With the $1 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act a done deal since November, billions in federal dollars are now beginning to filter down to state governments throughout the United States. California is no exception — over the next five years, the Golden State is set to collect a combined $45.5 billion to spend on a range of infrastructure-related projects statewide.
Articulating strategic partnerships with local agencies that seek to leverage those and other earmarked resources is one way our council is working to ensure local tradespeople will gain access to infrastructure funds.
... and if that last paragraph reads like a bunch of wonky newspeak, that’s because it is. Allow me to break it down in plain(er) English.
After the ravages of the pandemic, we desperately need to get San Francisco building trades members back on jobsites doing well-paying, long-term work. One jobsite that would provide such work is right under our nose just waiting to be activated: the train box sitting beneath Salesforce Transit Center.
A big subterranean space, the train box is the hub for Phase 2 of the Transbay Program, the big multiyear mass-transit infrastructure buildout that started with the new transit center. Phase 2 adds more train connections to the transit center, extends others, and, in short, greatly increases the intermodal mobility options for residents of the Bay Area.
But as the old saying goes, money doesn’t grow on trees. If we want the train box to be our jobsite, then we have to help make the infrastructure funds materialize to kick off the buildout and keep the project funded. This is where those strategic partnerships I mentioned earlier come in.
The officers of our council have been advocating alongside the body that oversees the Transbay Program, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, in its quest to unlock $2.5 billion in infrastructure-related financing from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program. We’ve been lobbying the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and testifying at the SF County Transportation Authority in an attempt to get the funding needed to get this project up and running. Meanwhile, BART and MUNI also need lots of updating, and we’re out there trying to help get the money that will trigger that work, too.
It’s all pretty bureaucratic stuff. But considering the magnitude of the projects that we will eventually win, it will have been well worth the extra effort. With so many of our tradespeople still on the bench and new major private construction projects coming in at a snail’s pace, it’s not enough to simply negotiate project labor agreements and then wait for a dispatch.
These days, we’ve got to be proactive and help advocate to fund the projects that will eventually become our covered work. Through that advocacy, we are taking a seat at the table with the agencies that control how government money gets spent locally and helping ourselves land bigger, longer-term jobs, like Transbay Phase 2.
In so doing, we’re not just putting our people back to work but also preparing our community members for more jobs in the trades. It’s especially meaningful that we can lobby effectively not as some special interest group but as working people standing together.
When we work transit infrastructure projects, we’re also building a better San Francisco. We’re working on what could reasonably be described as good, clean, green jobs. We’re helping to lower emissions by expanding and improving capacity for electric rail and buses. We’re creating connections to affordable housing by extending train lines. We’re giving more people better access to good jobs and services in our top-tier city even if they live far afield.
Transit infrastructure can create a more livable, more accessible, and more interconnected Bay Area. It can also provide us with outstanding, ongoing jobs. If we can help the agencies that work the purse strings get the money from those who dole it out, then we win even more jobs.
That’s what we’re fighting hard for.