Hundreds converge in O.C. to help get Americans back to work

More than 250 people came together on Aug. 31 in a first-of-its kind summit to discuss factors that create jobs and offer solutions to expediting transportation projects for America’s future, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

The Jobs Now Summit brought together transportation officials, business leaders, economists, labor representatives and workers throughout the nation. The event provided an opportunity for open dialogue to highlight the importance of infrastructure investment as a way to create desperately needed jobs in an industry still reeling from the recession.

“In a struggling economy, transportation projects are vital to improving our infrastructure while putting thousands of people to work,” said OCTA Chair Patricia Bates, also the Fifth District supervisor. “This jobs summit is a significant step in discovering new ways to create jobs throughout the nation.”

Bates was joined at the summit by numerous public officials, including Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, Congressman Gary Miller, OCTA Vice Chair and Laguna Niguel City Councilmember Paul Glaab, OCTA Director and Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante and OCTA Director and Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche.

Currently, unemployment in Orange County is at 9.3 percent, up from 8.5 percent in May 2011 and participants at the forum provided solutions to how we can lower the unemployment rate in the county and across the nation.

“There are millions of men and women in the U.S. eager to get back to work and public works projects are key to creating new jobs,” said Miller in a written statement from OCTA. “This is why I proposed the Breaking Down Barriers Act of 2011. This bill will speed up project delivery – and the sooner we can move projects into construction, the sooner we can get our citizens back to work.”

Congressman Miller’s bill is based on OCTA’s Breaking Down Barriers initiative, which was launched two years ago to bring together local and national leaders in the transportation industry to identify opportunities for advancing transportation projects.

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The national initiative identified more than two dozens changes to existing federal law that will streamline the project delivery process without sacrificing the environment, and expedite the creation of more than 800,000 jobs in the U.S.

“This country is experiencing one of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression and those seeking work outnumber available jobs by more than four to one,” said Dunn. “Elected officials at the local, state and federal levels have the tools and power to help business invest, create jobs, and bring our economy out of this recession.”

In Orange County, the Measure M2 half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements is advancing more than $200 million in projects into construction in the next 12 months, which is estimated to create 4,600 jobs. These projects include the following:

  • Orange Freeway (SR-57) northbound widening project from Katella Avenue to Lincoln Avenue
  • Placentia and Kramer grade separation projects
  • Signal synchronization
  • Metrolink track improvements

“In these tough economic times, it has never been more important to turn our attention to infrastructure projects to help get our country back to work and keep us moving forward to a better tomorrow,” said OCTA CEO Will Kempton. “Thanks to our voters in Orange County, we are helping reverse the unemployment numbers in the county by investing millions of dollars in transportation improvements.”

During the summitt, construction workers gave testimonials of their personal challenges trying to find a job in today’s economy and how America’s investment in transportation has personally given them work.

Suzzane Leonard, a construction worker on the West County Connectors project, spoke about being unemployed for two years before finding a job as a grade checker with Atkinson Construction.

“Being unemployed is a tough struggle,” said Leonard. “I’ve been working temporary jobs here and there just to get by. I’ve been turned down day in and day out simply because there aren’t enough jobs to go around. But thanks to the West County Connectors project I found a job that I really enjoy and a job that I can see myself growing and learning more from every day so I can work on other jobs after this one is completed.”

To view of video of the Aug. 31 event, visit