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Put transportation atop tri-county priority list

By   /   Wednesday, November 26th, 2008  /   Comments Off on Put transportation atop tri-county priority list

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Government leaders across the Tri-Counties should be prepared to take President-elect Barack Obama up on his offer to spend federal dollars to fast track transportation improvements.

From the eastern edge of Ventura County to Paso Robles, the Highway 101 corridor is in serious need of upgrades. Chief among these is the stretch between Santa Barbara and the Ventura County line, now headed for fast track status thanks to the passage of Measure A’s sales tax extension.

But the Santa Maria Valley will benefit from a widening of Highway 101 that’s already under way as well as other road improvements that might ease truck traffic through the city center.

Likewise, Oxnard is in position to benefit from improvements to the Rice Avenue corridor that will take trucks out of the main thoroughfare through downtown.

When it comes to mass transit, there are other improvements that are worthy of consideration. Rail traffic in the Ventura-Santa Barbara-Santa Maria corridor needs a major upgrade so workers can much more effectively commute to their jobs in the region.

Ditto the connections between East Ventura County and the San Fernando Valley, where a deadly Metrolink crash exposed the lack of advanced signal technology that could have prevented a collision that was clearly due to human error.

The stakes are a bit larger and longer-term for Ventura County, where the Ventura County Transportation Commission has been weighing the odds of putting a Measure A-like sales tax on the ballot. Regional leaders should not be intimidated by the long odds of success or the long lead time it would take to put such a measure on the ballot and get it passed by the required super-majority vote.

The nation’s economy won’t be cured by a one-shot infrastructure bill — or by any single piece of action by the government. This is going to be a long and difficult recovery, but hopefully the Highway 101 corridor that emerges during the next decades or so will be truly built to last.

Worthy causes need your help

We stopped in on Montecito Bank & Trust’s annual Community Dividends luncheon where 140 worthy organizations in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties shared $1 million in donations.

As Chairman Michael Towbes reminded his audience, it is particularly important for wealthy donors and corporations to step up at a time when the stock market is down, profits are harder to come by and tragedies such as the Tea Fire must be addressed.

One fire victim was KCLU, the National Public Radio Station that serves much of Santa Barbara County and all of Ventura County. The station’s FM tower and switching equipment were literally melted to nothing during the fire and an ad hoc fundraising effort is under way to replace them.

Whether it is KCLU or some other worthy cause, we suggest that you not cut back on your holiday giving this year. Whether it is FOOD Share in Ventura, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County or one of the many programs of the Children’s Health Initiative in San Luis Obispo County, nonprofits need your help.

If you are looking at the balance in your checkbook, your personal portfolio or your family foundation, you probably are a bit shocked at how much its value has dropped. But that’s no reason to completely shut the door on philanthropy.

It may just be that this year, more than ever, even a small gift will make a big difference.

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