By Margaret Shuttleworth
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — President Joe Biden has signed a $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill into law, bringing billions of dollars to California for public transit projects, wildfire preparation, bridge and road repair, electric vehicle charging networks and more.
Mayor Eric Garcetti attended the bill’s signing on the White House’s South Lawn in Monday, Nov. 15.
“The infrastructure deal means funding for megaprojects like (Metro’s) Sepulveda Transit Corridor, which will revolutionize the way Angelenos get around. With more investment in (Metro’s) bus lanes and the (Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s) NextGen Bus Plan network, we can speed up our transit system and reduce congestion,” Garcetti said on Twitter after the bill’s signing.
Garcetti also said Los Angeles will receive funding for:
— electrifying Metro’s bus fleet by 2030;
— Metrolink projects, including the Link Union Station project;
— ecosystem restoration projects, including the restoration of Los Angeles River habitat;
— Los Angeles International Airport modernization efforts;
— projects to improve the flow of goods at the Port of Los Angeles;
— the expansion of the city’s electric vehicle charging network;
— climate resilience and extreme heat mitigation efforts, including through cool pavements and tree canopies;
— water recycling and reuse projects; and
— the city’s transition by 2035 to 100% renewable energy.
“This once in a generation deal will transform our nation’s infrastructure and LA for the better,” Garcetti said.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Stephanie Wiggins called the bill’s $9.45 billion for California public transportation projects “a game changer,” noting that it’s the “largest federal investment in public transit ever.”
“I think we all agree that it will modernize America’s infrastructure, and in particular, our transit infrastructure,” Wiggins said in a Telephone Town Hall with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, last week.
Wiggins said the bill will impact Los Angeles by doubling the size of the capital investment grant program to $4.6 billion, allowing the transit agency to expand its system to better serve the 10 million LA County residents. Wiggins noted a study that found that a vehicle gives residents access to 17 times more destinations than the transit system.
“So we’ve got to build out a rail network, this infrastructure bill will actually help us do that,” Wiggins said. She added that the bill will also improve the city’s bus network and facilities.
“What does that mean for LA? Well, over 80% of our riders ride the bus. The buses are the backbone of our congestion relief effort,” Wiggins said.
“This infrastructure bill will help LA purchase zero-emission buses, it will help us establish the electrical infrastructure to operate these new vehicles. It also includes federal funding to expand programs that ensure that the air we breathe is clean for our communities.”
Wiggins also praised the bill for authorizing agencies to implement local hiring preference for projects funded by the grant. Federal procurement regulations previously didn’t allow agencies, like Metro, to require bidders to establish local hiring programs. A Local Hire Pilot Program was implemented in 2015 by the US Department of Transportation, but ended in August 2017. The Biden Administration previously moved to restore the program.
“If there’s a transit or highway project that’s being paid for by local taxpayer dollars in South Los Angeles, South Los Angeles residents should be able to be first in line to get the jobs that are being created. If there’s a transit or highway project that’s being paid for by local taxpayer dollars in West Los Angeles, West Los Angeles residents should be able to be first in line to get the jobs that are being created. With the local hire provision signed into law, they can be,” said Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles and has introduced local hire legislation to Congress.
“As our economy recovers from this crushing pandemic, we need to ensure that we are coming back better than before and stronger than before. We’re bringing thousands of well-paying jobs to Los Angeles and putting tax dollars back into the communities that paid for the projects in the first place.”
Port of Los Angeles Deputy Executive Director of Stakeholder Engagement David Libatique also said during Bass’ Telephone Town Hall that the infrastructure bill would be a game changer for the port, with $17 billion reserved for ports in the US.
Amid an historic cargo surge that has created supply chain disruptions and a backlog at the San Pedro Port complex, Libatique said the port would use the funding for water and landside infrastructure to better prepare for surges in the future.
“So we see a terrific opportunity with over $2 billion over five years being dedicated to the port infrastructure development program. Where we see that going here in the LA Trade Corridor, is going to projects that are going to support and alleviate the congestion we see. We have in mind, for example, an 80-acre site on the port property within Terminal Island that will act as a support facility to accept (empty containers).”
The facility would reduce the number of empty containers that are sitting in neighborhoods around the port.
“Long term, we think this infrastructure funding is a huge game changer because it’s going to give us the ability to invest in facilities that will allow our system to flex as we experience cargo surges like the historic cargo surge we’re currently experiencing.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom praised the bill after it passed Congress on Nov. 6 as an “historic infrastructure package (that) stands to accelerate investments in our clean transportation infrastructure, help mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change and accelerate new projects that will create thousands of jobs.”
The state is expected to receive:
— $25.3 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs;
— $4.2 billion for bridge replacement and repairs over five years;
— $9.45 billion over five years to improve public transportation options across the state;
— $384 million over five years to support the expansion of an electric vehicle charging network, with the opportunity to apply for the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to electric vehicle charging;
— at least $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state;
— $84 million over five years to protect against wildfires;
— $40 million to protect against cyberattacks;
— $3.5 billion over five years to improve California’s water infrastructure and ensure clean, safe drinking water; and
— $1.5 billion for infrastructure development for airports over five years.
The bill includes legislation introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-CA, to improve tribal health infrastructure, strengthen electrical grids, improve water resiliency, help ensure clean drinking water and electrify school bus fleets.
“The enactment of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will deliver long overdue, historic investments to rebuild America’s infrastructure and public transit, while creating millions of good-paying, union jobs,” Padilla said. “I’m particularly excited that this legislation includes some of the first bills I introduced as a United States Senator and will improve the lives of Californians by shoring up our limited water resources, electrifying school buses, improving the resilience of our electrical grid, and delivering critical investments for Tribal communities.”