October 21, 2014 |
At a panel discussion featuring numerous elected officials centered on transportation infrastructure needs the Southeast Connector highway project was seen as a keystone in area development. Sponsored by Region Builders, the Friday, October 17 forum held at Sacramento's Sutter Club also featured two keynote speakers who addressed the importance of infrastructure to the regions future.
The Southeast Connector is a proposed expressway that will start in southern Elk Grove at I-5 and head in a northeast direction connecting to U.S. 50 in the Folsom, El Dorado Hills area.
The panel discussion heard from local officials including Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, Folsom City Council Member Jeff Starsky, Rancho Cordova City Council Member David Sander, Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan and El Dorado County Supervisor Ron Mikulako about their views and two keynote speakers who discussed infrastructure projects and general economics.
Speaking first was Will Kempton, Executive Director, Transportation California who portrayed road construction as a quality of life issue. Kempton noted that in the current political environment, however, voters are not inclined to support the additional gas taxes needed to support new road construction.
Kempton said other factors complicating matters are policy changes on climate change, the focus on sustainable development and the lingering effects of the recession.
“The whole issue of climate change has taken over transportation,” Kempton said. “We have a very difficult political environment.”
Noting the funding challenges needed for completion of the Southeast Connector, Kempton said over 50-percent comes from local funding sources, like Sacramento County’s Measure A. He also told the group not to rely on any Federal earmarks to fund the road either.
“If you want this connector built, you’ll have to do it yourself,” he concluded.
Discussing the Sacramento regional economy was Dr. Sanjay Varshney, former Dean, College of Business Administration, Sacramento State. In his presentation, Varshney said the Sacramento regional economy is lagging the state’s overall recovery and the region’s per-capita income is lower than the statewide average.
Varshney said Sacramento’s lagging economy is due to its reliance on government jobs and its preponderance of low-paying service jobs. He also said the regional as a whole needs to dedicate more resources and work cooperatively to attract more than just service related employers to the area.
“How can we sustain an economy just on a service-based economy,” he queried the audience.
Looking into the future, Varshney said that while the area’s population is expected to double in the next 25-years, there is no projected matching growth of non-service related jobs needed to support a viable regional economy.
“Unless we do something creative, or we do something strategic now, it’s not going to happen on its own,” he said. “Every community in this country is competing for the same industry, for the same company, for the same jobs, We’re not that special.”
During the panel discussion of Sacramento County’s Measure A transportation levy and SACOG funding for the Southeast Connectors, Folsom City Council Member Jeff Starsky noted the lack of regional cooperation. Until there is a regional vision for the Southeast Connector, Starsky said local politicians will continue to pursue their local interests.
“We are so goddamned parochial,” he said. “We do not look at the region, we are so worried about the money for our little bike trail.”
Starsky said the local elected officials need to do a better job of promoting the idea to their constituents and to be persistent in seeking state and federal funding for the project.
Rancho Cordova City Council Member David Sander noted even though his city is a strong employment center, the traffic along Highway 50 and Sunrise Boulevard can hamper future development. The Southeast Connector, Sander said, is crucial to maintaining the region’s strongest base of non-retail private sector jobs.
“We have to have roads to get people in the region to their jobs,” Sander said.
Noting Rancho Cordova’s strong job market and the thousands of his city’s residents commuting to jobs there on a daily basis, Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis suggested a short-term solution to commuter traffic and the dearth of jobs vexing Elk Grove residents.
“I’ve said this before, I say I take 25 or 30 thousand Elk Grove residents and ship 25 or 30 thousand Rancho Cordova jobs,” Davis said. “We’ll just switch.”
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