Rep. Harley Rouda is focusing on water supply, railways, dredging and more.
It’s no secret that the nation’s infrastructure is struggling. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade and the state of California a C- in its most recent report card. Scores in the “C” range imply infrastructure “needs attention.”
Significant funding gaps have backlogged modernization projects for everything from bridges to dams to roads, according to ASCE. The funding gaps have taken a toll on the economy, making it harder for people to get to work and for goods to be delivered.
Freshman Rep. Harley Rouda has seen infrastructure as perhaps the only issue Democrats and Republicans can come together on. To that end, the California Democrat introduced several bipartisan bills that aim to upgrade infrastructure in Orange County and across the country.
One measure would open competition among suppliers of construction materials for federally funded infrastructure projects, a move that the Brookings Institution estimates could save $371 billion on infrastructure projects nationally.
As a member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rouda is also actively pushing House Democrats’ recently introduced “Moving Forward” infrastructure plan, which Democrats say would create 10 million jobs, address the climate crisis, and bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century.
“This plan would have a significant impact on Orange County,” Rouda said in a statement. He added the bill would provide funding to reduce highway and rail congestion, dredge waterways and ports, minimize airplane noise and pollution, complete Army Corps projects, and address water contamination.
Rouda has a long list of improvements for Southern California infrastructure. These are some of his areas of focus for 2020:
Early last year, Rouda and his staff toured the Groundwater Replenishment System in Southern California, which provides potable water for up to 850,000 people, to learn about water reuse and water reliability. After the tour, he tweeted his commitment to including access to clean water for Orange County in any bipartisan infrastructure package.
Around the same time, Rouda introduced a standalone bill that would create new financing mechanisms to support local communities’ construction of water and wastewater infrastructure.
The congressman has also been active in legislation addressing PFAS contamination, a group of toxic chemicals found in drinking water that have become an emerging public health concern.
Rouda was also among the leading supporters of the PFAS Action Act, which passed the House in January. The bill would establish an enforceable federal minimum standard about how much PFAS can safely be included in water supplies.
Reducing Highway and Rail Congestion
The Moving Forward infrastructure plan would invest $434 billion over five years to bring road, ferry, tunnel, and bridge infrastructure to a state of good repair. Rouda said it would bring new investments into Orange County and create jobs.
California roads, in particular, are among the worst in the nation. The urban area of Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim has the worst overall congestion in the U.S., according to a 2019 report from Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Poor road conditions increase congestion, vehicle operating costs, and traffic collisions, costing residents $61 billion annually, ASCE estimates.
Airport Noise Pollution
Noise pollution from the John Wayne airport is a major issue in the 48th district. During a town hall in Laguna Beach in summer, 2019, Rouda said his staff is working with FAA to improve the formula it uses to determine sound ordinance violations. He called the current method “inappropriate.”
The Moving Forward plan also addresses airplane noise and pollution. According to Rouda’s office, the proposals would incentivize the development, testing and certification of quieter aircraft, support the creation and use of sustainable aviation fuels, and accelerate research on overflight noise and policies to lessen such noise.
There hasn’t been a major dredging project in Newport Harbor since 2013, and now there is roughly 1 million cubic yards of sediment that needs to be removed. To complete the project, the LA Times reports the federal government must commit $22 million to dig out remaining sediment.
In an October town hall in Newport Beach, Rouda said he’s working with city officials and the Army Corps of Engineers to secure federal funds for the dredging of Newport Harbor.
The Moving Forward Infrastructure Plan would also fund projects to dredge waterways, Rouda said in a statement.