Faces of the Economic Recovery: How Measure M Transportation Projects
Are Putting People Back to Work
After struggling for 5 years, a father is able to support his family again
Gilberto Valencia started working in construction at age 18. From 2004 to 2006, Valencia worked on the Garden Grove Freeway (SR-22) project. The project came to an end in 2006 and Valencia was unemployed for five years. The five years were daunting where he relied on the support from his wife Maria and his extended family to help support his 8-year-old daughter, America.
The lack of employment fell heavy on Valencia's shoulders as he went from job site to job site asking for work. "I could not stop thinking about not having a job," Valencia said. "I was so stressed and thinking about my family I almost had a heart attack."
Now, nearly five years later, Valencia is back to work and providing for his family and paying back his relatives. He says the back-breaking work he performed Aug. 2 in the 100-degree heat on the SR-57 widening project is easy compared to staying at home without a job.
"I want America to go to school and to be able to help a lot of people," Valencia said. "She loves to read and she studies hard."
It's in the family: Fighting for transportation jobs
After being unemployed for two years and struggling to make ends meet after exhausting her savings account, Suzanne Leonard found a job as a grade checker with Atkinson Construction on the West County Connectors project.
Leonard is the daughter of the mayor of Hesperia, Michael Leonard, who also sits on the board of the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) and knows firsthand how important transportation jobs are to people's families and friends.
"It's grown quite a bit in Hesperia, but it needs to grow more. I know it's hard for him to ask for money to fund these types of projects," Leonard said. "But these projects put people back to work and that's what we need because the economy is so bad."
Leonard explained the stress levels of not having a job was the hardest part of being unemployed.
"Being unemployed is a tough struggle. You are stressed out and it is hard to be happy," Leonard said. "Now that I have a job, I am able to put bread on the table and have less stress."
Leonard said she feels that transportation jobs help put everyone back to work by improving roads and freeways to help people travel to and from work as well as helping stimulate the economy while keeping America moving forward for the future.
Engineering his family's stability by saving now
Haitham Hafeez is an engineer with 20 years experience and a husband to wife Samar for 22 years. He has a 17-year-old daughter, Fatima, and 14-year-old, Ibrahim. Fatima hopes to attend UCI or UCLA to study nutrition.
For three years, Hafeez supported his family with his own consulting firm. As the economy went south, he found it more difficult to manage. Hafeez found it impossible to save money for his children's education and drastically cut expenses in order to live. It was clear Hafeez needed to make a change.
In April 2011, Hafeez made that change by finding a job working on the West County Connectors project with PacRim Engineering. The job has brought in the income necessary for Hafeez to provide for his family and save for his children's education. Hafeez stressed the importance of transportation projects not only for job creation but also for the long-term benefits to the community.
"When it comes to transportation projects, it does not only benefit the workers on the job but also the community," Hafeez said. "People rely on these jobs to pay their bills but also to improve traffic flow and improve the quality of life within the community."
Father of 3 batting for his sons' future
Eric Alvarado is a father with three sons, 12-year-old Matthew, 8-year-old Ethan and 6-year-old Chase. His job on the SR-57 project is vital not only to his life but also to his three sons.
"Transportation jobs are important because people like me rely on them to provide for our families," Alvarado said. "My boys play baseball and the money I make goes to help pay for their activities."
Alvarado expressed that every new project is a new opportunity for work. The faster the projects get started, the sooner many of his friends and coworkers can get back to work.
"I have had many friends who lost their homes, lost their cars and it's really tough for them," Alvarado said. "I tell them to hang in there and let them know when I hear of more jobs coming up."