U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao came to the Santa Clarita Valley on Monday to formalize the presentation of a $47 million grant to Metro to build truck lanes and extend high-occupancy vehicle, or carpool, lanes running through the SCV.
Chao was joined by Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste to talk about the I-5 Golden State Chokepoint Relief Program the grant is planned for.
With the goal of reducing congestion along the I-5, the program would yield a new southbound 4.7-mile truck lane between Pico Canyon and State Route 14, while a 3.4-mile northbound truck lane would run between Highway 14 and Calgrove Boulevard. The funds also would extend HOV lanes 13.4 miles from the Highway 14 and Interstate 5 interchange in Santa Clarita to Parker Road in Castaic.
“I-5 is the backbone of the West Coast trade corridor,” Weste said. “On average, 205,000 vehicles travel through this chokepoint every day.”
The $47 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant was awarded through the efforts of Knight and Barger, Chao said.
“You’re going to get a lot of money to fix the problem behind us,” she said at the event held at the Taylor Trailhead at Rivendale Park and Open Space, gesturing behind her at the I-5 stretch.
Chao said Knight’s efforts to communicate with the Department of Transportation contributed to the grant award, one of two transportation grants awarded statewide.
Metro is contributing over $250 million in local sales tax dollars for the project, according to Barger’s office. Metro’s funding will also be matched with more than $200 million in Senate Bill 1 gas tax funds approved by California legislators in 2017.
State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, was also in attendance, along with Santa Clarita City Councilman Bill Miranda, Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean, and former L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
Stern said while he approved of relieving congestion along the I-5, he thought efforts of Republican state legislators to repeal the gas tax through Proposition 6 were hypocritical in light of the infrastructure needing more state funding.
The current 12-cent-per-gallon tax through Senate Bill 1 was a major part of state funding, Stern said, and state funding supplemented federal funding. He thought the a sixth of the funds the federal grant contributed would be miniscule in helping the relief program, if the remaining $247 million allocated through state funds went away with Proposition 6’s passing.
“We are paying the lion’s share here,” he said. “I struggle with seeing the logic of state Republicans killing off state transportation funding, because then we won’t be able to finish this project if we jeopardize Senate Bill 1.”
Knight said it was up to the state to prioritize infrastructure funding without raising taxes for Californians.
“When we’re talking about infrastructure, we’re talking about priorities for the state government” he said. “If Proposition 6 repeals the gas tax, the state government will have to prioritize infrastructure. People are upset at Sacramento, with two-thirds majority Democrats, who passed the gas tax and increased their taxes. (Taxes) are a huge issue for regular people raising their kids.”