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Two transportation improvement projects lately received a boost from the federal government with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent funding award to the State Route 91 (SR-91) improvement project in Riverside County and the Port of Long Beach’s rail realignment project.
Through the third round of the federal grant program, known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER III, federal officials awarded $510 million for grants across the nation.
A scarcity of funding for transportation, particularly at the federal level, made the TIGER grant program highly competitive this year. Of the 848 applications DOT officials reviewed, only 46 received grants. While counties across the nation have opted to tax themselves to help pay for transportation improvements, local dollars do not always fully cover the cost to pay for major construction projects.
According to the Southern California Association of Governments’ draft Regional Transportation Plan, the transportation funding breakdown in our region looks like this: 11 percent comes from the federal government, 15 percent is state-funded, and 74 percent of the money for Southern California’s transportation projects is raised locally through sales tax measures.
The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) was awarded a $20 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) subsidy payment through the TIGER III grant program for the SR-91 Corridor Improvement Project. The $1.3 billion project, which focuses on reducing congestion on one of the most heavily traveled freeways in Southern California, plays a pivotal role in the region’s goods movement network. The project will extend the 91 Express Lanes from the Orange County border into Riverside County and add a lane in each direction.
“While Southern California is not just waiting on Washington to fund critical transportation projects, the grant award for the 91 freeway is a huge step forward in helping to improve one of the nation’s most congested freeways,” said Will Kempton, Mobility 21 Chair and Orange County Transportation Authority CEO. “Southern California’s construction industry has suffered tremendous unemployment over the past few years. Transportation projects have a positive track record for creating good-paying jobs.”
The Port of Long Beach received a $17 million grant for its Major Rail Realignment at Ocean Boulevard Project. As part of the larger San Pedro Bay Ports Rail Enhancement Program with the Ports of Los Angeles and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, this project will create 340 full-time jobs, enhance both our region’s and nation’s long-term economic competitiveness and increase the safety, environmental sustainability and livability of the region.
“With the highly competitive nature of the TIGER grant program, we appreciate the federal government’s commitment to keeping Southern California moving,” said Anne Mayer, Mobility 21 Treasurer and Riverside County Transportation Commission Executive Director. “Fixing the 91 freeway and relieving chokepoints at the ports will help get goods to market faster, create thousands of much-needed jobs and boost our economy.”