Senate District.Posted - Copyright © 2022 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.