Collaboration key in securing funds for essential transportation projects
Far behind the scenes of the heavy equipment, concrete and orange cones of every project to build and restore the country’s massive infrastructure is a much quieter, but significantly powerful and persuasive effort to promote the funding needed to make those improvements possible.
On several stages backed by strong, willing, collaborative partners, the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) constantly advocates for projects that are vital for safe, efficient people and goods movement, economic vitality, and cleaner air for all.
"Our advocacy efforts are tied to improving the quality of life for everyone in Northern California,” San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and SJCOG Chair Robert Rickman said. “Face-to-face meetings with state and federal lawmakers and other decision-makers, greatly improves our chances of receiving the funding needed to complete projects that improve safety, ease traffic congestion, provide transportation options for residents, and improve air quality in the region.”
SJCOG’s San Joaquin One Voice®, the San Joaquin Valley Policy Council’s Valley Voice and the Megaregion Working Group are the agency’s three main vehicles for promoting improvements throughout Northern California and throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Each of the efforts are focused, coordinated and collaborative.
“Close, meaningful partnerships are vital in creating solutions to our shared challenges. In the process of finding that common ground, we embrace the idea that we are stronger together,” SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen said. “Those collaborative partnerships are truly powerful when we go together to Sacramento or Washington, D.C., to present a united front on the projects, programs and issues that are most important to the people who live, work and travel here. And those projects – such as the State Route 99/120 Connector, an Altamont Corridor Express station in Ripon, Grant Line Corridor improvements, or rail bridge replacement at the Port of Stockton – are just some of the solutions for those challenges.”
Each of the advocacy efforts involves elected officials from the policy boards of various regional planning agencies, executive staff and other stakeholders traveling to give visibility of the projects to state and federal lawmakers and agency personnel. There are:
- San Joaquin One Voice® is SJCOG’s advocacy program that promotes to federal lawmakers and agencies the projects, programs and issues that are significant to the region. The One Voice® delegation, which just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., advocates for new or increased funding and legislation supporting those projects, programs and issues. The most recent One Voice® trips have followed the legislative themes of social equity and accessibility; transportation sustainability and resiliency; innovation and mobility; and economic growth. The post successful year in One Voice® history was 2022 when a total of $9 million in federal funding was set aside for three One Voice® projects — $5 million for SJCOG’s State Route 99/120 Interchange Project; $2.5 million for San Joaquin County’s Grant Line Road Corridor Improvement Project; and $1.5 for the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) and its partners in creating The Rail Academy of Central California (TRACC). The projects will enhance safety, ease congestion, improve air quality, foster goods movement, support economic development, and improve the quality of life for San Joaquin County residents.
- Valley Voice is the advocacy effort of a coalition of elected officials and executive directors of regional planning agencies from throughout the San Joaquin Valley who travel each year to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to present issues of regional significance to federal and state legislators. Coordination is led by the San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council, which is made up of elected officials representing the policy board of SJCOG, Fresno Council of Governments, Kern Council of Governments, Kings County Association of Governments, Madera County Transportation Commission, Merced County Association of Governments, Stanislaus Council of Governments, and Tulare County Association of Governments.
- The Megaregion Working Group is comprised of elected officials from each of the policy boards of SJCOG, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The group represents nearly 11 million people living in 16 counties stretching from the San Francisco Bay Area, into the Central Valley and into the Sierra Nevada foothills. Members of the group work to promote the Megaregion Dozen Projects, four projects from each of the regions that together improve people and goods movement, traffic safety, passenger rail and other projects that benefit people throughout Northern California.