Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced on Friday that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has given it’s first grants from the recently passed $1 Trillion infrastructure bill to California, with $58 million going to transportation projects in Northern California and to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
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The California High-Speed Rail Authority was the biggest recipient of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, receiving $24 million to expand state route 46 in the Kern County city of Wasco to be a staging and storing area. Another $18 will go to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) for an earthquake retrofit of the Yerba Buena Island west side bridge, as well as greater access to the bridge for cyclists.
Oakland will receive $14.5 million to enhance their civic hub by improving walking, cycling, and public transportation projects, with a special focus on connecting Oakland with San Francisco via rail lines such as BART and Amtrak. Finally, the Yolo County Transportation District (YCTD) will get $1.2 million to fill in gaps of their current transportation system, as well as to improve bike and walking networks.
Both Senators noted on Friday the importance of these early infrastructure funding blocks.
“My thanks to Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg and the Transportation Department for these grants that will help California continue to modernize our transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Feinstein. “These projects include providing safer, more connected bikeways and walkways in San Francisco; assisting the City of Wasco with creating safer railway infrastructure; and connecting biking and walking paths in Oakland and Yolo County. Promoting cleaner, safer modes of transportation is a key part of improving California’s infrastructure.”
An initial $58 million in infrastructure funds
Senator Padilla, who has served less than a year as Senator, also noted that “From day one, I have worked to ensure that we use our infrastructure investments to help reconnect our communities, and I am proud to see federal efforts to do just that. From San Francisco to Wasco, this critical funding will help make our roads and bridges safer, help decongest our highways, and allow for more Californians to access our outdoor trails. As we continue to make significant investments in our state and nation’s aging infrastructure, I will continue to advocate for funding that serves our most in-need communities.”
However, many critics and experts criticized the funding on Friday for favoring bike projects over safety and repair projects.
“Whether you wanted the bill to pass or not, the point is we have it now,” San Diego-based urban planner and transportation planner Michael McGuiness Jr. told the Globe Friday. “But that was really supposed to repair and maintain current infrastructure, or build new pieces as needed. Instead, California gave a hint at where its money would be going today by putting most of it into mass transit and cycling. There was a needed bridge project in San Francisco, but that’s really about it. The largest chunk even went into the high-speed rail project, which is billions over budget and years behind schedule. So a lot is going into a future white elephant.”
“Plus, they largely ignored huge swats of the state, including all of California south of Bakersfield and north of the Bay. At first glance, these grants don’t look like they’re fairly going out.”
More grants and funding coming into California for infrastructure projects are expected to be announced soon.
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