Congresswoman Speier salutes Grand Boulevard


August 7, 2012 - Following are the official remarks made today by Representative Jackie Speier at the 100th anniversary ceremonies for the first paving of El Camino Real:

Thank you for inviting me here today to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the paving of the El Camino Real.

100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson was about to be elected President and Hiram Johnson was California’s reform-minded Governor.  And the El Camino Real was an unpaved road which, if you look carefully at the pictures from that era, was filled with potholes. So, what’s different today?

Well, it’s paved, and as Mr. Sartipi will tell you, there isn’t a single pothole between San Francisco and San Jose – isn’t that right Mr. Sartipi?  Well….almost.

Anyway, there’s something that remains the same: The road plays an essential role in our region’s economy. Think about it. Nearly everyone in our communities travels the El Camino throughout the week. An enormous amount of commerce is done either adjacent to the street- in shopping centers or storefronts. And when babies are going to be born, a lot of the moms and dads travel the El Camino to get to Peninsula Hospital or Kaiser South San Francisco or the San Mateo Medical Center or even Stanford or El Camino.  In short, it isn’t just a lifeline for our community, but it makes the delivery of new life possible.

Befitting its important role in our community, we are here to also celebrate the commitment of 19 cities, businesses and community groups to a renewal. If a community just lets nature take hold and a mishmash of uses and structures and purposes arises, well, that’s not a disaster because a community can survive a mishmash strategy.

But if there is a vision of uses for this street – if there is a vision of a truly grand boulevard such as is being proposed by the partners in this effort – then communities have a chance to not just survive, but to thrive.

From the standpoint of our planet, a good use of this grand boulevard would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allow jobs and housing to become better balanced. Imagine being able to walk up and down the El Camino without putting your life at risk when you want to cross it?

Quite a vision, isn’t it?

Imagine being able to admire the landscaping or to catch a bus that also triggers stop lights to turn green so that you can quickly go from one end of the El Camino Real to the other on a bus. That kind of road is already possible in foreign countries, some of which are only newly modernized. It should be possible on a street that is in the heart of the Silicon Valley.

Imagine that when there’s an emergency on Highway 101, the El Camino Real is hooked up to computers so that traffic can be diverted and so that it would flow as smoothly as possible despite 101 being partially closed. I understand there was gravel on 101 on Friday that closed it down for a long time, and I’ll bet those computerized controls would have been very helpful for thousands of commuters that day.

The Federal government has been a partner in this planning process, providing $1.1 million in TIGER II funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation. There were 33 planning applications funded out of the hundreds of applicants nationally, so this is a special commitment by the U.S. Department of Transportation. I’m proud to have supported funding for TIGER grants in general, and I do so knowing that we have highly competitive proposals from both San Mateo and San Francisco Counties.

And we can use this grant funding to redefine the El Camino because what we have today with the El Camino Real is the equivalent of a really solid 1960 Chevrolet – you know, the best if its time. What Silicon Valley deserves is a Tesla, although by the time that this project reaches fruition I’m sure that even Tesla will be passé.

So, we have a great opportunity ahead of us.  I want to join with you in celebrating 100 years of success at paving the El Camino.  We have the tools to shape a better El Camino Real for everyone in the future, and the first tool in our tool chest doesn’t even cost us a penny to buy or to use – it’s called vision.  IF we use that tool and, yes, combine it over time with a bit of money, this street will truly be a royal road and a Grand Boulevard.