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Highlights from VerdeXchange in L.A.: Phil Washington, Earl Blumenauer

Day one of this year's VerdeXchange conference is over. By the time you read this, the second and final day is already underway; Tuesday will feature discussions on the Los Angeles River, sustainable buildings, the sharing economy, new mobility models for cities, and much more! The full program schedule is here. Streetsblog L.A. is a media sponsor; follow @StreetsblogLA on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Below are a couple of highlights from the first day.

VerdeXchange's 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
VerdeXchange's 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro's CEO Phil Washington spoke alongside the CEOs of L.A. World Airports, Deborah Flint, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Jeff Morales. All these leaders spoke the need to build seamless, complementary, balanced transportation systems. Washington decried the "three-decade infrastructure vacation" throughout the United States where the nation has neglected to build and maintain the transportation infrastructure needed for future generations. The Metro CEO emphasized that local jurisdictions and private industry have played their roles, but that the federal government has been weak in dragging its heels to pass its re-authorization bills.

Washington made two important announcements:

    • The second phase of the Metro Expo Line will open in May. A mid-2016 estimate has been expected since Metro took control of the substantially completed rail line ten days ago, but no opening date has been publicized.
    • USDOT approved phase three of Metro's Westside Purple Line Subway for expedited treatment. This should speed up the federal processes to all for an accelerated schedule, potentially extending the subway to UCLA in time for a possible 2024 Olympics.
Congressmember Earl Blumenauer
Congressmember Earl Blumenauer

Streetsblog caught up with Oregon Congressmember Earl Blumenauer. Blumenauer is a leader on livability issues, especially bicycling. At VerdeXchange, he was speaking on a sustainable agriculture panel. Below is a very brief interview.

Streetsblog L.A.: If you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about transportation in the United States, what would you change?

Congressmember Earl Blumenauer: My change would be to transition to the next generation of how we pay for and manage transportation. A road user charge would be sustainable. It would help us tailor the information inputs that people get, send the right price signals and be able to invest in infrastructure at a scale that is sorely lacking.

Oregon is doing that. California has just started a pilot.

Right. And we got language in the new transportation bill that has a couple of pilots nationally.

You're a hero in the cycling community. What are you excited about what's going on with bicycling, either in your state or nationally?

What I am excited is to see this bicycle revolution just beginning to crest. We used to think we were kind of special in Portland, Oregon - leading the curve. But I am excited to see the development taking place from coast to coast. Whether it's college towns, or our nation's capital, New York, there are a number of communities in California. Bike-share [in] fifty communities. This is at a scale that is building momentum in an exciting way. And for me, being able to work with people and communities large and small, to build on this progress and to inspire one another to be able to do a better job of getting our share - of the attention, the resources, and the help - is critical.

You're here today speaking about food policy. Talk a little about your priorities, what you're excited about food-wise.

The same way that the bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation ever designed, being able to get our food policies right is one of the most effective, simple and impactful ways to deal with a whole host of concerns we have in our communities: safe healthy food, greenhouse gases, water quality, water quantity, economic development. I mean you run through the list of things - from animal welfare to people who are hunting and fishing - all caught up in an opportunity to make our food policy work for people who eat. This is a long term priority of mine and we want to get an early start on the next Farm Bill.

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