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Ara Najarian

L.A. and CA Leaders Praise Federal Infrastructure Funding On the Way

4:54 PM PST on December 17, 2021

Representative Karen Bass speaking at today’s press event. Behind her are: Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian, L.A. Councilmember Curren Price, Congressmember Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mayor Eric Garcetti, CalSTA Secretary David Kim, L.A. Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a South Los Angeles press conference this afternoon, Los Angeles and California leaders expressed their enthusiasm for the recently-approved federal bipartisan infrastructure bill. The event was hosted by Congressmembers Karen Bass and Lucille Roybal-Allard, alongside California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) Secretary David Kim, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian, Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins, and L.A. City Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson. The site, a former rail right-of-way along Slauson Avenue, was chosen for today's event, as it is where Metro will soon be building the Rail to River multi-use walk/bike path.

The exact breakdown of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, now called "BIL," is difficult to get one's head around, but some details are clear. Much of the federal infrastructure funding will be allocated via competitive federal grant programs, so those dollar amounts cannot be determined in advance. But a lot of the funding is distributed via "formula" - ie: distributed to states largely based on population - and those amounts are fairly clear.

Streetsblog California has a breakdown of much of California's formula funding: ~$29.5 billion for highways and bridges, ~$10.3 billion for public transportation, ~$179 million for traffic safety programs, and more. All of these formula figures are over the next five years.

Representative Bass called the BIL a "once in a generation" opportunity for projects from roads to bridges to transit and community-driven facilities like Metro's Rail to River path. Bass emphasized provisions she authored to ensure that the project could target hiring local residents. Representative Roybal-Allard stated that long overdue infrastructure investments would go to "reliable transportation services" for her district which she noted had high levels of transit-dependent residents.

Secretary Kim emphasized California's commitment to multi-modal transportation, stating that California would receive $40 billion in formula funds that will be used beyond just roads and bridges, for "more walking and biking options," and to "accelerate [California's] transition to sustainable transportation" including to "reduce dependence on driving" and "reduce VMT [vehicle miles traveled.]" Kim also touted federal infrastructure investments in CA public transit - including about $10 billion in formula funds, plus grants for zero-emission buses, and more. He also touched on massive federal funding for inter-city passenger rail, including California High-Speed Rail, which will "someday connect high-speed rail to L.A. Union Station" - plus funding for other rail upgrades throughout the state.

Metro representatives - Garcetti, Najarian, and Wiggins - emphasized that Metro's sales tax measures have put the agency in a good position to secure competitive grant funding for, in Wiggins estimation, "15 projects totaling over $6 billion" including the West Santa Ana Branch rail, Sepulveda rail, the Eastside Gold Line extension, and more.

Councilmembers Price and Harris Dawson both spoke of the benefits anticipated Rail to River path - as well as the importance of local hire to truly bring project benefits to underserved communities.

Like all too many transportation projects, Rail to River has experienced some delays, largely due to escalating construction costs. Though some soil remediation work is underway, Slauson's former rail right of way remains a muddy vacant lot with big infrastructure dreams.

The site of today's press event and the future Rail to River path
The site of today's press event and the future Rail to River path

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