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Capps Visits Santa Barbara to Speak Out Against Federal Transportation Reauthorization Bill

Congresswoman and local leaders say the legislation would cut funding and jobs, including 61,000 in California, and affect the Highway 101 widening project

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said during a news conference in Santa Barbara on Wednesday that the proposed federal transportation reauthorization bill would eliminate construction jobs, ignore transportation needs and deter economic recovery.

The six-year, $230 billion proposal, headed by House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica, would cut annual funding by $76 billion, and would replace the current program that expired in September 2009 and has been extended seven times.

“They are leading us, in my opinion, in the wrong direction,” Capps said at the news conference outside the Highway 101 construction site on Milpas Street. “Now we see legislation before us that cuts spending by one-third and more than $1 billion from highway infrastructure funding that would create a loss of 61,000 jobs in California alone.”

Santa Barbara voters directed $140 million of local tax dollars toward the widening of Highway 101 through Measure A. Phase one, including the widening from Cabrillo Boulevard to Milpas Street, will be wrapped up early next year, according to Jim Kemp, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.

He said the next phase of the widening that would extend through Carpinteria is slated to start next spring, but not without the federal government’s help.

Rep. Lois Capps, left, listens as Eva Inbar of the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation speaks out against the legislation.
Rep. Lois Capps, left, listens as Eva Inbar of the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation speaks out against the legislation. (Valorie Smith / Noozhawk photo)

“The reduced funding levels would delay the widening project by many years and drive up the cost as well,” Kemp said.

The bill also would consolidate 100 transportation-related programs into 30 and eliminate pedestrian and bicycling improvements.

“The legislation kills dedicated funding for safer walking and bicycling at the very time we’re trying to encourage more people to get out of cars and consider alternative transportation,” Capps said.

According to Mica, the proposal would maximize available infrastructure funding through better leveraging, streamlining the project approval process, attracting private sector investment and cutting the federal bureaucracy.

“While some continue to advocate the same old tax-and-spend approach, I prefer a new direction,” Mica said.

Capps disagreed.

“This is not the time to be cutting cost and economy-boosting investments,” she said.

Congress is expected to vote on the bill before the most recent extension expires Sept. 30.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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