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    Fed'l Trans. Bill Includes Desmond Bridge, Alameda Corridor East As Projects of "Nat'l & Regional Significance" With Funding At Levels Lower Than Sought; House Passes It This Morning, Senate Passage Expected

    (July 29, 2005, updated) -- With details released only hours before final House and Senate votes, an omnibus federal Transportation bill -- the focus of intense Port of LB, Mayoral and LB City Hall lobbying for over two years -- designates an upgraded Gerald Desmond bridge (permitting 10,000 TEU ships) and the Alameda Corridor East as projects of "national and regional significance"...but with funding at levels lower than local official requested.

    The Port, Mayor and LB City Hall had requested $745 million for the Port-desired Gerald Desmond bridge project; $100 million was included in the final House-Senate conference report.

    Updated text: Tom Modica, Government Affairs Manager for the City of LB, points out that roughly half of the $745 million requested was for I-710 improvements. [end update]

    The Alameda Corridor East governing body sought $900 million; $125 million was in the final bill.

    Other "mega projects" in other parts of the country were also funded at levels lower than requested.

    The Gerald Desmond bridge upgrade, coupled with future enlargement of the 710 freeway and an Alameda Corridor East, would effectively expand the Port's overall goods movement capacity.

    The Transportation bill includes "mega projects" of national and regional significance as a result of language originally introduced as a standalone bill in fall 2002 by Cong. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., LB-Carson). The legislation was strongly supported by Port officialdom...and Mayor Beverly O'Neill travelled to Washington in fall 2002 to hail its introduction in her capacity with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

    However the legislation drew opposition as pollution-inviting pork from members of the public who attended a January 2004 Town Meeting held in LB by the Congresswoman in LB, the verbiage advanced and was eventually included in the House version of the Transportation bill.

    This morning, just prior to House passage of the "Transportation Equity Act" by a margin of 412-8, Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, a member of the House-Senate conference committee, took to the House floor and said:

    The bill is long overdue...I want to focus on the new beginnings that passage of this bill will provide for my constituents and the many businesses across this country. The bill is not everything we wanted but it is a start.

    It will provide mobility for millions of people, create jobs, reduce congestion and improve the movement of our nation's goods. It will benefit the country and it will certainly benefit my home state of California.

    I want to thank the leadership for including my language of the projects of national and regional significance in the final version of this bill. The focus of the projects of national and regional significance during the conference committee has been on the funding for critical high cost transportation facilities. And as we now know, it is an imperative for the future.

    However including the definition of this new program and listing the criteria for what constitutes a project of national and regional significance in this bill is just as important. The new program will provide the framework for the ongoing funding of large projects that contribute to the economic vitality of our national and regional economies. This program is about the future of our transportation infrastructure and the growth of our national economy...

    The federal Transportation bill has been the focus of intense Port and City Hall lobbying for over two years. During much of the period, the City Council has voted to pay thousands of dollars more each month to a City Hall-retained DC lobbying firm for services in connection with the Transportation bill. Simultaneously, the Port of LB has paid the same firm (under a separate contract) to advocate the Port of LB's legislative interests in Washington.

    At the June 2005 U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Chicago, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill co-authored a resolution urging Congress to fund the "mega projects."

    Cong. Millender-McDonald was named a member of the House-Senate conference committee on the Transportation bill..and the "projects of national and regional significance" verbiage was made part of the final House-Senate conference committee version of the bill.

    However until last night (July 28), the actual projects and their funding levels weren't publicly released.

    The bill now proceeds to the Senate where passage is expected, followed by the President's signature.

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