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Op-Ed: Collaboration is key to transportation projects

Since the publishing of my last article, I have had the great fortune of meeting more of my talented colleagues in the Assembly, more of the passionate organizations who fight daily for the causes they believe in, and more of you — the dedicated, caring and well-informed individuals who make up our district. I want to personally thank those of you who responded to my last op-ed with your comments and suggestions.

This is very exciting time to serve in the Assembly. We have a current stock of representatives ready to work together in Sacramento with energized and mobilized communities at home.

I am confident that together we can tackle the challenges we face as we look to a better future ahead.

One of those challenges I want to focus on today is transportation. Already there have been several proposals towards transportation infrastructure spending in both the Senate and Assembly this session. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed in his latest budget an additional $4.3 billion a year toward road repairs, road construction and additional public transportation options.

While this may seem like a lot, last year Gov. Brown called a Special Session of the Legislature to focus on what is estimated to be a $130-billion backlog our state has in road maintenance and repairs. To try to cover this, last September, a $7.4-billion-a-year funding increase was proposed, but it failed to get any traction.

Clearly numbers this size indicate a formidable challenge. Failing to properly maintain our infrastructure poses dire problems for the economy, way of life and safety of our communities.

There is no alternative to fixing our roads. The structures themselves will not hold off on decay while we argue about when and to what extent we fix them.

Our relationship with transportation is evolving rapidly. So should our solutions. Our focus should be on what we can do to move us toward having a more sustainable transportation system as a whole. The problem of mobility goes far beyond the piece-by-piece approach that is too often taken. It goes beyond adding just freeway lanes but looking at what we can add to improve the whole system.

Then there is the way we go about accomplishing these projects; increasing our funding means that we will all be living with ongoing projects throughout our community. Our state agencies could work better to improve how they handle projects to ensure they are done in the least harmful and disruptive manner to the community during construction.

Like many other communities, the 43rd Assembly District has seen this firsthand. Right now, we're living with severe traffic jams, confusion and safety hazards caused by prolonged road work on the 210 Freeway in the La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Tujunga and Montrose area. While I value the work Caltrans does for our state, the way street and lane closures were executed has presented a major disruption to businesses and lifestyles of residents and also created very dangerous driving conditions. Many of these issues are the result of there being not enough dialogue between the agency and the community. Community involvement is crucial for the success of any major project.

Transportation is an incredibly complex issue. It requires us to take a look at a wide range of factors — to see both the big picture and the small. In order to make progress we will have to work together. Your representatives, your neighbors, your businesses, local governments and state agencies must be in a constant discussion about the amount of resources we devote, the way we distribute those resources and the ways that the whole process will impact our lives.

I would love to hear from you about your solutions to help meet our transportation needs or your opinion on those needs themselves.

You can share your ideas, thoughts or concerns at https://a43.asmdc.org.

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LAURA FRIEDMAN represents La Cañada Flintridge and neighboring communities in the state Assembly.

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