Two years ago on a popular beach in Encinitas, a cliff collapsed sending tons of sandstone crashing onto beach goers below, killing three. Shoring up cliff erosion during a climate crisis is one of the lesser-known ways some Southern California cities may benefit under the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was passed by the House and now hangs by a thread in the Senate.
California, with the fifth largest economy in the world, stands to gain big—nearly $1 billion—in the current $1 trillion infrastructure plan. The Golden State historically sets trends for greener living, and the plan is to use the federal cash not only for projects and repairs, but also to level up policies for climate justice.
California Governor Gavin Newsom called the bill a “game changer,” and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “There is no better way to rebuild our middle class and accelerate our economic recovery from COVID-19.”
If President Joe Biden signs the bill into law in its present form, it would be America’s largest structural investment since the New Deal era. But if the bill is scuttled in the Senate, California could lose about $920 million dedicated to 200 projects such as a dozen bridge repair and construction projects, including a $1 million dollar pedestrian bridge in Wilmington and a bridge safety barrier rail at in Burbank at a cost of $2 million; electric vehicle charging stations for Burbank, Oakland, and San Pedro at about $2.1 million; bike lane expansions and widening in such cities as L.A., North Hollywood, Pasadena, and Camarillo for $6.6 million; and statewide wastewater and drinking water projects; as well as preparing for rising sea levels by shoring up impacted infrastructure.
In Los Angeles specifically, the misery of the Sepulveda Pass and the 405 freeway could be eased—$10 million is slotted for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor to advance the construction of a future Metro transit line over the pass, and another $5 million for express lanes on the 405, used by 400,000 daily commuters from the Valley to the Westside. Another $10 million is dedicated to corridor improvements in the Vermont transit district. A planned $1 million is set aside for bike path improvements, as well as citywide upgrades for traffic lights. Zero-emission bus fleets, training, and charging infrastructure are planned for Gardena, Oxnard, Pasadena, San Bernardino, and Wilmington, as part of an $18.2 million investment.
“Transit funding is obviously extremely important to the President—the Amtrak President as we may call him,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week. Psaki added that she remained convinced the senators can “get this work done.” But ultimately, the final bill needs the support of at least ten Senate Republicans as well as that of every Democrat to pass.
Under the previous administration, Infrastructure Week became a punchline, indicative of fumbling, failing leadership. In a pandemic- and climate change-ravaged era, California has everything to gain from the bill, and very much to lose.
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