Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill last week, and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla gathered with South Bay leaders and representatives on Tuesday to outline how those federal dollars will impact San Jose.
In the bipartisan bill, California was the state to get the largest share of spending, at about $45.5 billion.
The money would be used to improve “California roads, bridges, ports, our electrical grid, our water infrastructure and so much more,” Padilla said.
“And it’s good that we’re here to celebrate the infrastructure bill here at the Diridon station in San Jose, where you will soon see the impact of your federal dollars at work,” Padilla continued as Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and other local transportation and infrastructure representatives stood behind him.
One of the larger, more ambitious projects, is to turn the downtown station into the “Grand Central Station of the West,” he said.
And in order to do that, the region’s public transportation would have to be built out and improved to connect San Jose to the rest of the Bay Area and state.
Through the infrastructure bill, California will receive $9.5 billion to repair and upgrade aging public transit systems, make stations more accessible, provide new and more frequent transit service and modernize bus and rail fleets.
It would also be used to increase funding for the Capital Investment Grants program supporting projects like Caltrain’s electrification project, which needs another $333 million to complete, and BART’s efforts to increase service capacity and to complete an extension to the Diridon station.
“We are also going to certainly need more investment in the ACE Train capital corridor,” Liccardo said of the Altamont Corridor Express line connecting Stockton to San Jose. Money would also be used to fund light-rail and bus rapid transit, “all which converge here at this (Diridon) station,” and connect residents to Mineta San Jose International Airport, the mayor said.
Funding would also be invested into completing the high-speed rail project from Southern California into the Bay Area and specifically San Jose, although Liccardo joked that this project would certainly not be completed during his tenure as mayor, especially as the high-speed rail project has a roughly $14 billion price tag just to build from the Pacheco Pass into San Jose.
“We are seeing an explosion of growth and development here in the downtown and of course all that depends on one simple fulcrum — that is infrastructure,” Liccardo said. “And we’ve got a lot of infrastructure to work on here in downtown San Jose and throughout our region.”
The roughly $91 billion spending on transportation nationwide would also provide $2.5 billion for zero-emission school buses.
San Jose would also get part of the state’s $631 million to reinforce and upgrade transportation to better withstand extreme weather conditions and natural disasters, like wildfires.
“There are local transit agencies all over the country, just like (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority), who let out a huge sigh of relief for getting this (bill) passed,” VTA Board Chair Glenn Hendricks said.
The investments into public transportation would not only benefit and connect riders, but also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combatting the impacts of climate change.
Liccardo said it would certainly help San Jose reach its goal to be totally carbon-neutral by 2030 — a pledge made by the City Council on Monday.
“More than half our greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, so we critically need to invest in transit and a lot of electric vehicle infrastructure,” Liccardo said.
About $15 billion would be allocated nationwide to, in part, build out charging stations and incentivize more people to make the switch to e-vehicles.
Federal dollars would also be used to upgrade and secure California’s water supply with more than $8 billion allocated “to repair aging infrastructure, restore imperiled ecosystems, and improve water efficiency,” according to Padilla’s office.
Federal dollars would also help clean up the state’s roughly 35,000 abandoned wells and 39,000 abandoned mines and other pollutants in the state which would create thousands of jobs.
About $2.8 billion would be allocated to combat wildfires — $200 million of which would be used for post-fire restoration, like Santa Clara County’s east foothills or Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which was badly damaged by a wildfire in 2020.
Lofgren also touted the $3 billion investment into railroad cross elimination.
“We know that that’s a problem here in San Jose, we know that we need to have some quiet zones in Japantown and other areas,” Lofgren said.
She also celebrated the high-speed internet provision which allocates $65 billion across the country. California would receive $100 million to build out broadband coverage across the state, providing access to the at least 545,000 Californians who currently need it.
“There are parts of our community, even here in Santa Clara County, where high-speed internet does not exist,” Lofgren said. “You can go and find out where that is when you see parents with their kids in a car outside of McDonald’s so their kids can do their homework.”
“That should not be, and this will be a major step forward to end that,” Lofgren said.
All of these investments, leaders hope, will be transformative for California and San Jose, creating hundreds of thousands of “good-paying union jobs,” and improving major infrastructure, Padilla said.
Funding will be allocated first to shovel-ready projects and Lofgren said residents will likely see the impacts of federal dollars at work “early next year.”
She also said it would help fund a lot of affordable housing projects that are ready to be built, but just need funding.
Leaders like Lofgren also voiced excitement for the second part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package, which is the Build Back Better Bill that includes a myriad of progressive priorities including paid family and sick leave, public housing, childcare and universal preschool, Medicaid for pregnant people, pandemic prevention, and mental health treatment and support.
“This infrastructure package, the two bills put together, is a significant investment in infrastructure and will improve lives and bring costs for families down,” Padilla said. “You’re going to see more subsidies and assistance when it comes to childcare, education, health care access.”
Lofgren also added that there will be no tax increases for regular Americans and the middle class. Rather, large corporations, who have often dodged taxes, will be footing the bill for these services and programs.
“We think (the Build Back Better bill) is getting close to being ready in the House,” Lofgren said. “Certainly, our hope and expectation is before Thanksgiving that we’d be able to clear it from the House but obviously, the legislative process is not a straight line.”