Rep. Buck McKeon Urges House Leaders to Include Interstate 5 Gateway in Federal Funding Priorities
U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon is going to bat for the Interstate 5 Gateway Improvement Project, actively seeking federal funding to add much-needed capacity to I-5 in northern Los Angeles County.
McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, testified April 28 to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in favor of federal funds to help add truck climbing and carpool lanes from just north of the I-5/State Route 14 interchange to Castaic.
“Regionally, the I-5 is one of the most significant transportation corridors and goods movement arteries in California and the country,” McKeon said, adding that I-5 is an important international trade artery connecting West Coast industry with Canada and Mexico and is vital for efficient goods movement from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to destinations in California, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
“The I-5 is also susceptible to complete gridlock, costing billions of dollars for tragic events such as the large truck fire in 2007 and the Northridge earthquake of 1994,” McKeon said. “The Santa Clarita-Los Angeles Gateway Improvement Project will help relieve congestion along one of the most heavily traveled portions of the I-5, which currently experiences 48,000 daily hours of delay, costing motorists $204 million annually.”
McKeon’s testimony was part of the first step in a process to reauthorize the five-year surface transportation bill. Most funding through the bill is distributed via formula from the federal Highway Trust Fund, but some regional priorities — like the I-5 Gateway Improvement Project — may also be included.
Members and supporters of the Golden State Gateway Coalition viewed McKeon’s efforts as a significant and positive sign.
“We’re very pleased that the congressman is not only supporting the proposed I-5 Gateway improvements, but is also taking an active role in advocating on the project’s behalf,” said Victor Lindenheim, executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition. “I know that, as a Santa Clarita Valley resident, Congressman McKeon has firsthand knowledge of not only how important I-5 is to interstate commerce, but also just how busy this vital freeway corridor is.”
Lindenheim added: “Congressman McKeon’s support and advocacy mean a great deal, and we of course hope he is successful in his efforts to obtain federal funds for these crucial improvements to one of the nation’s most important freeways.”
In conjunction with McKeon’s testimony, the congressman’s office released a prepared statement that included not only his comments about the importance of the project, but also statements from Lindenheim and other local leaders, including Mayor Frank Ferry, local businessman Larry Rasmussen, and Marlee Lauffer, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Newhall Land, which is a member of the Gateway Coalition.
“Over the next 20 years, traffic is expected to double on Interstate 5 and expansion of this critical arterial is vital to our commerce here in California and in the United States,” said Ferry, a member of the Gateway Coalition’s leadership council. “Interstate 5 is the heartbeat and lifeblood to commerce in the U.S. and without expansion of this vital interstate, we will greatly impact the delivery of goods, services and the movement of our people.”
Rasmussen’s comments were indicative of the passion felt not just by pro-business advocates, but also by anyone who has been stuck in traffic on the I-5:
“Currently I-5 at the SR14/SR210 ‘funnel’ is stopped more than 70 percent of the time,” Rasmussen said. “When the I-5 stops, the economy on the West Coast stops. We cannot allow this to continue!”
And, Lauffer noted that the Gateway Improvement Project will pay major dividends for more than 73 million drivers who use the Gateway section of I-5 each year. “The return on investment for this project is dramatic and the public and private support for the improvements significant,” she said.