Connect SoCal helps assure IE’s opportunities are well within our reach

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Guest Op-Ed by Bill Jahn, City Councilmember from Big Bear Lake and President of the Southern California Association of Governments.

As one of the fastest-growing population and economic centers in the United States, the Inland Empire is dependent on an efficient and effective transportation network.

With it, the opportunity for sustainable prosperity and an even better quality of life for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren is well within our reach.

Without it, congestion will worsen, the health and well-being of our communities will suffer, and our efforts to attract more businesses – and high-quality jobs – will fall short.

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Enter Connect SoCal, the 2020-2045 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy released in draft form by the Southern California Association of Governments. SCAG, the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization serving six counties, 191 cities and nearly 19 million people, has spent the past four years analyzing data and working with local communities to develop a regional strategy to improve mobility, meet air-quality goals, create economic opportunities and enhance quality of life.

Connect SoCal provides a long-term vision for transportation investments throughout the six-county SCAG region – one of the most robust growth corridors in the United States. The plan identifies $638.6 billion in transportation improvements for the six counties over the 25-year period. For the IE, the plan includes more than 2,000 projects totaling $87.4 billion, among them the development of an east-west multimodal transportation corridor from Hemet to Corona/Lake Elsinore ($2.4 billion), the Mid-County Parkway between Interstate 215 and State Route 79 ($1.7 billion), and ExpressLanes along Interstate 10 from Redlands to the Los Angeles County line ($1.2 billion).

Making sure these kinds of projects are funded and built is critical to the future of our two counties and Southern California as a whole, connecting communities, creating new business opportunities and ensuring we can handle the growth that will continue to come our way.

Connect SoCal projects that the Inland Empire will see its population grow by more than a third over the next quarter century, from about 4.5 million now to more than 6 million by 2045 – far and away the fastest rate of expansion in the six-county region. During that year, the IE also is expected to expand its role as an international trade gateway, requiring an investment in infrastructure that facilitates the movement of both people and goods.

The return on investment would be significant – reducing commuter delays, improving health outcomes and generating, for the IE alone, about 94,000 jobs – directly and indirectly – each year. Across Southern California, the 25-year plan would net a 22.8% reduction in daily miles driven per capita, more than 360,000 jobs created per year and a return of $1.54 for every $1 spent on transportation improvements.

More than the dollars and cents, however, is a recognition that the mobility challenges ahead of us are formidable and will require an integrated web of creative solutions. Connect SoCal sets out to do just that. We encourage you to become part of the process, by visiting www.connectsocal.org and weighing in on this important plan for our future. With a final version of the plan expected to be presented to SCAG’s Regional Council for approval in early 2020, it’s important that you make your voice heard.

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