WASHINGTION (BCN) – After the U.S. Senate passed an infrastructure bill this week, California is poised to receive billions of federal dollars, Senator Alex Padilla said on Wednesday.
However, the $ 1 trillion bipartisan legislative package has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives before the money goes into the state.
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Padilla, who was attended by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria for a press conference Wednesday, said he was excited about what the funding could do.
“With the package that has already been approved, California will receive tens of billions of dollars to modernize its physical infrastructure, improve public transport and ensure safe drinking water,” said Padilla. “California knows all too well that these investments cannot come soon enough.”
For Californians, Padilla said the priorities are health care – as the COVID-19 delta variant spreads – economic recovery and climate change as the state faces another drought and forest fires.
Padilla specifically pointed out a new federal program aimed at electrifying the country’s school bus fleets in order to make the switch from diesel to zero-emission buses.
“This is great for the environment, great for public health, and great for academic achievement because healthy children learn better,” he said.
The Senator also highlighted grants cities can apply to weather critical infrastructure and be better prepared for drought and forest fires.
For San Jose and the Bay Area, Liccardo said these grants are critical.
“Of course, like so many others, we are aware that investments in the railways, in the water infrastructure, in the resilience of the networks and in the climate mean jobs,” said Liccardo. “And for us that is the way to a just economic recovery.”
He said his South Bay city could apply for grants and secure funding from the $ 5 billion that will harden the power grid to offset forest fire threats and $ 8 billion for water infrastructure.
The mayor said that if he received the money, it would quadruple the amount of recycled groundwater San Jose produces, which is currently 8 million gallons a day.
“Groundwater replenishment could be a great way for us to recycle water to expand our supply and to do so in an environmentally friendly way,” said Liccardo.
“And it couldn’t come at a better time,” Liccardo said as Santa Clara County and much of the state grapple with shockingly low reservoir levels and a severe drought.
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Funding the infrastructure bill could also ensure San Jose receives enough cash for the BART expansion, which would bring more than 100,000 passengers from the city’s Diridon Station to San Francisco, Oakland, and the rest of the BART system.
“Diridon Station (would) ultimately become the busiest multimodal facility in the area with seven different transit lines,” Liccardo said, emphasizing that BART expansions could also connect San Jose-based employees with more affordable housing in the Central Valley.
In line with the bill’s traffic-focused goals, San Jose could also receive funding from the $ 5 billion allocated to Vision Zero projects that aim to stop pedestrian and automobile deaths by installing flashing pedestrian lights and protected bike lanes and signal upgrades, among others.
Another important aspect of the infrastructure law for Liccardo is the funding to close the digital divide.
He cited federal and local funding over the past two years that has enabled San Jose to support more than 100,000 residents – many of whom are low-income – and connect them to free community Wi-Fi in their own homes.
“We plan to expand this to more than 300,000 San Jose residents by next year,” Liccardo said. “And this investment in funding from the federal government will be of decisive help.”
So with infrastructure bills funding, 27 percent of Californians – more than 10 million people – are eligible for the affordable connectivity program, which offers discounts of up to $ 50 per month on broadband bills.
“And that’s so important because we know that cost is the main obstacle,” said Liccardo.
The Affordable Connectivity Benefits Program is also just one of many programs listed in the Broadband Services and Access Improvement Bill, for which the Senate has allocated more than $ 100 billion.
For Padilla, the unifying thread in the infrastructure law and its focus on justice, he said.
“Far too often, the communities most impacted by the environment invest the least in or see fewer opportunities when it comes to major infrastructure investments,” said Padilla.
It is unclear when parliament will vote on the bipartisan infrastructure law.
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