Today, Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23) applauded passage of the Moving Ahead Progress for the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize federal highway and transit programs for two years. Capps helped lead the effort in the House of Representatives to include three bipartisan provisions in the legislation at the request of Central Coast transportation planners. The provisions require a minimum federal funding level be set aside to maintain and repair local bridges; protect the ability of existing, functional transportation agencies, like the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) and the Santa Barbara Association of Governments (SBCAG) to be involved in the transportation planning process; and give State Departments of Transportation, like Caltrans, the authority to disperse funding to improve the condition and effectiveness of local evacuation routes.
I'm pleased the House has passed this bipartisan transportation bill that will invest in our infrastructure, strengthen our economy, and help put Americans back to work," said Congresswoman Capps. "The transportation bill provides our nation with the resources to build a more reliable and safer transportation system. It will also help Central Coast families and commuters who have been calling for greater investments in transportation, and it will allow employers to continue to attract world class talent from around the region and cost-effectively transport goods to market. Hopefully, today's bipartisan progress will mean more bipartisan cooperation on jobs and economic growth."
SLOCOG President and Paso Robles City Councilman, Fred Strong said, "We are very pleased the Conference Committee developed a bipartisan compromise bill that addresses the key concerns raised in our region, including: preserving local-decision-making, funding for off-system bridges, public transit, safe rural roads, bikeways and walkways, and streamlining the overly complex and time-consuming federal administrative process. We are especially thankful to Congress Member Lois Capps, for taking a leadership role in facilitating several bipartisan efforts to amend the legislation to address our concerns."
SBCAG Chair and 4th district Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joni Gray said, "I am very pleased to hear the Federal Transportation Bill passed today with bipartisan support. Congresswoman Lois Capps listened to us when we went back to Washington to urge her support for issues important to our region. Working across the aisle, she successfully led the effort to ensure continued funding for local bridge replacement and small regional planning agencies like SBCAG. With federal funding ensured for the next two years SBCAG will continue to move full speed ahead on critical transportation improvement projects in Santa Barbara County like widening the 101 freeway, constructing the UVP Interchange and adding new passing lanes on Highway 246."
Capps' first provision would preserve support for existing Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), including SLOCOG and SBCAG. MPOs are responsible for carrying out federally required transportation planning activities. In January, Capps and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) wrote to the Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure requesting support for maintaining existing law as it relates to MPOs. More recently, Capps spearheaded a bipartisan letter with several of her California colleagues to the House-Senate leadership drafting the final bill reiterating their support for preserving the ability of local governments to make transportation planning and investment decisions.
Capps added, "SLOCOG and SBCAG provide the most efficient way to help their local governments gather relevant information about existing issues, build on innovative programs already in place at the state and local level, and ensure national policies are implemented in the most effective and efficient manner possible. That's why I worked so hard to make sure the final bill preserved their ability to continue offering a full suite of programs and projects to enhance our local economies."
Capps' second provision, which she championed with Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-49), ensures the reliability of local evacuation routes when prioritizing federal dollars for highway and bridge improvements. States do not currently consider the effectiveness of evacuation routes when disbursing federal. Last year, Capps and Issa sent a letter to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure urging the inclusion of a provision in the legislation.
Capps continued, "Evacuation routes serve as a lifeline for people living along the coast or in the forest during severe storms, flooding and other natural and manmade disasters. This was a common sense provision that will help to ensure the safety of Central Coast residents and families."
Capps' third provision provides minimum funding levels from the federal Highway Bridge Program for bridges not on Federal-aid highways. These bridges, referred to as "off-system" bridges, are often owned and operated by local governments. Earlier this month Capps and Congressmen Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-5) and Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) organized a bipartisan letter to the conference committee urging it to protect off-system bridge funding in the final legislation. Over the last few years, Santa Barbara County has used $10 million in federal funds from the Highway Bridge Program to replace local bridges, including the Fernald Point, Kinevan Road, and Black Road bridges. In Santa Barbara County, there are 110 off-system bridges that are eligible for federal funding under the Highway Bridge Program. Today, the County has over $25 million in replacement bridges planned.
Capps concluded, "This funding is crucial to maintaining local bridges throughout the Central Coast. I'm extremely pleased we'll be able to keep them in a safe and serviceable condition, and is so important to residents and businesses."
The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 373-52, and is expected to be signed into law by the President.