Opinion: Measure J: Moving today for tomorrow

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How much would we like to do, but simply don’t, because of traffic? Commuting questions plague us every day: How long will it take us to get to work; to go to the doctor; to get to school; to attend events for our kids or grandkids?

Over the past 4 years, community leaders have come together around the notion that, in the words of Assembly Member Michael Feuer, “something transformative is taking place in Los Angeles.” Over the past 20 years, Los Angeles, once the freeway capital of the world, has quietly been transformed into the third-largest transit system in the country. And on Election Day, we have a unique opportunity to create new jobs and better mobility with the passage of Measure J.

A brief history lesson: in 2008, a coalition of groups, including Move LA and AJC (American Jewish Committee), united to support Measure R, which passed with more than 67 percent of L.A. County voters. Measure R will raise $40 billion over 30 years and build the subway to Westwood, the Gold Line to Arcadia, an Orange Line extension to Canoga Park, the Green Line to LAX and the South Bay and more.

While Move LA, AJC and many other organizations supported Measure R, 30 years seemed just too far away to appreciate this victory. We all are committed to improving Los Angeles for many future generations to come.   And yet, wouldn’t it be great to ride and enjoy these projects in our lifetime?

Enter Measure J: it would accelerate the construction of seven transit and eight highway improvement projects across LA County, so that construction begins within five years and is completed in 13 years, instead of 27 years as is currently planned. If you were born today, you could ride one of these projects to your Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations. Wouldn’t that be a true transformation!

Measure J does not raise taxes. Instead, it extends a half-cent 30-year sales tax that voters approved in 2008 for another 30 years, from 2039 to 2069. This longer revenue stream would allow LA Metro to finance the accelerated construction now, at a time when the cost of financing and of construction is at an all-time low. Speeding up these projects would also accelerate the creation of 250,000 jobs over the decade, according to the private nonprofit LA County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) — at a time when unemployment in the county is still at a painfully high 11 percent.

The transit projects that would be accelerated — and completed between 2019 and 2025 — include the Green Line Extension to LAX, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, the Westside Subway Extension, Gold Line Eastside Extension, Green Line Extension to the South Bay, the West Santa Ana Transit Corridor to Cerritos, and the Regional Connector, which connects rail lines in downtown Los Angeles to provide one-seat rides between the San Gabriel Valley, Gateway Cities and both the Westside and Eastside.

And yes, you read us correctly – there will be a rail connection to LAX and a (yet undetermined) public transit project through the 1-405 Sepulveda Pass Corridor by 2025.

Measure J also provides another 30 years of funding to cities and unincorporated parts of LA County to use for the transportation projects of their choosing, including fixing potholes, safety improvements, signal synchronization, street and sidewalk repair and local transit service.

In addition to the betterment of Los Angeles, Measure J is a particularly important issue for AJC and the entire Jewish community.  Our dependence on oil from hostile nations has put a stranglehold on our national security. With every dollar that we pump into the coffers of despots in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and especially Iran, the more we become beholden to them. Many of the challenges faced by the United States and Israel in the Middle East are directly linked to oil, and much of it is used in the transportation sector.

Living in a city and a county known for its freeways and cars, our best bet to materially decrease our dependence on foreign oil is to get people out of their cars and on to other forms of transit – carpools, buses, rail, bicycles, and by foot.

Measure R set us on that path. Let’s keep moving down this path together.

Rabbi Mark Diamond is Regional Director of AJC  Los Angeles (www.ajcla.org). Marlene Grossman is Chair of the Board of Move LA (www.movela.org). For more information about Measure J visit the website, http://www.measurej4jobs.org, and facebook page.