The Bay Area will receive about $250 million per year for road and bridge repairs from the bipartisan infrastructure package federal legislators are currently considering, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission executive said Thursday.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes roughly $330 billion in new transportation spending that will be dispersed across the country, about $1.3 billion of which is expected to go to California.
About half of the new spending is earmarked for “bread and butter” surface transportation needs, MTC associate manager for government affairs Georgia Gann Dohrmann said during a virtual discussion on the bill hosted by the Bay Area Council.
“That’s the type of money that we use in California to fill potholes, to replace buses, some of the things that aren’t super sexy but are also really critical if we’re going to be able to have any type of mobility and goods-movement stuff in place,” she said.
The state currently collects roughly $5 billion per year for infrastructure improvements from gas taxes, which were increased by 2017’s Senate Bill 1.
Dohrmann argued that while California will receive less new federal spending annually than it collects via SB 1, the more road maintenance funding the federal government supplies will make it easier for the state to take on new projects rather than just keeping up with the demand for repairs.
From mass transit to climate change
In the Bay Area, much of the funding from the bill — which the U.S. Senate approved 69-30 earlier this month and is now being considered by the House of Representatives — will go toward replacing dilapidated buses and rail cars.
“There’s also going to be some more resources that MTC receives and flexible highway money that we’d be able to use to really do the things we’ve done for a long time like incentivize folks to make progress on big Bay Area priorities like getting more housing on the ground,” Dohrmann said.
The state is also in line to receive roughly $1 billion over five years from the bill for climate change resilience, including projects intended to protect low-lying coastal areas from sea level rise.
“That’s the type of money that we use in California to fill potholes, to replace buses, some of the things that aren’t super sexy but are also really critical if we’re going to be able to have any type of mobility and goods-movement stuff in place.”Georgia Gann Dohrmann, Metropolitan Transportation Commission
The Bay Area alone has a $19 billion need for resilience projects, but funding from the federal infrastructure bill will represent a dedicated stream of spending on resilience projects for the first time, according to Dohrmann.
California will also be eligible for federal grant programs focused on climate change mitigation projects, said Zac Commins, a policy advisor to Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California.
“There’s going to be a lot of discretionary grant programs, particularly in the resiliency climate equity space, that we hope that California and the Bay Area will compete quite well for, given all the needs” that the region has, Commins said.
Airports, energy, broadband and more
The bill also includes funding for airports as well as other non-transportation needs like energy grid improvements, drinking water safety and the expansion of broadband internet.
San Francisco International Airport is expected to receive roughly $250 million in funding, Commins said, while Mineta San Jose International Airport and Oakland International Airport will each receive roughly $80 million.
The state is also anticipated to receive roughly $1.8 billion for drinking water safety projects, at least $100 million to expand broadband internet coverage and $24 million for water quality and ecosystem improvements and protection in the Bay Area, Sacramento and the Delta.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly said in recent months that the House will not take up a vote on the bipartisan deal until the chamber also passes a so-called “human infrastructure” package that the Senate approved via budget reconciliation, an arcane process that allowed Senate Democrats to approve the funding package in a 50-50 partisan vote.
The $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan is focused on expanding spending for progressive priorities like child care programs and Medicare, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally and additional spending to combat climate change.
Members of the House are scheduled to return early from their August recess this week to consider both infrastructure bills.