Wednesday, February 24, 2010

California bill would boost transport jobs

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The California Legislature recently passed a bill that could generate more than 6,000 transportation jobs in Orange County. The measure will now go to Governor Schwarzenegger for approval, the Orange County Register reports.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who worked on the measure on behalf of the Orange County Transportation Authority, AB 11 X8 would allow the California Transportation Commission to sign $410 million in deals for local projects that could seek state reimbursement in the future.

A number of OCTA's shovel-ready infrastructure improvements have been halted because of the state's inability to sell bonds, according to a statement from Solorio. Though the agency does have the required amounts to begin construction, it can't move forward until the state also can pay its share. But the new legislation would allow OCTA and other agencies across the state to move ahead with projects and be eligible for reimbursement once the bonds are sold.

"OCTA stands ready to nearly triple the state's investment in infrastructure," says Jerry Amante, the organization's chairman of the board. "We are thrilled to partner with the state to keep projects moving and jumpstart the economy."

Among the local improvements that could serve to benefit from the bill: track expansion and grade crossing improvements for the Metrolink totaling about $183 million. That alone could add 2,754 workers in the county. Other developments include the Fullerton Transportation Center parking structure - a $42-million project that's projected to generate 522 jobs - and the Sand Canyon Avenue grade separation, which totals about $55 million and could create 828 new positions.

The developments stem from Prop. 116, which allotted about $2 billion in bond funding for transportation infrastructure projects across the state. The city of Irvine last year also reallocated $121.3 million of its unused funds to O.C. commuter rail projects, further supporting infrastructure developments in the region.

"This legislation is one creative idea among many that is going to get California back on its feet," says Solorio. "It all comes down to having confidence in the future and being proactive to create jobs."

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